More Hollywood actresses have been driven to drugs than reality stars with a handbag line, but never in as positive and creative a way as Heather Donahue. Relax, I’m talking about medical marijuana. Let me explain:
Heather notably played the female lead, “Heather Donahue,” in The Blair Witch Project, the 1999 low-budget phenomenon that purported to be a video done by three students who got lost in the woods as you got lost in abject hysteria.
In her new book, Growgirl, Heather talks about the amusing absurdity of having to play along with the PR campaign that made it seem like she and her co-stars were really students and, worse, that they’d truly croaked. “I was allowed to go to the premiere,” she told me in a recent interview, “but other times, I was supposed to be dead. I never knew each day if I was supposed to be alive or dead! It was confusing—especially when my mom got that sympathy card,” she added, laughing.
But some years later—after the interesting offers and fun locations dried up like the snot she once leaked on Blair Witch billboards—it was career death that seemed a tiny bit inevitable. While filming 2008’s The Morgue, a low-budget romp about six strangers who get stranded in the macabre title location, the Pennsylvania-born actress had a revelatory moment. “I wanted a change,” she told me, with utter clarity. “I wanted to put things into the world that I was proud of, and I wasn’t really proud of things like The Morgue. I remember the exact moment when I decided to quit movies. It was my death-by-mock-fellatio scene, with rubber tubing draped across my face and apple juice dribbling down my cheek.” How horrible! Can’t wait to rent it!
At this point, any normal person would have surely turned to hard drugs, but Heather simply segued to legal marijuana as part of a group of growers called “the Community” in Nuggettown, California. It turned out to be a terrific career move.
“There was definitely a sense of doing it for the common good,” she remembered. “I was part of the Community. And I had a really nice house with a hot tub and a pool.” And a boyfriend, too? “I had one when I first moved in,” she informed me, “but as soon as I had 27 chickens, a vegetable garden, a puppy, and even a tortoise for a while, things changed. I was a little bit stressed out. I was doing things I had no idea how to do, like building a chicken coop and figuring out how to operate a circular saw!”
Still, it was a welcome change from the rubber tubing—not to mention the snot close-ups—and she really enjoyed mothering “the girls” (i.e., the pot crops) as they grew. “They were so powerful,” said Heather, twinkling. “They’d grow an inch or two a night sometimes. Those ‘girls’ were a force of nature. We pushed each other to the limit, the girls and I!”
As an extra bonus, the gals even provided an unasked-for contact high at certain key moments, letting loose their juices whenever they were under the knife. “You get a transdermal high when you’re trimming,” Heather admitted. “The smell is so intense during that. And you have the repetitive motion of the scissors nonstop. ‘Click, click, click, click . . .’ It’s the only job you can do stoned on whatever you like!”
Not this little ex–movie star, though. Heather was never a big smoker or an addictive-type person—just a healthily obsessive multitasker who wrote a 1,000-page diary during her downtime and eventually trimmed it into Growgirl. (Click, click, click, click . . .)
The book is a dense and breezy read full of extraordinarily intimate details, most memorably a heated conversation Heather had in a car with her own genitals. (“I’m not really into it,” her vajayjay allegedly squawked about an oncoming sex act, to which Heather replied, “What are you—my pussy or the Oracle of fucking Delphi?”) And then came the most awkward moment of all. “I fell out of the car, just having had a conversation with my pussy,” relates Heather, laughing, “and someone says, ‘Are you the girl from Blair Witch?'” Happens to me all the time.
Could Growgirl become a movie, complete with that pricelessly humiliating car scene? “It would have to be animated,” Heather suggested. “If I could get the Brothers Quay on this, it would be amazing. Too bad the voice of the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz is not available.” I suggested Kristin Chenoweth, who played Glinda in Wicked, and Heather gushed: “Yes! She can do the voice of my vagina! Your lips to God’s ear.” “Your lips,” I deadpanned as we both broke up as if terribly high.
Today, Heather and her vagina live in San Francisco, where she writes to her heart’s content and says, “I love my life.” An interesting twist is that after her year with the girls ended, she begged the universe to make her life a little more boring. Presto—she immediately got a new roommate named Bobby Lee Boring! Alas, it turns out he isn’t at all.
But she’s still happy—especially when faced with all new disorienting experiences that even the Blair Witch weirdness couldn’t have brought her. At a reading at the Hempfest, for example, a “pot wife” started heckling her and screaming, “You suck!” The pot wives are the growers’ plus-ones who Heather wrote are “like a Beverly Hills trophy wife with more body hair.” “I thought it was hilarious,” Heather told me about the heady confrontation. “I thought, ‘If I can be at ease in this situation, maybe I really have grown up.'”