The Dangerous Method Used To Inspire Blair Witch Project's Actors

Watching "The Blair Witch Project" might be an uncomfortable experience (double that if you're actually in Maryland when you're watching it), but the actors behind one of the most famous found footage films ever made had an even more uncomfortable time filming it. If running around the cold, wet and dark woods while being in charge of all sorts of film equipment you've never used before doesn't sound stressful enough, directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick really knew how to up the ante and keep actors Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard on their toes. 

With a fun mix of spooky surprises, a little bit of sleep deprivation, and a sliver of starvation, Sanchez and Myrick made one of the most iconic horror movies of all time. Even if they did have to push their cast through the wringer to get it.

"I Have a Cheeseburger in My Back Pocket"

As their film project descends into madness, Heather, Mike and Josh have a lot on their minds. They're lost, they're scared, and while it might sound like a banal need when a ghost/witch/monster is chasing you around a never ending woods, they're also a little bit hungry. By the time Mike cracks a joke about having a cheeseburger in his back pocket, you can tell that the trio is tapped out.

Of course, Sanchez and Myrick went the extra mile to make sure all three of them really were hungrier than usual. In an Academy Originals interview about "The Blair Witch Project," Williams spoke about how their food portions got smaller each and every day, which was supposed to make them feel a little more edge, "So by the end, you're not going to starve, but you're going to be hungry," said Williams. According to him, the filmmakers said, "We want to make this uncomfortable for you."

"I'm Scared to Close My Eyes, I'm Scared to Open Them"

The horrors didn't stop with a light lunch. In order to keep the actors on their toes, the crew followed producer Gregg Hale's lead and invested in GPS systems that the actors could follow to lead them to the spooky scenes that had already been set up by the crew. This allowed the actors to really feel like they were out in the woods instead of being surrounded by a crew that was blocking out shots and leading them to the next location. That also meant that the cast had no idea what they were going to see or hear next.

In an interview with Vice, Sanchez described his process for scaring the actors: 

It was like theater in the woods, and we played the Blair Witch, so it was at certain times, you'd be like, "Alright, it's midnight, we have to go out there and run around or whatever," and each night we had a plan, so we would go out there and we would get into little groups and make noises, and make more noises, and do this, do that, and once we got what we needed, we were like, "Okay, we're good," and walked out of there at 2 AM after scaring [the actors].

Despite the spooky atmosphere, it sounds like the actors weren't especially phased. If anything, they felt more sleep deprived than scared when Sanchez and Myrick would come calling at 2:00 A.M. In that same Vice interview, Leonard explained how it actually felt:

People always ask if we were actually scared when the filmmakers messed with us in the middle of the night. The answer is not really ... Because what was usually happening behind the scenes was we were exhausted and hungry and often wet. We'd set up camp and crash, and just about the time we got warm enough in our damp sleeping bags to fall asleep, the guys would start playing a boom box with creepy children sounds outside the tent.

Filming "The Blair Witch Project" might have been a nightmare, but its spawned so many more nightmares since it hit theaters in 1999 and completely changed modern horror. In fact, if anyone deserves a surprise cheeseburger, it's Donahue, Williams, and Leonard. Myrick puts the process behind "The Blair Witch Project" best when he's quoting Hale: "We laugh about kind of a famous line that Gregg gave the actors. He says something to the effect that, 'Your safety is our primary concern, but your comfort is not.'"