Blair Witch: Where Are The Original Cast Now?

The Blair Witch Project // Credit: Artisan Entertainment

25 years ago The Blair Witch Project was released, quickly becoming a true horror sensation. But there is a buzz about a reboot on the way, which prompted a response from original film actor Joshua Leonard. So, today we want to look at what the original film’s stars have done since Blair Witch, as well as analysing their response to the recent news.

The Stars

At the centre of The Blair Witch Project are three faces. Joshua Leonard, Michael Williams (making their acting debuts) and Rei Hance (formerly Heather Donahue, who had minor screen experience). Their unknown status and their commitment to the project, which saw them not only filming the footage themselves but also working around the clock while being directed from a distance, sometimes with little food and staying away from other roles before the film launched, really helped to sell that the film’s story was real.

In the years since all three stars have had other acting roles but have also pursued other career avenues. Hance acted in several other movies (Boys and Girls and New Suit) and TV shows (The Outer Limits (1995), Taken and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). She has now stepped away from acting to focus on other pursuits, including writing books, podcasting, gardening and working with I Ching. Williams is still acting with recent credits including Satanic Hispanics, this year’s Ghost Game and the upcoming HIS. He also runs his own acting and public speaking studio alongside his wife Toni. Leonard has continued a steady stream of acting work. With credits as varied as Unsane, If I Stay, Hatchet and more. He has also written and directed his own films. Including the award-winning Fully Realized Humans. 25 years after going “missing” all three stars are still active, doing what they love.

Fair Compensation

Unfortunately, their work on the Blair Witch Project has cast a long shadow over all three actors. After Lionsgate and Blumhouse announced a Blair Witch reboot Joshua Leonard spoke about the film’s impact on himself and his costars on social media.

He mentioned that because they used their real names for the film’s characters they had to go to court to get their names back from Artisan Entertainment, who had apparently claimed copyright on them. And how the actors were paid 300k to buy out their film shares, in a deal Leonard told the New York Times they were not involved with, which shut them out of future residuals despite the series (even today) continually trading on the work and images they put into the original film.

Some may say that Lionsgate, who acquired the rights to Blair Witch, shouldn’t have to pay the actors for past mistakes. But it leaves out that these actors, who went through so much to make an iconic movie that people are still talking about today, never received the credit or compensation they deserve.

We Don’t Need A Reboot

Let’s be honest, a Blair Witch reboot isn’t needed. The original’s magic was lightning in a bottle that could never be recaptured by a big publicised studio project. In addition, the found footage genre has mostly faded from prominence and cinematic entries in the series haven’t done well. Meaning it’s unlikely a new entry would provide audiences with anything new or interesting like the original. It would merely be an exercise in brand recognition.

With the series record of taking a low to mid-budget and making an adequate profit, it could still make money. But if the series continues, trading on the hard work the original cast did in making the first film work, Lionsgate could at least do the courtesy of meeting their demands. Those being to be paid adequately for the work they did, along with residuals, to be consulted on future projects that will include their likenesses or names and for Lionsgate to give a $60,000 yearly grant to a genre filmmaker to help make their first film. If the series continues, doing these things would help right past wrongs. It would give the actors agency over their own images again and help engender more industry creativity. It really is a no-brainer.

Also Read: How The Blair Witch Project Changed Horror

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Josh Greally

Writer and filmmaker. I have a masters in directing film and television and have written film reviews for several smaller sites in the past. Films are my life, but I also enjoy writing, reading, listening to music and debating.