THEN: In 1999, one horror film changed the very nature of the genre. While the idea of a “found footage” flick wasn’t a new one (see CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST in 1980 or THE LAST BROADCAST in 1998, among others), it was THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT that thrilled audiences – or gave them motion sickness – and made over 248 million dollars worldwide. With a measly reported budget of sixty thousand dollars, the film told the story of three amateur filmmakers who get lost in the woods of Burkittsville Maryland, facing a vengeful witch - or the decay of their own sanity while starving and lost.
One of the three filmmakers was the inexperienced young actress Heather Donahue (co-starring with Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams). Marketed as a documentary, many thought that the happenings in the film were indeed fact (which they were clearly not) and that Heather had truly disappeared with only a few video tapes telling this chilling tale. The three stars avoided press early on in order to feed into the “Blair Witch Mythology” which was also aided by one of the most impressive promotional campaigns ever – you can check out the website at here.
When the film was finally released, audiences were at once disgusted by fictional Heather’s irresponsibly driven need to make a documentary on (the also fictional) Blair Witch, yet many were devastated as she began to fall apart during the film’s short 87 minute running time. Her performance drew praise from most critics ( the film currently stands at 87% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), while ironically enough she won the “Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress” for her little lost girl role as well. Somebody might need to tell these folks that just because a character is annoying it doesn’t mean they gave a lousy performance. Either way, she quickly became an overnight sensation that was loved or hated depending on one’s reaction to the film.
After the success of BLAIR WITCH, Donahue had a little trouble finding a role that could live up to the popular horror flick’s success. Starring in a lackluster comedy alongside AMERICAN PIE’S Jason Biggs called BOYS AND GIRLS (2000) didn’t help. Neither did the fact that according to several web pages, including mention of it on her IMDB page , she was “confronted by angry viewers,” even going as far as to say that she had been “run off the road several times because of it.” Really? WTF people? It’s just a freaking movie! Yet even though her film career didn’t take off, she did find a little success in a SciFi Channel (now known as SYFY) mini-series called “Taken” in 2002 where she was nominated for a Saturn award for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series.
NOW: Personally, I loved Ms. Donahue in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and would be totally down to see her return to Hollywood – her last film was a low budget fright flick called THE MORGUE in 2008 – but you know what sort of makes her cool again? Well, for the past several years, Ms. Donahue has been growing pot (as well as raising farm animals!). Yes, her life has become pretty much all about marijuana. She grows it for medicinal purposes and you can read all about how she discovered the joys of cannabis in this terrific Q and A on her official website www.heatherdonahue.com. Just last year, the actress/pot grower added author to her resume with the book “Growgirl: The Blossoming of an Unlikely Outlaw” which hit the book stores on January 5, 2012.
As a serious pot advocate, Heather is also a contributing blog writer for The Huffington Post where she shares some very witty and fascinating insight on a modern day drug culture. While many a horror fan will always remember the poor, lost filmmaker apologizing for the dire circumstances she was facing in the indie-cum-blockbuster, it seems that Ms. Donahue has found a place that she can be happy and blissfully high on life far and away from the wild and wacky world of Hollywood. Good on you Ms. Donahue! You are making the world a better place!