Michael C. Williams’s trip from Burkittsville to Hawthorne
It’s been 10 years since the release of The Blair Witch Project, an innovative low-budget flick and surprise blockbuster that was one of the first to use elements of reality television on the big screen. Thankfully, one of the movie’s alums, Michael C. Williams, managed to escape the Witch’s clutches and start up the fledgling Big Blue Door Theatre Company here in Westchester (bigbluedoortheatre.com). We caught up with Williams to talk scary movies and new stage projects.
Do you still get recognized for being in The Blair Witch Project?
It doesn’t happen often. People think I look familiar, but they can’t pinpoint why. But a few months ago, I was in New Jersey at a rest area, wearing a flannel. One guy jumped out of his car and asked me if I was in The Blair Witch Project, and when I said yes, he said, ‘You gotta be kidding me! My girlfriend just made me watch it last night!’
Did you know it was going to be such a phenomenon?
I had no idea. Nobody did. We just thought it was an independent film that we were lucky to get roles in. We thought at most it would be an underground cult DVD thing, which I think the directors were going for, since it was shot that way. We had no idea that it’d be blowing up on screens everywhere and that it’d be shattering records.
Besides Blair Witch, what’s your favorite scary movie?
I like the original Halloween. I like the darkness of the movie, and that it’s not so bloody. In movies today, so many people get slaughtered so quickly—it’s almost comical. With Halloween, it’s more psychological. You imagine the worst, and you have to wait to see if it’s going to happen. In a way, that’s also true about Blair Witch, since they don’t show you anything.
What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
My favorite was probably Indiana Jones when I was a sophomore in high school. I thought it was the coolest thing, but I was such a dork.
What made you decide to start a theater company?
I love theater. I studied it at SUNY New Paltz. I don’t have a big, booming film career now—though that would be nice—so I like to do work that I think is important, or would be fun. My wife and I were talking about starting a company since we were in high school. It’s still in its infancy, but we know enough people now that we can put stuff together.
Why is Westchester the best place for it?
People here are hip to the arts. We thought it would be great to have a professional theater company here so someone can see a play at a decent price and not have to spend two hundred dollars on a night in the City. I come from Thornwood, and I would have loved something like this when I was growing up.
You also teach acting. How do you like it?
I teach at the new Jacob Burns Film Center’s Media Arts Lab, and it’s amazing. These students come in and they animate their own movies and act in them, and it’s brilliant.
Are you working on any other projects?
I do have a film that I’d love people to check out called The Objective. It’s exclusive to Blockbuster, and it was at the Tribeca Film Festival, and now it’s being released through IFC films. I shot it in Morocco with one of the directors of Blair Witch. It’s about a bunch of special-forces ops in Afghanistan fighting an enemy that they don’t know from whence it came, so it also has that element of the supernatural.