Original “Blair Witch” Cast Asks for Retroactive and Future Residual Payments After News of Reboot

Joshua Leonard, Rei Hance and Michael Williams claim they did not receive 'proper union or legal representation' when they made 1999's 'The Blair Witch Project'

<p>Ron Galella Collection via Getty</p> Joshua Leonad, Heather Donahue and Michael C. Williams on Sept. 9, 1999

Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Joshua Leonad, Heather Donahue and Michael C. Williams on Sept. 9, 1999

The original stars of The Blair Witch Project are asking for a larger slice of the pie as the franchise gears up for a reboot.

Joshua Leonard, one of the three actors who starred in 1999 found-footage horror sensation, shared an open letter signed by himself and his costars Rei Hance (also known as Heather Donahue) and Michael Williams to Facebook on April 21. In it, they implore Lionsgate, the studio that now owns the franchise, to pay the group "retroactive + future residual payments" for their work on the original movie.

The actors' open letter stated that the payments they would like to receive should be "equivalent to the sum that would’ve been allotted through SAG-AFTRA, had we had proper union or legal representation when the film was made." In addition, the group said they would like to retain "meaningful consultation on any future" project in the series and a yearly $60,000 grant for Lionsgate to pay aspiring filmmakers to make their first feature-length movie.

"Our film has now been rebooted twice, both times were a disappointment from a fan/box office/critical perspective," Leonard, Hance and Williams wrote in the open letter. "Neither of these films were made with significant creative input from the original team. As the insiders who created the Blair Witch and have been listening to what fans love & want for 25 years, we’re your single greatest, yet thus-far unutilized secret-weapon!"

A spokesperson for Lionsgate had no comment.

Related: Blair Witch Actor Slams '25 Years of Disrespect' as New Reboot Is Announced: 'Feels Both Icky and Classless'

<p>Lions Gate Films/Entertainment Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com</p> A promotional poster for 1999's 'The Blair Witch Project'

Lions Gate Films/Entertainment Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com

A promotional poster for 1999's 'The Blair Witch Project'

The open letter comes after Lionsgate and Blumhouse jointly announced development of a new Blair Witch movie on April 10 at CinemaCon 2024. At that event, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chair Adam Fogelson stated they intend to "reintroduce this horror classic for a new generation."

Following that announcement, Leonard took to Instagram to express "frustration" over the reboot.

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Eduardo Sanchez, Dan Myrick, Gregg Hale, Robin Cowie and Michael Monello, who each worked on the original film as directors or producers, also shared a statement via Leonard's Facebook page April 21 imploring Lionsgate to "highlight the significant contributions of the original cast." 

"As the literal faces of what has become a franchise, their likenesses, voices and real names are inseparably tied to The Blair Witch Project. Their unique contributions not only defined the film's authenticity but continue to resonate with audiences around the world," the statement reads. "We celebrate our film's legacy, and equally, we believe the actors deserve to be celebrated for their enduring association with the franchise."

Related: Scary Movie Franchise Resurrected with Newly Announced Sequel: What We Know So Far

<p>Artisan Entertainment/Getty</p> Joshua Leonard in 1999's The Blair Witch Project

Artisan Entertainment/Getty

Joshua Leonard in 1999's The Blair Witch Project

The original Blair Witch movie was produced and distributed by Artisan Entertainment, which Lionsgate later acquired in 2003. The film was the 10th highest-grossing movie of 1999 at the domestic box office and ultimately made $248 million worldwide, per Box Office Mojo. It spawned two sequels, 2000's Book of Shadows and 2016's Blair Witch, neither of which featured the original cast or creative team.

The new Blair Witch film will be produced by Roy Lee and Jason Blum, the latter of whom is behind the Paranormal Activity franchise.

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