Shlocky charms: The crazy rise and 'terrifying' return of 'Leprechaun'
How did a low budget horror movie about a diminutive Irish monster spawn five sequels, a new reboot, and the career of Jennifer Aniston? EW tracks the deranged history of the Leprechaun franchise.
British actor Warwick Davis says he has “specific” fans—well-wishers who want to discuss just one of the several fantasy franchises in which he has appeared. “People talk about Star Wars, people talk about Harry Potter,” he explains, “and people talk about Leprechaun.”
Alert readers will have noticed that one of these franchises is not like the others. While Star Wars and Harry Potter have raked in billions of dollars, the Leprechaun series has a more niche appeal. 1993’s series-inaugurating Leprechaun, in which Davis’ titular, homicidally inclined Irish monster tormented a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston, was a bona fide box office hit. But the ensuing five sequels—that’s right, five sequels—were less successful, with the last four entries all going straight-to-video. And while Star Wars and Harry Potter have for the most part been carefully curated franchises in terms of tone and continuity, the Leprechaun series has been creatively hurled from pillar to post, depending on the whims of studio executives and the films’ writers and directors. For example, 1997’s Leprechaun 4: In Space is set not just in space but also in the distant future, while the next two movies, 2000’s Leprechaun: In the Hood and 2003’s Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood, sought to squeeze further shillings from the horror-comedy series by giving it a blaxploitation twist. Sometimes Warwick’s gremlin is after gold, sometimes his principal desire is a wife. Sometimes he speaks in grandiloquent rhyming couplets. Other times? Eh, not so much. “If you’re asking me, ‘Were we trying to have consistency between all these sequels?’ the answer is ‘No,’” admits Mark Amin, the founder of Trimark Pictures, who greenlit the first film and helped shepherd the sequels to the screen.
The Leprechaun franchise is a film series even many horror aficionados regard as a camp joke whose very titles seem to exude a money-grabbing cynicism of which “Lep” himself might well approve. Yet Davis says he is proud of his work on the movies. “I don’t think for a minute we, as filmmakers, pretend they’re anything else other than entertaining popcorn movies,” he says. “I would suggest people sit down with a can of beer, put their brain in the fridge, and watch the film. You don’t need to think about it; you just need to enjoy it. I get tweets daily and they refer to Leprechaun. It’s amazing. The Leprechaun films are cheesy, they’re low-budget, but they have a serious following. They watch marathons on St. Patrick’s Day.”
Indeed, to mark the Irish holiday in 2011, the LA-based Cinefamily—a nonprofit organization devoted to screening “exceptional, distinctive, weird, and wonderful films”—held a three-film “Leprathon” fundraiser attended by two-time franchise director Brian Trenchard-Smith and Leprechaun 3 cast member Caroline Williams. “They were turning people away,” recalls the actress. “It was fantastic: talking back to the screen, throwing popcorn. It was the greatest thing ever.”
The franchise has also proven surprisingly resilient, and Tuesday sees the release on VOD of a series reboot, Leprechaun: Origins, albeit one which stars not Davis but a little-person wrestler named Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl. The movie is a collaboration between Lionsgate and WWE Studios, the film production arm of Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire, whose president Michael Luisi has a longstanding affection for the franchise. “I used to go to the Criterion Center over in Times Square,” he says. “It was a grindhouse, definitely a real low maintenance theatre, and they would play all the classic genre movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s. That’s where I fell in love with the Leprechaun franchise. I’ve been a Leprechaun fan from the very beginning.”
So who on earth dreamed up the idea for Leprechaun in the first place? What is the secret of the films’ success? (Did mention there were five sequels?) And does Davis think he will ever play a leprechaun again?
You may be astounded by the answers you’re told/For this is a tale of pure B-movie gold.
Once upon a time—let’s call it “the ‘80s”—there was a man named Mark Jones who worked as a TV writer-producer on the massively popular NBC action show The A-Team. Jones earned good money but had ambitions beyond thinking up new ways to get Mr. T’s famously flying-phobic character B.A. Baracus onto a plane. “I always wanted to direct,” says Jones. “I said, ‘The only way I’m going to direct is to write a low-budget horror movie.’” Ironically, the inspiration for the project which allowed Jones escape from TV came courtesy of the medium itself. “The Lucky Charms commercials had the cute little leprechaun advertising cereal,” he explains. “I said, ‘We could turn this into something evil.’”
Few sober people would ever describe an evil leprechaun as a slam-dunk movie pitch. But Jones had recent box office history on his side. Director Joe Dante’s 1984 hit movie Gremlins kicked off a mini-craze of small creature movies such as 1985’s Ghoulies—whose box office was boosted by a poster featuring one of the movie’s tiny terrors in a toilet—and 1986’s Critters, which grossed an impressive $13 million. Jones admits the latter movie in particular encouraged him to develop his own mini-monster. “I saw Critters in the theater and I really liked it,” he says. “Leprechaun was in that line.”
Jones struck a deal with Mark Amin’s Trimark. Amin had cofounded the video store chain 20/20 Video in 1981 and four years later set up what was then called Vidmark, essentially a distribution company which specialized in straight-to-video product. A few years later, Amin rechristened the company Trimark to reflect his ambition of starting to distribute theatrical movies—an ambition he achieved with the unlikely success of the 1991 Richard E. Grant horror flick Warlock—and actually producing big-screen fare. “That was the beginning of the video boom,” says Amin. “So you could make movies, and release on video, and make money. But in order to build the company we had to get into production and the theatrical business.
“We were looking for movies that had theatrical potential, and could be made for a low budget, and would be easy to market, and would have a target audience, and Mark Jones brought Leprechaun to us. Leprechaun was our first movie that we actually produced in-house that went out theatrically.”
Having secured funding from Trimark, Jones set about casting his movie’s monster. “We were interviewing a lot of little people and nobody had the chops,” says the director. “Somebody said, ‘What about the guy who played Willow?’” That guy was Warwick Davis. As a preteen, the actor played the ewok Wicket in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, which in turn led to his starring role in 1988’s George Lucas-executive produced fantasy movie Willow. But Davis suffered a fallow period following that film and by the time Jones got in touch was thinking of giving up the acting game altogether. “I didn’t have any work for quite a while,” he says. “It started to dawn on me that perhaps my good fortune of the ‘80s was was drying up and I would have to look for a proper job. Then the script arrived and after a couple of pages I was like, ‘I want to do this.’ At that point, I think everyone was just seeing me as playing a good guy, having seen films like Willow. So I leapt at the opportunity.”
Jennifer Aniston was a complete unknown when Jones cast her in the role of the seemingly shallow but ultimately heroic, Leprechaun-battling Tory Reading. “The casting director brought in a bunch of girls,” says Jones. “I just said, ‘There’s something about her.’ She really did have charisma in the room.” But Jones claims he had to fight Trimark to have the future Friends megastar in the film and then go behind the back of the studio’s executives so she could keep the look of her soon-to-be-famous hair. “They wanted me to go with another girl that had some credits,” recalls the director. “They said, ‘Well, we’ll let you take Jennifer, but you have to bleach her hair blonde.’ Because they thought blonde-haired California girls were sexy. So I said we’d do it. Then I called Jennifer and said, ‘I got good news and bad news. The good news is, you’ve got the part, the bad news is that you have to bleach your hair blonde.’ And, you know, she had that that beautiful auburn hair, which later became iconic. She said, ‘Mark, I can’t do it, I don’t want to do it.’ I said, ‘No, you’re not going to do it, we’re just going to say you’re going to do it, and we’ll start shooting. What are they gonna do? They’re not gonna stop production.’ And that’s exactly what happened. That’s a true story. No matter anybody tells you differently.” As it happens, Trimark founder Mark Amin does tell a different story. “I honestly don’t remember that,” he says. “They put all the audition tapes on VHS and I looked at them and Jennifer Aniston completely and clearly jumped out. I don’t remember there being a conversation. I don’t think anybody was thinking she should be blonde or brunette. It was more about, ‘Can we [get] somebody that’s right for the role? That has the right energy?’ And she fulfilled both of them.”
Jones’s script found the Leprechaun menacing a group of folks at a remote North Dakota house as he tried to reclaim his lost gold and had much in common with such “cabin-in-the-woods” fright flicks as 1980’s Friday the 13th and 1981’s Sam Raimi-directed Evil Dead movie. Jones decided to change tack when he began to rehearse with Davis. “He was bringing some charm and some funniness to it,” says Jones. “I said, Let’s put some comedy in here. I think that’s one of the things that made Leprechaun popular and spurred all the sequels. It wasn’t just your horrific killer. He had a personality. I give Warwick a lot of credit for that.”
Davis, in turn, says the key to his performance was the Leprechaun’s buckled footwear. “They were these big high-heeled shoes,” recalls the actor. “As soon as I put them on, I felt I was the character. In subsequent sequels the new designers would come on and try to alter things. I had to cling on to those shoes. It gave me the walk, it gave me the stance. It was everything, really.”
To create the Leprechaun’s grisly visage, Trimark hired makeup effects artist Gabe Bartalos, whose credits included Gremlins 2 and Sam Raimi’s Darkman and who later collaborated with artist Matthew Barney on his Cremaster cycle of films. “The executives knew of me and my studio, Atlantic West Effects, and as is done with a lot of projects they invited bids and designs,” recalls Bartalos. “I began doing some designs right on a clay bust—I could sculpt very quickly and instead of illustrations I went right to clay. It’s a much better way to present to people, you see the three-dimension in the anatomy. The funny thing was that after two or three designs, I began to get frustrated because it wasn’t what I would want to see, and I’m a horror fan. It was just more soft-core. Almost out of frustration I did a super aggressive [version]: chip-toothed, really souped-up brows, cheekbones that are carved into position through years of rage. It completely caught their attention. They said, ‘Wow, that’s so dynamic, that’s what we’re interested in.’ So we won the account.” Bartalos would go on to create the makeup effects for all of the original Leprechaun which means he has spent literally hundreds of hours making sure Davis looked appropriately hideous. “He’d be in the chair for three hours at the beginning of the shooting day and then there’s another 40 minutes of removal,” says Bartalos. “Warwick was not only pleasant to work with in the sense that he respected what I did, he also understood that the better canvas he is, it’s just going to make him look better. And on the flipside, I very quickly realized he was a serious talent. He was far more than a little person playing a role, he was a completely skilled actor. The size had nothing to do with it.”
Davis himself says he has extremely fond memories of working with Aniston. “She was a fresh, terrific young actress,” he says. “She certainly had a lot of drive and a lot of motivation, just a lot of oomph. There was just something about her where you thought, Yeah, she’s got ambition, this kid, and this is just the beginning of what she’s going to do. She was delightful to work with, as well. But she was definitely going places. I think she actually denies Leprechaun now.”
The film certainly isn’t top of the actress’s list of favorite things to talk about. In the course of a TV interview to publicize the 2009 movie Marley & Me, Aniston was asked by an Irish journalist if she would care to apologize to the nation for Leprechaun. “I should have apologized,” she responded. “But didn’t that punish me enough?” However, Jones has no beef with the star. “Jennifer was great,” says the director. “She was absolutely professional. She was sweet. She just wanted to do a good job. We had a lot of fun. It was my first picture, her first picture, so we were sort of stumbling through it, but we got through it. I bumped into her about three years after Friends had been on the air and she was a superstar and she came up to me and she goes, ‘You know, there’s been articles sometimes that I don’t look at Leprechaun fondly.’ And she said, ‘I just want to tell you I’ve been misquoted and it’s not true. It was a lot of fun.’ I said, ‘Jennifer, if I ever have the success you have, I’m going to deny I directed Leprechaun, so don’t worry about it.’” (Aniston was unavailable to comment for this article.)
Leprechaun was released in January 1993 and garnered extremely negative reviews. Variety described it as a “dull, unscary horror movie whose sole selling point is some extraneous gore footage” and The Los Angeles Times reviewer was just as harsh: “This dingy, drab pointless little movie — a would-be shamrock shocker about four teenagers menaced by the Irish super-scamp while renovating a North Dakota farmhouse — is made without flair or imagination, seemingly enervated by its own bad taste and low intentions.” Riffing on the Emerald Isle heritage of Davis’ character, Washington Post critic Richard Harrington wrote that “in retrospect this is one set of reels Davis wishes he had sat out” and prophesied “There will be no pot of gold at the box office for Leprechaun.” Harrington was wrong on both counts. Made for just under $1m, Jones’ film raked in $8.5m at the box office and Trimark greenlit a sequel, turning Davis into cinema’s most unlikely franchise star.
The Leprechaun also seeped out into the broader pop culture universe, often in unexpected ways. The 1993 comedy sequel Wayne’s World 2 found Mike Myers’ Wayne freaking out Dana Carvey’s Garth by shining a torch into his won face and imitating Davis’ monster. (“Garth, I’m the Leprechaun!” “Cool it, okay?” “I’m the Leprechaun!” “Stop it, alright!” “Don’t try and steal me pot o’ gold!” etc.) Davis was even asked to appear on MTV’s Spring Break programming block and judge a “Beauty and the Beach” in full Leprechaun get-up. “It was a TV show on a beach in San Diego and lots of people in swimsuits and what-have-you,” he says. “I just played it in character, I played it as the Leprechaun, the whole thing. I found out I could just be in any situation and react to it and mess about with people. It was great.”
After the first film, Jones headed for fresh directorial pastures (fresh-ish, anyway—his next movie was 1995’s horror film Rumpelstiltskin) and the second Leprechaun was directed by Rodman Flender, who had made 1991’s The Unborn. Leprechaun 2 relocated the action from North Dakota to Los Angeles and had Davis’ creature plotting to marry a comely but highly reluctant damsel played by Shevonne Durkin. Released just 15 months after the original, the film grossed less than a third of its predecessor’s take. “I was a little disappointed,” says Jones, whose deal with Trimark granted him a share of the profits from any sequels. “I thought it could have been done differently. I was going to have Warwick in drag and he’d play the Leprechaun’s wife coming after him. They wanted to go more traditional horror.”
Leprechaun 2 seemed to have little interest in maintaining a strict continuity with the first film. In the original Leprechaun, it is made clear that Davis’ villain is 600 years old. But in Leprechaun 2 he is celebrating his 2,000th birthday. This, and other apparent continuity errors in the series, has led to the theory among fans that Davis is playing different leprechauns as the franchise progresses—which in turn has led Leprechaun 3 director Brian Trenchard-Smith to the conclusion that he really couldn’t give a hoot. “There are undoubtedly some people who have far too much time on their hands,” says the filmmaker. “These are pieces of guilty-pleasure popcorn, which if you approach them in the right way, can give you a satisfying 90 minutes of entertainment, preferably around the six-pack and the bong. As an actor said to me recently when I pointed out that he was committing a continuity error, he said, ‘F— continuity!’ How can your argue with that?”
Trenchard-Smith is a prolific b-movie veteran and Quentin Tarantino favorite whose eclectic resume includes the 1982 action-bloodbath Turkey Shoot, the 1983 children’s film BMX Bandits—on which the director gave a teenage Nicole Kidman her first big break—and the forthcoming John Cusack-starring comedy-thriller Drive Hard. The filmmaker demonstrated a firmly competent, if never overly serious, hand on Leprechaun 3, which stars John Gatins as a young out-of-towner who starts turning into a leprechaun after being bitten by Davis. (Possibly realizing he could never top this thespian achievement, Gatins later turned his hand to screenwriting and last year scored an Oscar nomination for penning the Denzel Washington addiction drama Flight.) Leprechaun 3 is set in Las Vegas but was mostly shot in Los Angeles, although Trenchard-Smith did decamp to Sin City itself for a night to film exterior shots. “I definitely wanted to integrate the Leprechaun into the capital of greed but we had been refused permission to shoot anywhere,” recalls the director. “They thought we were making fun of gambling and that’s a shocking thing to do. The Golden Nugget particularly said, ‘You may not shoot outside our premises.’ So I naturally went to the Golden Nugget and stuck the 14 mm lens on the pavement and had the Leprechaun in the foreground, apparently towering over it.”
It is fair to say the result is not your average horror flick. “Of course, it’s not your average film—it’s Punch & Judy on acid,” says cast member Caroline Williams, whose aging casino worker character is gifted first youthful curves and then a literally explosive demise by the Leprechaun. “But I loved it, and embraced it, and had a great time.” Gabe Bartalos describes Trenchard-Smith as bringing “ a whole different breath of fresh air. He got the wink-and-the-nudge right away. And he was the only director that’s been brought back, so that I think is significant.”
Trimark had planned Leprechaun 3 to be the last in the series, but Trenchard-Smith did indeed return after the title became a bestseller. “To everyone’s surprise, Leprechaun 3 shipped 55,000 copies,” the director says, “which made it, I think, the highest-selling direct-to-video of 1995.” Indeed, while the Leprechaun franchise was no longer on the big screen, this always-low-budget enterprise was still making serious bank thanks to the home-entertainment boom. “In those days you would sell VHS tapes wholesale to stores for $50 and a good title could do 40,000 to 50,000 easily,” Jones explains.
It is at this juncture that the already peculiar little-engine-that-could franchise departed the rails altogether. If Leprechaun 3 is arguably the slickest of the original movies then Trenchard-Smith’s second entry in the series, 1996’s Leprechaun 4: In Space, is definitely the most balls-out crazy. “I can do balls-out crazy as well as anyone,” chuckles the director. According to legend, the film was inspired by a gag poster which was mocked up for a Trimark Christmas party and combined an image of Davis’ Leprechaun with the 1995 Tom Hanks-starring hit Apollo 13. “Yes,” laughs Mark Amin, when asked to verify this tall tale. “I remember there was a tag-line that said, ‘Houston, we have a problem.’ We thought that was funny.”
Trenchard-Smith suggested that instead of Apollo 13 the template for Leprechaun 4: In Space should instead be Aliens. But director also resolved to parody the sci-fi genre in a film which ultimately had as much in common with Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs as it did James Cameron’s space marines. The end product? A movie which features the Leprechaun bursting out of a horny space marine’s groin to utter the line, “Let that be a lesson to you, lad — always use a prophylactic!”
“It was madness,” says Davis of the fourth Leprechaun instalment. “Brian Trenchard-Smith, he’s a brilliant but eccentric director. I got on really well with him. I actually loved the humor he brought to 3 and then with 4 he kind of — yeah, he went a step further. But I enjoyed all the little nods to popular sci-fi and those sorts of things.”
Trenchard-Smith himself recalls the movie was a commercial disappointment, compared with Leprechaun 3. “I think it only shipped 40,000 instead of 55,” he says. “Perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have made the horror scenes more horrific.” Trenchard-Smith suggested the next Leprechaun take place in Washington, D.C. “I proposed Leprechaun in the White House, where a giant Independence Day spaceship suddenly appears over the White House and spits down a block of ice,” he elaborates. “The Leprechaun thaws and gets into the crawlspace and the air conditioner ducts and [there is a] dysfunctional, but positively portrayed first family — because I was a Clinton supporter. But they said, ‘No, you’re getting too wacky.’ 18 months after I proposed the idea, the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke so I left a voicemail on the relevant executive’s direct line and said, ‘Hi, remember me and my Leprechaun in the White House idea? Wouldn’t you like to have 1200 prints right now?’ I never got a reply.”
2000’s Rob Spera-directed Leprechaun in the Hood did return the franchise to earth — literally, if not metaphorically — for a film which costarred Ice-T and a host of other African-American actors. “We noticed we had a disproportionately large urban audience,” remembers Amin. “We said, ‘Okay, why don’t we do something that serves them?’” Davis describes Ice-T as an “elusive” character on-set. “He had this big Mercedes, he’d park it outside the trailer, and this music would thump from it during the night shoots” says the actor. “I don’t know if he was listening to his own music or somebody else’s. It was just this thumping: ‘Boom, boom, buh-doom.’ One day he came flying into my trailer and he looked distraught. I said, ‘What’s up?’ He said, ‘I’ve lost something. Mind if I have a look?’ He started tearing the cushions out of all the seats in the trailer and he pulled out the biggest piece of gold chain you’ve ever seen in your life from the back of the chair. I could have probably retired if I’d gone down to the pawn shop with that.”
Leprechaun in the Hood infamously ends with Davis performing a rap (sample lyric: “From the Emerald Isle to your place in the hood/I’m the man of green, come to do no good”). “I personally came up with the idea that the Leprechaun should be rapping,” says Amin. And is he proud of that achievement? “To me, cinema is a combination of art and entertainment and it’s very difficult to know where to draw the line,” he says. “Have I done movies, like Frida or Eve’s Bayou, that in terms of artistic [achievement] I’m really proud of? Definitely. But I’m proud of the fact that we were able take a tiny idea and make it a success.”
Gabe Bartalos suggests it was the very lunatic nature of the franchise which kept fans coming back for more. “Every Leprechaun seemed to top itself in the outrageousness,” he says. “But it seemed to be that going that far out there [was] what kept building an audience. It seemed like you couldn’t go ludicrous enough. Yeah, I think I giggled every time I read [a new script]. Like, Wow, these guys are nuts.” One diehard fan of both the original Leprechaun and its sequels is prolific horror director Darren Bousman, whose credits include three of the Saw movies and Repo! The Genetic Opera. “I have always loved the Leprechaun franchise,” says the filmmaker, who is currently at work on a sequel to his 2012 film The Devil’s Carnival. “So much so I pleaded desperately to anyone who would listen to let me direct a reboot some years back. There was something so ridiculously fun and silly about them. A lot of people shunned the sequels, but for my money, nothing is better than watching a franchise let its villain go to Vegas, space, the hood, and then back to the hood.”
Davis says he and Bartalos did their best to keep the Leprechaun character as true as possible to the first film’s concept, regardless of where, or when, the film happened to be set. “We were the only constants throughout all the films,” he explains. “Directors would try and change things, and the change the rules, and me and Gabe weren’t having it. It was like, ‘No, no, you can’t change that.’ Like I said about the shoes, they’d try to alter the character and it was like, ‘No, we’ve got to deliver the Leprechaun. Whatever happens around him, or wherever we are — if we’re in space or Vegas — we’ve still got to deliver the Leprechaun. Because that’s what’s made the films successful, that character and what he gets up to. You can’t just suddenly have him speaking different or acting more aggressively or what-have-you. He’s got to be that sort of chirpy character that just sometimes loses it. I felt we owed it to the fans.”
Davis and Bartalos also work-shopped plotlines for further Leprechaun adventures. “We would sit in makeup for three hours every day and we had a lot of time to talk,” remembers the actor. “Myself and Gabe came up with loads of ideas, We had an idea that these children were kind of enslaved by a Leprechaun group, and gold was going missing from all over, and they were constructing a Buddha to the leprechauns, like a god-like structure. It was kind of a road movie as well, because we felt there hadn’t been a road movie for the Leprechaun and that was what we needed to do. We used to throw around all sorts of ideas.”
2003’s Ice-T-free but basically more-of-the-same Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood was the last of the original series. Davis says he was never officially told the franchise had been shelved for good and when Johnny Depp filmed a cameo in the actor’s 2011 sitcom Life’s Too Short he pitched the Pirates of the Caribbean star the idea of a crossover film. Alas—or perhaps not—Leprechaun vs. Pirates never received the green light. Regardless, Davis had hopes that he would get the call to once again don those buckled shoes in another Lep movie. “There were some big gaps between them,” he says. “So you were never surprised if was a few years and you didn’t hear anything. And then it was like, ‘We’re gonna do another.’ But there was never a point when you thought, Oh, that’s the end.”
Then in March 2012 WWE and Lionsgate—with which Trimark had merged in 2000—announced their intention to reboot the franchise. Two weeks later, Dylan Postl broke the news on Twitter that he had been cast as the lead in Leprechaun: Origins. “I’ve seen this coming since the Leprechaun reboot was announced,” Davis wrote on his own Twitter account the same day.
Davis’ message came with a hashtag postscript: #bigshoestofill.
Leprechaun: Origins stars Stephanie Bennett, Andrew Dunbar, Melissa Roxburgh, and Brendan Fletcher as a quartet of vacationers who are offered up as a sacrifice to Postl’s Leprechaun by locals while on a tour of Ireland. Although the film tips its hat to the original movies with a clutch of in-joke homages—Roxburgh’s character, for example, is named Jeni—the result is much less campy. Certainly Postl’s feral, non-speaking monster is far removed from Davis’ portrayal of the Irish myth, and the actor neatly sidesteps the question of whether or not he fills his predecessor’s shoes by not wearing any.
The Vancouver-shot film was directed by Zach Lipovsky, who previously made the SyFy movie Tasmanian Devils and was one of the producers of the recent, well-received found footage vampire film Afflicted. “The idea was to start fresh,” Lipovsky says. “Everyone, when they think of a leprechaun, it’s the guy in the little green suit saying little limericks. The challenge of trying to make something that could actually scare people was something I really was excited to take on. The original did really well, what it did. It has a huge fan base because of that. The idea wasn’t really to copy that or do it in a new way, it was really just to take a completely new approach. Maybe there was a creature thousands of years ago that the Celtics met in some scary cave and they’ve been telling ghost stories about and that over time became the silly character we know today. But at the beginning it was this really grotesque scary creature that had a lot of the attributes that we know from the myth, but was more legitimately terrifying. I looked at a lot of references for creatures that live underground—things that have really pale, crinkly, disgusting skin.”
The man wearing that skin is Postl, who recalls with a shudder sitting in the makeup chair every morning for two and a half hours during the film’s shoot. But the WWE star claims it all seemed worth it when he recently attended a screening of Leprechaun: Origins at the Los Angeles Film School. “They reacted to every scare I wanted to get out of them,” he says. “ I would say everyone left happy with it—and I think they left happy because they were expecting something different. They were expecting the cult classic Leprechaun movies, and it definitely wasn’t [that].” Postl admits to “talking the ear off” of WWE Studios boss Michael Luisi about making a sequel. “I think we’re on to something,” says Postl. “As long as we don’t go to space, or the hood twice, I think we might be okay.” Postl says he is untroubled by his predecessor’s tweeting: “It’s no skin off my back.”
Davis himself reveals he was offered a cameo in the Leprechaun: Origins but declined. “I wasn’t playing a leprechaun in it [and] I just didn’t want people to misled,” he says. Postl, in turn, says he is untroubled by his predecessor’s tweeting: “It’s no skin off my back.” The actor has professionally prospered over the past dozen years. In addition to Life’s Too Short he played both Professor Filius Flitwick and the goblin Griphook in the Harry Potter movies. In January of this year, he launched the Reduced Height Theatre Company which stages classic British plays with all little people casts. He has also appeared in a couple of films directed by Bartalos: 2004’s Skinned Deep and the fantasy-horror movie Saint Bernard, which is currently screening on the festival circuit. “It’s a pretty dark film,” says Bartalos of the latter. “It focuses on a musical composer who begins to become mentally unhinged and slips into madness. Warwick plays, in the loosest of senses, a guardian angel to our hero.”
Despite these professional achievements, Davis is clearly miffed about no longer playing the Leprechaun. “If I was ever asked to play the character again, I’d jump at the chance,” he says.
Davis’ days playing a leprechaun—if not the Leprechaun—may be far from over. “I met with Warwick and he said, ‘My fans want another horror franchise,’” says Mark Jones, who most recently directed a Billy Zane-starring thriller called Scorned. “I came up with the unique concept and the title is Vamprechaun.”
Oh, do go on.
“We’ve got a leprechaun who gets bitten by a vampire and he turns into this little tiny vamprechuan,” says Jones. “He’s now a half-vampire, half-leprechaun. He bites women on the ankle because he can’t reach their neck. Warwick loved the idea. It’s in development now and we’re very close to getting the green light. Lionsgate don’t want to use Warwick, they don’t want to use me, so we are coming up with a new franchise. I think it’ll be interesting to see which one does better.”