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17 Found Facts About The Blair Witch Project

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Artisan Entertainment

Working with a miniscule budget of less than $25,000, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez wrote, directed, and edited one of the most successful independent movies ever made. The Blair Witch Project confused and frightened enough people when it was released in the summer of 1999 to earn more than $248 million in theaters worldwide. Nearly 20 years later, it’s time to find out the truth about the Burkittsville, Maryland legend.

1. THE "SCRIPT" WAS A 35-PAGE OUTLINE.

Myrick and Sánchez wrote their first draft of The Blair Witch Project in 1993, when they were both film students in Orlando, Florida. They wrote the script more as an outline because they had always planned for the dialogue to be improvised by their actors in order to make the story seem real.

2. THE AUDITION PROCESS WAS AN UNUSUAL ONE.

Actress Heather Donahue remembers reading an ad in Backstage that said: “An improvised feature film, shot in wooded location: it is going to be hell and most of you reading this probably shouldn't come." In order to test the improvisational skills of the candidates, as soon as each potential actor entered the room to audition, he or she was immediately told by one of the directors: "You've been in jail for the last nine years. We're the parole board. Why should we let you go?" If the actor hesitated for even a moment, the directors concluded the audition.

3. THE THREE MAIN ACTORS WERE PAID $1000 A DAY.

It was an eight-day shoot. Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard made a lot more in the years after The Blair Witch Project was released. Williams claimed he ended up with about $300,000.

4. HEATHER AND JOSH WERE SUPPOSED TO BE FORMER LOVERS.

The idea was scrapped before shooting, though ironically enough, a lot of tension did develop between the two actors/characters. When Heather called Josh “Mr. Punctuality,” it was an acidic in-joke (Leonard was very late that day). It was so “annoying” to the directors that they decided to kill off Josh first instead of Mike. Leonard was rewarded with a meal at Denny’s—the actors were only given rations of Power Bars and bananas while in the woods—and later a Jane’s Addiction concert while the other two remained at Seneca Creek State Park.

5. THE TEETH IN THE TWIGS WERE ACTUAL HUMAN TEETH.

They were supplied by Eduardo Sánchez’s dentist. The hair was Josh’s real hair.

6. THE ACTORS USED GPS TRACKERS TO FIND THEIR INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE DAY.

Production programmed wait points in the GPS unit for the actors to locate milk crates with three little plastic canisters in them. Each plastic canister contained notes on where the story was going for each actor, who would not show the other two their paper. From that point they were free to improvise the dialogue, provided they followed the general instructions given to them.

7. THE SOUNDS OF THE CHILDREN ACTUALLY TERRIFIED MIKE.

Williams said the most terrifying moment was hearing the sounds of the kids that lived across the street from Eduardo Sánchez’s mother on three boomboxes being blared outside of his tent.

8. THE ACTORS HAD A CODE WORD FOR WHEN THEY WANTED TO SPEAK OUT OF CHARACTER.

If one of the actors wanted to break character, he or she would say “taco.”

9. IT WAS TOO EXPENSIVE TO GET THE RIGHTS TO SOME THINGS.

In what would have been some fun foreshadowing, the directors wanted to have The Animals’ “We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place” playing on the car radio in the beginning of the film, but that was too pricey for the producers to keep. They did manage to get the rights for Heather to quote the theme to Gilligan’s Island, as well as approval to show their Power Bars.

10. SHOOTING FINISHED ON HALLOWEEN NIGHT.

The local Denny’s also saw some extra business on October 31, 1997, as Heather Donahue and Michael C. Williams were also taken there for their first hearty meal in over a week. Williams described emerging from the woods and seeing people in costumes as “very surreal.”

11. NINETEEN HOURS OF FOOTAGE WAS EDITED DOWN TO 90 MINUTES.

It took Sánchez and Myrick eight months to cut the movie for its Sundance premiere. Their initial cut was two and a half hours, and the scenes taken out of the theatrical version were used for the website and for the faux documentary that ran on Syfy.

12. SÁNCHEZ CREATED THE MOVIE’S WEBSITE HIMSELF.

The co-director was the logical choice to build the website that helped spread the myth of the Blair Witch to anybody wanting the information, as he was the only one involved with the movie who had web-building experience. According to Sánchez, he also had the free time available to work on the site as he didn’t have a girlfriend at the time.

13. A LOT OF PEOPLE REALLY THOUGHT THE THREE ACTORS WERE DEAD.

Artisan, the now-defunct studio that bought the rights to the film, went to great lengths to keep Donahue, Leonard, and Williams away from the press for a time, and didn’t correct websites like IMDb that claimed the actors were deceased. Donahue’s mother even received sympathy cards.

14. SOME MOVIEGOERS GOT PHYSICALLY ILL BECAUSE OF THE SHAKY CAMERAWORK.

The regional director of Loews Cineplex Entertainment estimated that, on average, one person per screening got sick and asked for a refund.

15. ONLY JOSH IS STILL A FULL-TIME ACTOR.

Heather is currently a medical marijuana grower and the author of a memoir. Mike quit his furniture mover job on Late Night with Conan O’Brien soon after The Blair Witch Project was released, only to return to it to supplement his acting income to support his wife and kids.

16. BURKITTSVILLE, MARYLAND HAS DEALT WITH VANDALISM AND CREEPY FANS.

Burkittsville’s wooden welcome signs were stolen, as were their replacements. Artisan Entertainment bought the town four metal signs that have since rusted, or were also somehow stolen. Debby Burgoyne, the mayor of the town—population: 180—once woke up to find a fan of the movie standing in her living room. He had apparently assumed there was a tour. "It was crazy," Burgoyne told the Los Angeles Times. "People with cameras were everywhere. I made sure I had full makeup and a great nightie before I went out to get the morning paper."

17. THERE’S BEEN TALK OF A THIRD MOVIE.

The 2000 sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, was considered a shameless cash grab that had little involvement from Sánchez and Myrick. But the original co-directors have talked about the possibility of a prequel, which would be set in the late 1700s.

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14 Not-So-Dirty Facts About Dirty Dancing
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Released on August 21, 1987, no one—not even stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey—could have predicted the phenomenon that Dirty Dancing would turn into. Today, 30 years later, we’re still talking about the dance-musical-romance’s sensual choreography, its oldies soundtrack, and not putting Baby in a corner. Here are some not-so-dirty facts about the iconic movie, which grossed nearly $215 million worldwide.

1. PATRICK SWAYZE BELIEVED DIRTY DANCING ENDURED BECAUSE OF ITS HEART.

In an interview with AFI, Swayze explained why he thought Dirty Dancing has stuck around for so long. “It’s got so much heart, to me,” he said. “It’s not about the sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves—this young dance instructor feeling like he’s nothing but a product, and this young girl trying to find out who she is in a society of restrictions when she has such an amazing take on things. On a certain level, it’s really about the fabulous, funky little Jewish girl getting the guy because [of] what she’s got in her heart.”

2. THE FILM GAVE NEWMAN HIS FIRST BIG MOVIE ROLE.

Before starring as Stan, the resort’s social director, Wayne Knight had small roles in a few TV movies, including an uncredited role in the nuclear holocaust drama The Day After. Dirty Dancing showcased his talents, which in 1992 led him to be cast as Newman on Seinfeld.

3. BILL MEDLEY THOUGHT HE WAS BEING HIRED TO RECORD A SONG FOR A “BAD PORNO.”

Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes sang the vocals to the Oscar-winning song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” Medley told Songfacts that Dirty Dancing music supervisor Jimmy Ienner called him and mentioned he was gathering music for the movie. “It sounds like a bad porno movie,” Medley said. Medley’s wife was expecting a baby, so he turned the song down. A few months later Ienner convinced him to do the song, even though Medley didn’t think the movie would be popular.

“We just went in to work together, to sing together, and little did we know it was going to be the biggest movie of the year. Just unbelievable,” Medley said. The song ended up selling more than 500,000 copies, and Medley ended up titling his own memoir The Time of My Life. (Note: The film was actually the 11th highest grossing film of the year; Three Men and a Baby took the top spot for 1987.)

4. PAUL FEIG STARRED IN A DIRTY DANCING TV SHOW SPINOFF.

Dirty Dancing the TV series lasted for only 11 episodes beginning in the fall of 1988, but it gave us then-unknown actors Paul Feig (creator of Freaks and Geeks and director of Bridesmaids) and Melora Hardin (Jan Levinson of The Office). Hardin played Baby but her last name on the show was Kellerman because her dad was Max Kellerman, not Dr. Houseman. CBS even used “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” for the show’s opening credits.

5. A DIRTY DANCING REALITY SHOW AIRED OVERSEAS.

For two seasons between 2007 and 2008, the UK’s Living network aired a reality show called Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life, in which groups of dancers competed for a year-long contract with Bloc, a Los Angeles-based dance agency. The series took place at Virginia’s Mountain Lake Lodge, where much of the original movie was filmed. Couples danced in front of three judges, including Miranda Garrison, who played Vivian Pressman in the movie and was also an assistant choreographer on the film.

6. MOUNTAIN LAKE LODGE REGULARLY HOSTS DIRTY DANCING WEEKENDS.

The Pembroke, Virginia resort where many of the Kellerman’s scenes were filmed hosts regular Dirty Dancing­-themed weekends a year. Dinners, a sock hop, a screening of the movie, a watermelon toss, group dance lessons, and a Dirty Dancing scavenger hunt are just some of the many activities on the agenda.

7. ELEANOR BERGSTEIN WROTE ANOTHER DANCE MOVIE AFTER DIRTY DANCING.

Bergstein wrote the script to Dirty Dancing, and in 1995 she had the opportunity to direct as well. She wrote and directed Let It Be Me, starring Jennifer Beals and Campbell Scott. To this day, she hasn’t written or directed any other movies, but she did adapt Dirty Dancing into a successful stage show.

8. ACCORDING TO BERGSTEIN, EASTERN EUROPE WATCHES A LOT OF DIRTY DANCING.

In a 2006 interview with The Guardian, Bergstein talked about the movie’s popularity with people in the former Eastern Bloc. “And in Russia, it’s policy in the battered women’s shelters, when a woman comes in for help. First, they wash and dress her wounds, then they give her soup. Then they sit her down and show her Dirty Dancing. When the Berlin Wall came down, there were all these pictures of kids wearing Dirty Dancing T-shirts; they were saying, ‘We want to have what they have in the West! We want Dirty Dancing!'”

9. PENNY BRIEFLY TRANSFORMED INTO A POP STAR IN THE LATE 1980s.

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Cynthia Rhodes made a name for herself as dancer Tina Tech in 1983’s Flashdance and starred as John Travolta’s dance partner/love interest in Staying Alive that same year. But it was her role as Johnny Castle’s dancing partner, Penny, that garnered her the most notice. A couple of years after Dirty Dancing, she married singer Richard Marx (they’ve since divorced), and she briefly filled in as the lead singer of L.A. pop group Animotion, known for their hits “Room to Move” and “Obsession.”

10. JENNIFER GREY PLAYED A VERSION OF HERSELF ON THE SITCOM IT’S LIKE, YOU KNOW...

The short-lived ABC sitcom (1999-2000) featured Grey as a member of a Seinfeld-like gang, except the show swapped out New York City for Los Angeles. She allowed herself to be self-deprecating, even poking fun at her nose job and her Dirty Dancing celebrity. Arthur (Chris Eigeman) meets “Jennifer Grey” and goes, “Oh, like the actress. Dirty Dancing. You spell it the same way as her?” “I am Jennifer Grey,” she responds, then she does a dance to prove it. “You look different,” he says. “Nose job!” She blurts. “Just one?” he retorts. (She had two of them.)

11. GREY WAS SHOCKED TO BE A PART OF THE MOVIE CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.

During a scene in the 2012 rom-com Crazy, Stupid, Love., Ryan Gosling uses the famous Dirty Dancing lift to woo Emma Stone into bed with him. As she watched the movie, Grey got an unexpected surprise. “I’m such a fan of Ryan Gosling and all of a sudden he’s saying my name [in the movie],” she told Yahoo!. “I’m just in the theater with my husband and I look at him like, ‘Oh my God, Ryan Gosling just said my name. What’s going on?’ I was so scared. I was like, ‘Oh, no. What are they about to do?’ All of a sudden there I was, part of their movie.”

12. BORSCHT BELT RESORTS LIKE KELLERMAN’S ARE DISAPPEARING.

The area in the Catskills and upstate New York where many resorts like Kellerman’s were located is referred to as the Borscht Belt, because of the area’s popularity with Jewish-American families from the 1920s to the 1980s, with the height of their popularity being in the 1950s and ’60s. Comedians such as Joan Rivers and Jerry Seinfeld got their starts at these resorts. Since the 1990s, hundreds of these resorts have shuttered.

13. TWO FILMMAKERS PRODUCED A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE RESORT THAT SUPPOSEDLY INSPIRED KELLERMAN’S.  

For over 100 years, the Monticello, New York-based Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club welcomed Jewish-American families every summer. Wilt Chamberlain worked there as a bellhop, and according to Caroline Laskow and Ian Rosenberg, the husband-and-wife filmmakers behind Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort, it’s also part of the inspiration behind Dirty Dancing.

“Perhaps Hollywood had taken sort of what was true for the Catskills and was using it for their own purposes, but ... [Hollywood] was just copying what was already here,” Rosenberg told ABC News. One of the last bastions of the Catskills’ Borscht Belt, Kutsher’s closed in 2013 and was sold to a billionaire who plans on replacing the resort with a $250 million yoga and wellness center. At least the doc acts as a relic to the halcyon days of dancing and escapism.

14. A DIRTY DANCING REMAKE WAS RELEASED EARLIER THIS YEAR.

Talk of a Dirty Dancing remake had been floating around Hollywood for a few years, and earlier this year it finally came to fruition. The film, which starred Abigail Breslin as Baby, was not met with great reviews. "Somehow, this earnest, anodyne remake has managed to surgically extract the magic—leaving the story and signature lines intact while suctioning out all the subtlety, charm, and lead chemistry that defined the iconic 1987 original," wrote Entertainment Weekly of the remake.

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The Time That Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Opened Competing Restaurants on the Sunset Strip
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From 1946 to 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were show business supernovas. With an act that combined singing, slapstick, and spontaneous hijinks, the duo sold out nightclubs coast to coast, then went on to conquer radio, television, and film. Long before Elvis and The Beatles came along, Dean and Jerry  were rock stars of comedy.

Offstage, there was a cordial but cool friendship between the laidback Martin and the more neurotic Lewis. But as the pressures of their success increased, so did the tensions between them. Martin grew tired of playing the bland romantic straight man to Lewis’s manic monkey boy. And when Lewis started to grab more headlines and write himself bigger parts in their movies, Martin decided to quit the act. In an angry moment, he told Lewis that he was “nothing to me but a f**king dollar sign.”

After the split, both men went on with their individual careers, though it took Martin a few years before he regained his footing. One of his ventures during that transitional period was a Hollywood eatery called Dino’s Lodge.

DINO'S LODGE

In the summer of 1958, Martin and his business partner, Maury Samuels, bought a controlling interest in a restaurant called The Alpine Lodge, at 8524 Sunset Boulevard. They hired Dean’s brother Bill to manage the place, and renamed it Dino’s Lodge.

Outside they put up a large neon sign, a likeness of Dean’s face. The sign turned into a national symbol of hip and cool, thanks to appearances on TV shows like Dragnet, The Andy Griffith Show, and most prominently, in the opening credits of 77 Sunset Strip.

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Dino’s Lodge was popular from the get-go, serving home-style Italian food and steaks in an intimate, candlelit, wood-paneled room meant to replicate Martin’s own den. In the first year, Dean himself frequented the place, signing autographs and posing for photos with starstruck diners. He also occasionally brought along famous friends like Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. To promote the idea of the swingin’ lifestyle that Martin often sang about, Dino’s served “an early morning breakfast from 1 to 5 a.m.” The restaurant also had a lounge that featured singers, though only females. Dean apparently didn’t want any male vocalists encroaching on his turf.

But as with many a celebrity venture into the food business, this one soon turned sour. And most of that was due to the jealousy of Jerry Lewis.

JERRY'S

In late 1961, Lewis wooed Martin’s business partner Maury Samuels away, ponied up some $350,000, and opened his own copycat restaurant three blocks down Sunset. It was called Jerry’s. To make it clear he was out for top billing, Lewis had his own likeness rendered in neon, then mounted it on a revolving pole 100 feet above his restaurant. In contrast to Dino’s Italian-based menu, Jerry’s would serve “American and Hebrew viands.” Lewis didn’t stop there. Within a few months, he’d hired away Dino’s top two chefs, his maître d', and half his waitstaff.

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When Lewis was in Los Angeles, he made of point of table-hopping and schmoozing with his guests at his restaurant, and he occasionally brought in a few of his celebrity friends, like Peggy Lee and Steve McQueen.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

By the following year, a disgusted Dean Martin was fed up with the restaurant business and cut ties with Dino’s Lodge. Much to his aggravation, he lost a motion in court to have his likeness and name removed from the sign. So the new owners carried on as Dino’s Lodge, with the big neon head staring down on Sunset for another decade before the place finally went bust.

Jerry’s lost steam long before that, folding in the mid-1960s.

For the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s, Martin and Lewis avoided each other. “Jerry’s trying hard to be a director,” Dean once told a reporter. “He couldn’t even direct traffic.”

In 1976, Frank Sinatra famously engineered an onstage reunion of the pair during The Jerry Lewis Telethon. While the audience roared their approval, Sinatra said, “I think it’s about time, don’t you?” And to Sinatra, Lewis said under his breath, “You son of a bitch.”

What followed was an awkward few moments of shtick between the former partners. Reportedly, Martin was drunk and Lewis was doped up on painkillers. There was a quick embrace, Martin sang with Sinatra, then blew Lewis a kiss and disappeared from his life for good. Martin died in 1995. Lewis passed away today, at the age of 91.

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