You might not guess it from the small line of maybe 10 to 20 people, but that woman in the light green shirt and brown knee-high boots? She was the star of one of the most successful scary movies ever made, though she doesn’t necessarily want to remind you of that.
“I’m sure somewhere on the cover of this book will be the words ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ and believe me, I will have tried to prevent that,” writes Heather Donahue in her new memoir entitled, yes, “Growgirl: How My Life After The Blair Witch Project Went to Pot” (Gotham Books), which chronicles her new life, begun in 2007, as a marijuana farmer in a small Northern California community.
“I fought as hard as I could!” she insisted last Sunday of the movie mention in the subtitle. “It is what it is. It’s so funny because there’s so little of that in the book. It’s just a memoir about reinventing oneself and finding your place in the world.”
And yet here she sat, in front of a glass case containing mini-replicas of Leatherface and Karloff’s Frankenstein, signing books at Burbank horror-merchandise store Dark Delicacies, for fans in “Hobo with a Shotgun” hoodies. She said they don’t usually leave disappointed, even without many “Blair Witch” anecdotes in the book.
“If they’re coming to it as a basic fellow human being and American in this tough economy, then I think they will have no problem connecting with it,” she said. “There is terror, paranoia and lots of thrills ... but not in the [movie] genre way.”
At the time she wrote it, there was considerable optimism about the Obama administration’s stance on medical marijuana, some of which has eroded in recent years. With her uncensored description of how growers do what they do, did Donahue ever feel like she gave away too much?
“I guess I always worry that I reveal too much,” she said with a laugh, “but I also felt like it’s time to talk about the marijuana business in a way that makes sense, and a way that can maybe help it from being just completely corporatized once legalization happens.”
She remains optimistic that will happen soon, and agrees with pro-pot group NORML’s switch from encouraging medical marijuana to advocating across-the-board legalization.
“It addresses how we look at medicine in this country — waiting for someone to get a disease before we think they require wellness. Wellness is the gap between recreational and medical use, and I think if we come from that perspective, then, yes, maybe laughter is the best medicine. And sometimes we just need to take off some of that stress without using something dangerous like alcohol.”
She also noted that there are new strains without psychoactive effects that are helpful in treating epilepsy, which could theoretically be a low-cost option for the uninsured.
Back at the signing table in Burbank, a fan asked Donahue to inscribe one of her quotes from the movie on his “Blair Witch” poster. “I don’t remember any of my lines from the movie!” she said. “Do you have a favorite line you’d like me to do?”
The fan was briefly stumped as well. “Maybe just yelling ‘Josh’?”
“So you want me to write ‘Josh’ with an exclamation point?”
“I don’t miss acting at all — it’s strange,” she told us. “I love making the stories, rather than just participating in one small part of them.” She’s working on a novel and pitching two non-fiction books, but also likes the idea of turning “Growgirl” into a movie or TV show, which has been discussed. “There’s a lot of interesting things to this world,” she added. “Not just the pot-growing aspect — it’s also a sort of ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ With more nudity and hot tubs.”
L. THOMPSON is a writer on movies and culture.