'Blair Witch' Heather Found Alive
Shrill star faces fans

At the San Diego Comic-Con last week, groups of comic book fans were lured into a dark room and made to stand in a corner. The bait was a personal appearance by Heather Donahue, sudden star of The Blair Witch Project. The fans grew more and more heated as Ms. Donahue endured being told she looks better with her makeup on, revealed that her bitchier moments got cut, and let on that the blue slime on the rocks was K-Y Jelly ("it has many, many uses"). Investigators later found an abandoned tote bag with a cassette tape in the bottom. The transcript follows.

See also...
... by Paul McEnery
... in the Dirt section
... from August 23, 1999

ANONYMOUS FAN: I'd like to say first, it's good to see you alive. How did you get reeled into this, in the beginning?

HEATHER DONAHUE: I read an ad in Backstage, in New York, that said, "an improvised feature film shot in a wooded location, it's going to be hell, and most of you who are reading this probably shouldn't even come." They used every possible deterrent. They were like, "if you've done wacky improv in the past, we probably don't want you. We want people to be completely natural in extreme circumstances, and if you don't like that, go away."

AF: Is it true that you were sent bottles with notes on what to argue about the next day?

HD: Actually, you know when you drop off 35 mm film in those little plastic containers? There were three of those in a milk crate, which we would find through a global positioning system. We'd open them up, and as the day progressed, we would improvise around the story structure that they had provided, and basically take the characters to places that the directors didn't even think they would go.

AF: How much detail did they tell you about your character, did they tell you to be annoying? You were so annoying I wanted to strangle you after, like, 20 minutes.

HD: Actually, I based my character on an independent female filmmaker who made the first movie I did out of college. A lot of these women are a very strange breed, because you have to work extra hard to be taken seriously and not just as a mindless little bimbo. And I think that's part of what my character in the movie is. She has this job to do, and you're either with her or against her. And if you don't want to play, you shouldn't have come to the party, dammit. So yeah, she definitely grates on my nerves, too. I can't even watch it without getting sick of the sound of my own voice.

AF: Did you ever reach a point during filming when you were getting scared? What was that like?

HD: Well, we had to kind of shoot it during the week because, the first weekend, there were little families out there with their mountain bikes and somehow that took the edge off. But what's important is that you think I suffered psychological damage. That means it's a job well done.

AF: All the stick figures, obviously those took a lot of time and imagination. Did you guys get to see those before you went in, did you know that there were stick figures, or was it like a big shock for you?

HD: You always knew something big was coming when your note would read something like: "When you pass the big log with a sign, make sure the camera is on." We'd all look at each other and we're like, OK, you guys ready? This is gonna be a big one. Then you're like, all right, I'm feeling the fear. Then we'd go check it out, and we'd shoot it.

AF: When you come out of the tent in the dark, what were you looking at?

HD: Actually, it was one of the action guys. He had been dressed up in gauze and a white suit, and then he's going like this [waves arms ethereally]. The story that [co-director] Dan Myrick tells is, no matter how many times we shot it, he never came out on film. Whooooo!

AF: The pile of rocks outside the tent: What is that supposed to mean?

HD: "Ooh, scary."

AF: OK, and if you see a haunted house, and you notice that there are nooses and handprints on the walls, why do you stay in there?

HD: How would the audience ever know to scream at the screen, "Don't go in there! What are you, stupid?" It's a convention of the genre. I would've never gone in the first place. There you go.

AF: When Josh has gone off and he's screaming, was that actually done onsite, off- camera?

HD: That was done onsite, off-camera. Actually, Josh, lucky bastard, got to go back to New York when he disappeared. And so we actually had him record that on a tape, and they played it on a boom box. Meanwhile, he was back in a hotel room, eating hot meals and showering.

AF: I understand the film is making people severely nauseous. Was that intentional?

HD: No, I mean, had I known that we were gonna be on large screen, I probably would have tried to hold the camera a little bit steadier. I thought that maybe I'd have a video copy to watch with my friends, that's sort of where I saw the film going. But I do recommend that if you start to feel a little sick and if you leave for a couple minutes, take some Dramamine or something.

AF: I hate to be skeptical, but how many batteries were you guys really carrying?

HD: Well, I have to tell you, the weight of the pack was mostly batteries. There were a lot of batteries, but we didn't have the budget to afford to have that many rechargeable batteries floating around. We had to drop them off and have them recharged.

AF: Off-camera, when you weren't filming, what was the tension like between you?

HD:I'm not gonna tell you it was all wine and roses, because it was not. Josh and I, sometimes we would be at each other's throat, but all of that came out of the situation. I see him now, and we get along great. But Mike is a great mediator, he's the nicest man I would ever hope to meet.

AF: Did you guys know that he had kicked the map in?

HD: No, actually Mike came up with that himself. That wasn't even in the notes. People still slap him about that. "You idiot!"

AF: What was in the twigs?

HD: When I initially throw them away from the tent, I was actually done with them at that point, and Mike and I hiked away from the camp site. The production designer stopped me, and he said, "you gotta go back and open the twigs, man. It's my favorite gag in the whole movie!" And this is the guy who did makeup on Bloodsport II, so I knew this had to be a mega-gore fest. So we went back, and I opened it up, and inside the twigs was hair, blood, and teeth. It was actual teeth that they had gotten from a Maryland dentist.

AF: What went through your mind when you got the phone call that you were going to be on the Tonight Show?

HD: Um, pretty much, "Oh my God, I'm gonna be on the Tonight Show." You're like, "all right, not a problem," and then when you're on the show, they bring up the TV, and that's when the whole floor starts to shake, and the reality of it sort of dawns on you. And if you went to drama school, when you see someone else on the show, you think, "I could have done so much better. It looks like she's a moron." And then you finally get your shot and you're like, "Oh my god, 80 million drama school girls out there are calling me a moron." What can you do?

AF: How do you feel about having your panties for sale on eBay?

HD:My boyfriend was all "How'd they get your panties?" They're not my panties. Or maybe three years later my panties resurfaced in a backpack!

AF: Did you regret using your original name, your real name, in the movie?

HD:Probably, yeah, now. I mean, it didn't even dawn on me at the time. It's weird where your performance is too believable for people to think that you're doing your job. I mean, it's great in a way, but it's also a little bit bizarre.

AF: If they asked you to come back for a sequel, would you? Or would you be afraid of turning into Jamie Lee Curtis?


See also: Blair Web Project

Paul McEnery never kills college kids two at a time.