LOS ANGELES – Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, the co-creators of “The Blair Witch Project” are laughing all the way to bank as their $60,000 fright flick heads into the uncharted wilderness of the $100 million blockbuster. The mockumentary, bolstered by a $10 million media onslaught and released nationally by Artisan Entertainment, opened just behind the Julia Roberts-Richard Gere starrer, “Runaway Bride” and is turning out to be the phenomenon of the year, and perhaps the most profitable movie ever made.
But despite all the hype and hubbub, filmmakers Sanchez and Myrick have already focused their creative energies towards their next film projects. I caught up with the pair at an anonymous Santa Monica hotel early Friday while they gussied up for their west coast morning radio debut:
O’MALLEY: You guys are dressed to the nines. I feel strangely out of place.
SANCHEZ: Nah, we’re cool. We’re cool. Don’t feel weird.
MYRICK: This is the most dressed up I’ve been since Prom.
Brass tacks. Blair Witch is huge. Bigger than Clerks. Bigger than El Mariachi. Maybe even American Graffiti. Are either of you two the slightest bit overwhelmed?
SANCHEZ: It can be overwhelming, yeah. But it’s important to keep things in perspective. Those movies were okay, yeah, but remember — they were easier to do, because they weren’t horror. Turns out, ours is more true to its content than those films could ever be. No offense to Kevin Smith though. I love his work.
How do you respond when people say you’ve redefined horror?
MYRICK: I pretty much agree.
How do you respond when people call you “a flash in the pan?”
SANCHEZ: Please. We’re not a flash in the pan. I’m so sick of hearing that. Ask the people at Sundance who loved Blair whether or not we’re a flash in the pan.
SANCHEZ: It took us years to do this, and a lot of people just don’t realize it. I busted my ass in a lot of night clubs. Sold a lot of my favorite clothes. I even had to take the bus to work sometimes. So, yeah, when people say “Oh, you don’t deserve it…. That was a cheap ass movie…” or “You don’t know how to make a real movie…why don’t you make a real movie!” then it hurts a little, on the inside. But I don’t let it get to me.
Did you think it would get this big?
SANCHEZ: I always knew that something had to happen with one of my ideas one of these days. I’ve always been super creative, even as a kid. I used to color in coloring books, and fingerpaint, and play with Play-Doh while the kids outside were always playing with cars and bikes and stuff. I’ve been, you know, harassed for it in the past, so now, being harassed for my art, if you will, I don’t give a sh*t. It’s just on a larger scale because everybody’s heard of us.
MYRICK: Pretty much the whole country, so it’s weird.
SANCHEZ: We’re bigger than Star Wars.
So you don’t feel the criticism of Blair Witch is warranted?
SANCHEZ: No. Not at all. Definitely not.
Yet some would argue that the Blair Witch Project is really just that: a project. Not a film.
SANCHEZ: Well, maybe they should break out their history books and film books and learn what a film is then. A film is something you watch with your eyes in a theater. It’s entertainment. Just because Blair doesn’t follow standard industry procedure for making a movie doesn’t mean it’s any lesser of a film.
SANCHEZ: If somebody walked up to George Lucas while he was directing Empire Strikes Back and said “Oh, hey, George, I don’t really think this whole space movie thing is gonna fly. It doesn’t follow industry standard procedure,” I think George Lucas would’ve slapped that person silly.
You both directed the film.
SANCHEZ: That’s correct.
So that means you both left bananas and wrote the notes to the actors? Or did one write the note and the other leave the bananas? Or did you trade off?
SANCHEZ: We traded off a lot.
SANCHEZ: I would feel in my mind that, say, Heather wasn’t giving enough of herself at times, or that her performance wasn’t exactly what I’d wanted, and I’d feel I’d have to nudge her towards my vision a little more, but I couldn’t write anything like that on the notes, so I had to pretty much just, like, watch her blips on the GPS and hope she did good.
MYRICK: Our vision.
SANCHEZ: Yeah, sorry Dan. Our vision.
MYRICK: But sometimes, you know, I’d be watching them from the trees up above and would like, telepathically direct them. And you’d be surprised how much it worked.
Has sudden success spoiled you?
SANCHEZ: It wasn’t sudden. I told you. It took years, man.
Sorry. Has improbable success spoiled you?
SANCHEZ: Not really. The first thing I did when I got my check was buy some much needed clothes. I’d been wearing the same shoes for over a year. They got pretty gross.
Dan, what did you spend your money on?
MYRICK: I went to Vegas.
SANCHEZ: We went together. It was like out of that movie with The Derby and the two guys…
SANCHEZ: Yeah, Swingers. It was money, baby. Money. (they laugh) Except we didn’t get out of the car and pee by the road. (they laugh again) Although we did give a lot of hell to some dudes who were running around with a videocamera, filming everything. Man, who do they think they are? We’re the only ones allowed to do that! (laughs) Other than that, I just bought my own retro-70’s/glam nightclub in New York. And yes, it’s going to have a gothic night. Tuesdays. Be there.
So what’s in store for Sanchez and Myrick? Are you guys suddenly everybody’s new best friend?
SANCHEZ: It’s funny how when you’re unknown, nobody’s heard of you, but when you’re famous, everybody suddenly knows you.
What’s on tap?
MYRICK: A lot.
SANCHEZ: Okay, this is pretty much hush-hush, but here goes. Nick Nolte signed on to do “Return to Blair Witch,” and brought with him Holly Hunter and F. Murray Abraham. I can’t giveaway much more of the plot, but I will say it’s a prequel, I will say I’m stoked, and I will say it’s gonna be a much bigger budget than our last one. (laughs)
So there’s more to the Blair Witch story?
SANCHEZ: Much more.
MYRICK: Much more.
SANCHEZ: We originally conceived and wrote Blair Witch as a 12-part saga back in college. It pretty much followed the story of the Blair Witch from colonial times up through present day, in chronological order. But that proved a little too hefty to do in one movie, so we broke it down into a 12-parter, then as a 9-parter, and now it’s down to a 7-part saga. All in one script.
How long is the script?
MYRICK: Three pages.
SANCHEZ: Well, yeah, but it’s because we leave things fuzzy, so that your imagination can fill in the details.
So what are the other stories about? Pretty much the same thing?
SANCHEZ: No, not the same thing. We’ve got “Return to Blair Witch,” which takes place before (The Blair Witch Project), and that’s slated for 2001. That one tells the beginnings of haunted woods, all told from the perspective of an old Iriquois indian who gets lost in the woods and ends up succumbing to the evil of the Blair Witch and nobody knows what happens to him. His journal is discovered by Nick Nolte and Holly Hunter. F. Murray Abraham is the indian. We’ve got “The Blair Witch Diaries,” ready to go for summer 2002.
What’s that one about?
SANCHEZ: That jumps ahead into the 1940’s and tells the tale of the Blair Witch through the eyes of a certain serial killer armed with a home movie camera who goes into the woods to find the Blair Witch, but ends up succumbing to her evil and nobody knows what happens to him. Chris O’Donnell is begging us for the part.
MYRICK: Tell him about the thing.
SANCHEZ: Oh yeah. Chris sent us a polaroid of half his face, looking scared, just like the poster of Heather.
That’s really funny.
SANCHEZ: I know. Then we we’ve got “Soulstone of The Blair Witch,” for fall 2003, which takes place after the destruction of the Earth via nuclear holocaust. The main character is a newsjournalist who takes his videocamera into the haunted woods to videotape the struggles of mankind to survive, but ends up succumbing to the forest’s evil and nobody knows what happens to him.
MYRICK: Kevin Costner.
SANCHEZ: All the way. Then last but not least, “The Ultimate Blair Witch Challenge,” for 2004. It’s gonna be a lot more commercial than the others.
What’s it about?
SANCHEZ: I can’t tell you.
SANCHEZ: Alright, you dragged it out of me. It’s about the three original Blair Witch hunters — Josh, Heather, and Mike — before they went into the woods. It shows Heather’s video diary of the events leading up to (The Blair Witch Project), but it also details the search for the original three immediately following their disappearance. Their families all team up and go hunting for them through the haunted woods, armed with videocameras, but end up succumbing to the evil of the Blair Witch and nobody knows what happens to them.
So what are you two afraid of?
SANCHEZ: The dark.
MYRICK: The unknown.
SANCHEZ: Whatever has the ability to sneak up on you and scare you. It can be a wolf, a ghost, a killer with a knife. It doesn’t matter. If it sneaks up on me, I’m usually scared. 99.9% of the time.
MYRICK: Me too.