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The Hilarious Safe Word On The Set Of The Blair Witch Project

Three student filmmakers go into the woods... It sounds like the setup for a joke, but it's the start of the iconic supernatural horror film "The Blair Witch Project." The 1999 film recounts the fictional tale of Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard as they set out to film a documentary about the Blair Witch, a local legend.

Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, the 1999 film revived the found footage genre and tricked audiences into believing what they were watching was real. Viewers were told the footage was recovered one year after the trio went missing, while the actors were listed as missing or dead at the time. The stark realism of the film is what made it so frightening.

The realistic nature of their trek through the woods and the improvised dialogue confused the actors, all of whom were amateurs. The actors came up with a hilarious safe word and ritual to break character and differentiate their onscreen personas from their real selves.

So, what word did they have to repeat to one another to get out of character?

Food for thought

While the actors were encouraged to stay in character as often as possible, using their real names onscreen and improvising their dialogue quickly created confusion on set. They decided to come up with a way to ask questions or make suggestions to one another: using the safe word "taco."

In a 2020 interview with The Week, Michael C. Williams said they wanted to establish boundaries and have clear communication. "We needed code words to break from being an actor to being who we actually are," he said.

Their delicious code word came in handy, allowing them to understand when it was time to step back from their film student personas. "If you said 'taco,' the other two actors had to repeat the word 'taco,' so I knew, and they knew, we were all out of character at the same time," he said.

The actors' ability to stay in character led to the film blurring the lines between reality and fiction, though knowing how frequently they'd say "taco" makes it a little less scary.