HEATHER DONAHUE ON THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO
Jay: all right, my next guest star is from the movie everyone seems to be talking about these days, it's the Blair Witch Project. Critics have called it one of the scariest films of all time, take a quick look.
~clip of Heather during the "apology" scene
Jay: Please welcome Heather Donahue
~Heather waves to audience as she approaches Jay
Jay: You might have the most famous nostrils in movie history.
Heather: Yes I do, if I go like this (holds hands over 3/4s of her face) I'm very easily recognized.
Jay: Are you stunned by how well this has done?
Heather: No Jay, we completely expected this, usually when you answer an add in Back Stage and you get a job out of it, this is how it usually goes. You end up here.
Jay: <laughs> Now tell me about this Back Stage, is it a magazine?
Heather: It's basically a paper that anybody can buy every Thursday out of New York and LA. You go to open calls out of it, your lucky basically if you get a video copy and some meals.
Jay: So what were you doing before this? You were a kid in school right...
Heather: Yeah, I was doing downtown theater, I studied in a Conservatory program in Philadelphia...and then I was doing improv comedy in a downtown theater, regional theater, playing Pontious Pilate's wife in the middle of rural Virginia, you know what a very popular move that was...just doing a big variety of stuff.
Ben Stiller: Did you do Jesus Christ Superstar?
Heather: No, I didn't, I did do a passion play though, it was nice. Non musical unfortunately.
Jay: Have you done any commercials? Have you done any of those?
Heather: How did I know you were going to ask that? As a matter of fact, I don't know if you're familiar with Dionne Warwick famous Psychic Friends, but yes...
Heather: When a girl moves from New York to Philadelphia ~pauses...no applause...raises her arm, gives the thumbs up~ Philly..yeah! One needs a little extra cash and the Psychic Friends actually kicked in about 250 to do a couple of spots for them and I appreciate that.
Jay: So you got $250 and then what, did you have a line in the commercials?
Heather: I did, it was me and a great dane, we looked at each other and they were offering 10 free minutes, I looked into his eyes and said "10 minutes free, we're totally stoked" you know so...
Jay: That's very good, very good, I can see why you...
Heather: A lot of people come from Psychic Friends Network commercial backgrounds.
Jay: So explain this to us, every week you look through this for acting jobs.
Heather: Yes, I submit my head shots, I write up funny little postcards that I send to agencies and managers and things like that, people throw them in the trash.
Jay: I threw some in the trash just today.
Heather: <laughs> I wouldn't be suprised!
Jay: So you go on this casting call, was it like a typical casting call?
Heather: It was massive...the thing that was different about this was the ad from the very beginning. It said basically that this was going to be an improvised feature film shot in a wooded location, um, poor hygiene, you know, they warned us, we knew what we were getting into and I said this sounds great.
Jay: And the money?
Heather: Well, a little, it made up for the temping I wouldn't be doing.
Jay: Right, right, basic.
Heather: So I went along with lots and lots of other people who apparently were really intrigued with this perverse idea.
Jay: So how many people would show up for an audition?
Heather: They saw about 2,000 people total
Heather: yeah, yeah
Jay: so you're sitting there with 2,000 people all trying to get this part
Heather: people like to improvise..<laughs> I guess
Ben Stiller: can I just ask...poor hygiene? that was part of the...they wanted you to have poor...
Heather: yeah, that was one of the bigger stipulations
Ben Stiller: they said people would have...
Heather: be prepared for very itchy scalp, dirty socks, so on, yeah
Jay: now explain what you mean, explain how it was different from shooting regular films
Heather: what we did is we had a global positioning system that uses satellites...
Jay: like in a car...
Heather: yeah, it's like they use in the Norstar system in the cars and stuff now. They would program these way points into that system, we would find them. We knew we found them when we would see a white milk crate with an orange bicycle flag sticking out of it.
Jay: So you guys, more or less, you each have a camera.
Heather: No, we have a video camera and a film camera. I run the video camera through the majority of the film and Joshua Leonard the cameraman runs the film camera.
Jay: but your kind of improvising, shooting yourselves...
Heather: what we would find in these milk crates were little pieces of paper that had each of our names on them, we would look at them, we were not allowed to show them to each other so only we knew what we had to do next.
Jay: OK so describe the plot to people who haven't seen it, because this sounds incredibly confusing
Heather: I know, it's incredibly confusing
Jay: the plot of the film is...
Heather: the plot of the film is that I play a documentary filmmaker also named Heather Donahue, to avoid confusion, and we go into the woods. I want to get some pickup shots to start making this documentary...
Heather: what happens is...we never come back.
Jay: right, so its a documentary about this legend, this witch that supposedly...
Heather: right I'm intrigued by this story, that I would have heard since childhood, about this woman who sent people down to eviscerate small children and what have you.
Jay: so you shot the whole thing, you lived in the woods for a week no shower, no..hence the bad hygiene.
Heather: yeah, yeah exactly, here's a shovel, that's your potty, enjoy.
Jay: you know NBC is not that different
Heather: really? <laughs>
Jay: I know some people got porches, we got a shovel...no..
Heather: it's all right, it's all good.
Jay: now how did your parents react, let me see if I understand, like your mom, you go home you say,,,
Heather: oh my God...
Jay: you say I'm the only woman, it's three men, they're going to take me into the woods for a week and film me, that doesn't sound good
Heather: there's going to be a video camera about 20 strange men and a tent, yeah
Jay: so how did your mom react?
Heather: she wanted their social security numbers, she wanted to see what they've done before, she wanted to know where they lived, how were they brought up, were their parents still together, who are they...
Jay: did your mom do that, did she call?
Heather: oh you better believe it, absolutely
Jay: see, now that's a good mom.
Heather: absolutely, when I first got cast, Greg Hale the producer called me and said congratulations we'd love you to do it, I'm like "how am I supposed to know this isn't a snuff film?" and he said "well, if it was don't you think we'd have a better cover?" and I accepted that as a good response.
Jay: Now that's all right, now did you study up on woodsmen like things, did you read a bunch of survival books?
Heather: I read a bunch of survival books, you know, how to build a fire from a needle and a drop of water, how, for example...
Jay: a needle and a drop of water?
Heather: it can be done, indeed, and also if you're stranded in the woods and you're eating exclusively fish...
Heather: you know because you can't really live on a lean diet outside of Los Angeles so they recommend that you eat beaver tail
Jay: eat beaver tail...
Heather: if you can find a beaver, beaver tail is a very rich source of fat
Jay: you know, I'm not even going to go there
Heather: I know, I know, its nice, yeah, it's true
Jay: so if you're stuck in the woods, eat beaver tail
Heather: do your best to find some beaver tail, take it as you will
Jay: yeah OK, now we have a clip here, and this is genuinely scary and I have real admiration for you guys that did this, because its fun. the average film costs about 35 million and this was 50,000 dollars
~tv monitor rises from behind chair
Heather: can I just say how cool was that, that I was actually sitting here to see that come up
Jay: there you are, now set up what's happening, do you know what this scene is, do you know what we are going to see?
Heather: yes, this is something strange has come up to our tent, it's all the sudden shaking and we're running like bats out of hell
Jay: we want the audience to feel like what its like in the woods...turn off all the lights
Heather and audience: oooooo
Jay: so this is what its sort of like when you watch this...take a look
~clip is shown on TV monitor
Jay: well very scary..well heather congratulations I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more from you...
Heather: thank you
~show continues to end of show when Jay is saying good bye, but Ben Stiller is missing and a twig man is found in his chair, Heather yells for him Ben! Ben! very funny ending to the show