There are countless horror movies are made every year, but only a handful of them is successful. Those films that gain popularity can even go on to become an important part of modern-day pop culture. Just think about John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), or, most recently, The Blair Witch Project (1999).
This last movie became a widespread phenomenon not long after it first came out. In fact, nowadays, The Blair Witch Project is considered one of the scariest horror movies of all time.
Despite the movie’s huge success, things didn’t go well for the main star of the film, Heather Donahue. The protagonist of this eerie horror movie had to do a lot of things, including faking her own death, just to help promote The Blair Witch Project.
The Blair Witch Project Was A Huge Commercial Success
The Blair Witch Project is a 1999 supernatural horror film written, and directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. The movie follows three student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard) who hike into the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland, to film a documentary about the Blair Witch, a local legend.
The three students suddenly disappear, with only their equipment being discovered a year later. The purportedly “recovered footage” is the film viewers get to see throughout the movie.
The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival at midnight on January 1999. And following its successful run, Artisan Entertainment bought the film’s distribution rights. The Blair Witch Project was then released in July of the same year, quickly becoming a huge commercial success. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie made more than $248 million worldwide.
In addition to becoming a box office hit, The Blair Witch Project soon became a part of modern pop culture. References to the movie have been made in countless movies and TV shows, including Dawson’s Creek and Legally Blonde. Plus, The Blair Witch Project introduced the use of found footage to tell a whole story, which has now been used in countless movies like the Paranormal Activity franchise and Project X (2012).
The Blair Witch Project Star, Heather Donahue, Regrets Starring In This Successful Horror Movie
Despite The Blair Witch Project’s success, the stars of the film didn’t get any richer. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Heather Donahue jokingly said, “I’m like the poorest new famous person in America!”
In addition to this, the star has openly talked about how this horror movie ruined her career. Mainly, because she’s only remembered for this role and nothing else.
“Nothing I do will ever surpass what I did at 24. My name and face are forever going to be someone else’s intellectual property. My snot-flooded portrait was back. It’s all anyone wanted to talk to me about,” she admitted.
Another thing Heather Donahue hated about working in The Blair Witch Project was the fact that she had to pretend she was dead to promote the movie.
In fact, part of the film’s success was due to the marketing’s team hard work, which consisted of making viewers believe that the events The Blair Witch Project were real.
Part of the movie’s promotional marketing campaign was listing the movie’s main actors (Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard) as “missing” or downright “deceased”. While this tactic helped the movie become a huge commercial success, the actors weren’t happy with this.
In 2016, Donahue wrote a piece for The Guardian explaining how she felt about having to fake her death to promote The Blair Witch Project.
“My obituary was published when I was 24. It’s a complicated thing to be dead when you’re still very much alive and eager to make a name for yourself,” she wrote. “It was the collaborative spirit of production that made my death feel especially violent. It’s a strange thing to get no credit where credit is deeply due. […] While this work became record-breakingly profitable, what we were was dead.”