While he’s not quite in that top-tier of iconic horror movie villains like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees, Lubdan the Leprechaun sits firmly within the “B” category of horror baddies — and, if you think about it, that’s exactly where he belongs. More designed to emit a laugh from the audience than a scream, the Leprechaun movies only enjoyed two theatrical releases before being relegated to direct-to-video — a move that seemed to suit the movies just fine, as some of the fans’ most beloved installments were first released on VHS.
Being pushed into a second class of films didn’t slow the little fellow down any, either. To date, there have been eight Leprechaun movies, six starring the iconic Warwick Davis and two reboots in the last decade. Unless you’ve been following the franchise closely, the sheer volume of movies might surprise you, but the Leprechaun is kind of like a bad penny, always turning up unexpectedly and without explanation (the Leprechaun, after all, dies in every movie but one).
Perhaps a “penny,” though isn’t quite the perfect analogy — he’s probably a bit more like a bad gold coin. Regardless, here’s what the people behind the films had to say about one of horror’s most unlikely franchises.
Mark Jones, writer and director of Leprechaun: Well, let’s see — it was around 1989 and I was a writer and producer in television and I wanted to direct. In those days, horror movies were easier to get made, so I said, “What can I do for a first picture?” Back then, the Lucky Charms commercials were always on television — I guess they still are — and I said, “You know, they’ve done Friday the 13th, they’ve done Halloween, they’ve done movies about Christmas, but no one’s done St. Patty’s Day and a leprechaun.” I did a little research on it and they’re kind of mischievous creatures. So I said, “Why don’t I come up with a horror movie about a leprechaun?”
I wrote a script and tried to try to peddle it around town for four years. The first draft was much more horrific. The Leprechaun didn’t talk much — it was just a creature that a guy had put in a crate in Ireland because he got his gold. Then the Leprechaun went on a killing spree. People liked it, but I didn’t get any green light or anything. So I sort of changed it to have more of a personality.
I’m not sure, exactly, how the script got to Trimark — I think a producer that I knew said he could get it over there. They were Vidmark at the time, and they were doing low-budget movies and had a big video business. It first got turned down by a development executive there — a couple of times, actually — but somehow it got to Mark Amin, who owned Trimark, and he liked it and said, “This could be a great franchise, let’s do it.”
Jones: We were casting and we had a number of little people coming in, and at one point, someone said, “You know that guy from Willow? What about him?” And I said, “He’s a good actor and he’s got a good presence, but can we get the guy?” So we took it to the casting director and they got it to Warwick’s agent.
Warwick told the story in his book that he and his wife had had their first child but it had passed away, so he and his wife were very depressed. He’d gotten the script and thought, “You know, it would get us out of England and it would give us something else to think about rather than sit and mourn the loss of a child.” So, he gave me a call.
Warwick Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: The Extraordinary Life and Career of Warwick Davis: “Seriously, you’re Warwick Davis?” the amazed voice on the other end of the line said. Mark Jones, the writer and director of Leprechaun, couldn’t believe “Willow” had called him back. He wanted me to star as an evil leprechaun in a tongue-in-cheek children’s horror flick. What could I say? It was interesting. I’d never played a bad guy, and this was a chance to go against type, an idea I loved. The further you step away from your own character the more challenging and fun it becomes and the Leprechaun went about as far as it was possible to go.
Jones: We didn’t have a lot of money, so we weren’t looking for a lead actress or a star. Horror movies don’t need that anyway, the star is the Leprechaun. So, for the lead, we held a standard casting call with about 80 girls and I remember when Jennifer [Aniston] walked in, she had that charisma about her before she even read. We got it down to a couple of girls and I really wanted Jennifer but the studio wanted someone else. We went back and forth a bit and, finally, they said, “Well, maybe if you dyed her hair blonde,” because they wanted this California-blonde kind of look. So I said that was fine.
I called Jennifer and I said, “There’s good news and bad news. You’ve got the part, but the bad news is they want me to lighten up your hair.” She just went, “Mark. No, I don’t want to do that. I’m sorry. I don’t want to be difficult.” Then I said, “You’re not going to do it. Your hair is great. When you show up on the set the first day of shooting, you’re going to look great and they’re not going to shut things down to bleach your hair.” So that’s kind of what happened — she showed up and they didn’t say anything.
Jennifer Aniston, excerpt from interview with Howard Stern, 2019: I watched [Leprechaun] like, eight years ago with our mutual friend Justin Theroux for shits and giggles. It was one of those things when I tried to get that remote out of his hand and there was just no having it. He was like, “No, no, no, no, this is happening.” I just kept walking in and out, cringing.
Jones: Warwick and I worked really well together. When we began, we had an eight-week prep, and I was doing rewrites and bringing in some character stuff and the rhymes and all that. I knew that if it was a personality, that the young kids would like it and young kids love horror movies. So, in the rewrites, I put the Leprechaun in a car and did all the pogo stick stuff. That all came from animation. I originally started as an animation writer in the late 1970s, so when it came to Leprechaun, I kind of saw it as a live-action Scooby-Doo.
Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: The “plot” involved a bloodthirsty leprechaun (who spoke almost exclusively in rhyming couplets), a pot of gold, lost teenagers, a deserted house and a magical four-leaf clover.
Jones: Leprechaun was the first time I ever directed and the first day that you walk onto a set as a director is a huge undertaking. I learned right away that you need your DP [director of photography] and AD [assistant director] on your side. Fortunately, my DP was Levie Isaacks, who was great, and my first AD was Adam Taylor, and he was great too. Then there was David Price, who Trimark put on as a co-producer to keep an eye on me, but within three days we became great friends and he was totally on my side. My point is, as a first time director, I had some good support.
Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: We [filmed] at the Big Sky Ranch, where Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons were both filmed. Prairie was also famous for its opening credits where three children run down a hill. I broke a cop’s neck at the bottom of that hill. Oh yes, this was quality horror.
Gabe Bartalos, owner of Atlantic West Effects, makeup effects artist for Leprechaun parts 1 through 6: The process to put the makeup on Warwick took just over two hours. He was great. He was very smart in knowing that, once it was on him, he looked in the mirror and discovered what his range of motion was. So, if he wanted to emote something, he realized he needed to soup it up 10 or 15 percent to get that same expression to come through the rubber. That’s really great from an artist’s point-of-view because once I finish my application, I kind of step away. I’m at the mercy of the performer to make me look good and to bring the character to life — Warwick excelled at that.
Jones: We were shooting in November or October — it was very cold. It was a tough shoot, but I was glad that my vision for this was coming together. Like, there’s that scene where he’s roller skating, and he crashes through a fence and the hole is in the shape of the Leprechaun. That was me wanting to bring in this live-action cartoon element. And, to their credit, they let me do it. But later on, they did try to change it a bit.
There’s one story about the filming that I’d like to put to rest. We had a scene with him eating out of a cereal box and, of course, I wanted to use Lucky Charms, but the lawyer said you can’t use Lucky Charms because you have to get permission, so he said, “Just change the name, and people will get it.” So we shot the scene with a box that said “Lucky Clovers” on it.
The story, though, was that we shot it with a box of Lucky Charms. We cut the film, we showed it to [General Mills] — which you’d never have to do — and they said they didn’t want their cereal associated with the film. So we had to reshoot with another cereal box and I was so mad about this that I made the kid say, “Fuck you, Lucky Charms” at the end, when he kills the Leprechaun.
That story is completely B.S. We shot the scene once, and we had the prop department make the box that said “Lucky Clovers.” We never shot it with a box of Lucky Charms. Also, that ending was in the script. The kid always said, “Fuck you, Lucky Charms,” because it was the perfect line for that. The executives did try to get me to change that line though — I still have a memo somewhere that says, “Please come up with an alternative line to ‘Fuck you Lucky Charms,’” and I wrote back on the memo, “This will get the biggest cheer in the theater!!!” But they kept asking me to shoot alternatives, so I did, but I told the kid, “Don’t do it very well except for the ‘Fuck you Lucky Charms.’” Then I cut it into the picture and they never took it out.
Jones: One thing that I didn’t agree with was that Trimark cut out a lot of the comedy. They wanted to bring a little more gore up and cut some of the comedy out, and I thought we had plenty of gore already and could have kept more of the comedy. Later on, of course, it became a hit because the kids loved the comedy that was left in. I still have a cut somewhere with a lot more comedy in it.
Jones: The critics hated it. A few got what we were trying to do — that we weren’t trying to take ourselves seriously — but most hated it. It was never supposed to go theatrical though, it was supposed to be direct-to-video, but when they tested it, it did so well they said, “We think we can go theatrical.” It opened in theaters and did very well — it stayed six or seven weeks in some theaters. Then there were the video tapes, kids wanted to see it over and over again, so it did incredible on video.
Nat Brehmer, horror writer and journalist: As a kid, I was really scared of the Leprechaun. I had caught about the first two minutes of the movie on TV and in the first scene he’s very silhouetted — you have no idea what it looks like — so that just made my imagination go wild. Then, when I did watch it, I was like, “Oh, this is stupid and delightful and funny and just wonderful!” Years later, my first Amazon order ever was when my mom got me Leprechaun and Pumpkinhead II on VHS, so, yeah, Leprechaun is a movie I really love.
Matt Konopka, owner and editor-in-chief of Killer Horror Critic: The first Leprechaun is a classic, but it’s definitely rough in some areas because of the behind-the-scenes stuff with Jones and the studio. It’s clear the studio didn’t totally get what Jones was going for. It still works, but it’s a little uneven.
Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: Mark and I remain proud of it to this day, and I’m always delighted when people mention the Leprechaun in lists of other classic horror characters.
Brehmer: One of the most fascinating things about the Leprechaun films is the complete lack of continuity between them. Not only with where the stories leave off, but also the rules from film to film are completely different. Depending on the movie, there’s a completely different way to kill the Leprechaun that’s the only way to kill the Leprechaun. Like, in the first movie, it’s only a four-leaf clover and in the second one it’s only wrought iron, and in the third one, I think you have to destroy his gold? I don’t know.
The gold acts differently too. Sometimes the gold gives you wishes in the movies and sometimes it’s just gold. Also, in some movies, you have to worry about becoming a leprechaun. Even Leprechaun in the Hood and Leprechaun Back 2 tha Hood aren’t connected in any way. Really, Leprechaun is an anthology franchise because it just can’t be anything else.
Konopka: I have this theory that it’s a different leprechaun in each movie, otherwise it just hurts your head if you try to connect them.
‘Leprechaun 2’ (1994)
Jones: Once the picture did so well, they wanted to do a second one and I was going to write and direct. My story was that I was going to bring his wife back and that she was looking for him at the farmhouse. It was going to be Warwick in drag being his wife. Trimark, though, wanted to go in a different direction. They wanted to do a story where he was looking for a bride and I didn’t want to do that. Also, I was working on a deal to get Rumpelstiltskin made with Dino De Laurentiis, so I left and we made a deal where they could make all the movies they wanted and I still get “characters created by” on all the films. For part two I took a producer credit — after that though, I didn’t have anything to do with them.
Bartalos: At the end of part one — while we were prepping for Leprechaun 2 — I went into a meeting to talk to the higher ups about the makeup. They told me, “We don’t know why this is catching on, but it is, so do not change anything.” That was a very specific marching order.
As the series evolved into something more tongue-in-cheek, both Warwick and I always took our jobs very seriously. I think, in a sense, it gave the films a kind of gravity. They were grounded somewhere, no matter how absurd things got.
Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: Although Mark was attached to the project he wasn’t going to direct this time, that would fall to a chap called Rodman Flender. Rodman also came up with his own bizarre set of Leprechaun rules. He decided the Leprechaun couldn’t touch anything made of wrought iron and … the Leprechaun can have the hand of any damsel who sneezes three times, explained in the immortal line: “She sneezes once, she sneezes twice, she’ll be me bride when she sneezes thrice!” After the heroine has sneezed the requisite three times, I tie her up in preparation for marriage.
Konopka: Leprechaun 2 is full of seedy characters that you don’t really like that much. Much of the movie shows the Leprechaun as this rapey asshole who’s a lot less charming. You want to root for the Leprechaun — that’s really the appeal of the franchise — but it’s really hard to root for the bad guy when his whole goal is to rape this woman. Some people like that movie, but I feel that one stumbled quite a bit. Fortunately, the best one is right after it, so that’s good.
‘Leprechaun 3’ (1995)
Brian Trenchard-Smith, author of Adventures in the B Movie Trade, director of Leprechaun 3 and Leprechaun 4: In Space: Starting with Leprechaun 3, the movies all became direct-to-video. The fact is that the Leprechaun films never traveled well outside of the United States. People didn’t get them. They didn’t get them in England, they certainly didn’t get them in Ireland. It was purely a U.S. phenomenon, and it just became more profitable to skip the cost of theatrical.
David DuBos, screenwriter of Leprechaun 3: I get asked about Leprechaun 3 more than anything else I’ve ever worked on. I got the job through a producer named Jeff Geoffray. I wasn’t sure if I wanted it at first, but my agent said I needed the credit, so I wrote the treatment and sent it in. About six weeks later, I got a call from Jeff and he said, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that you’ve got the job to write Leprechaun 3.” So I said, “Okay, what’s the bad news?” He said, “You’ve got the job to write Leprechaun 3.” I said, “What does that mean?” and he said, “You’re going to find out.”
So I went to work with Trimark and Trimark was strictly a Roger Corman-style outfit, but without Roger’s style and class. It was just a factory for turning out terrible films. When they hired me, the first thing they said was, “We’ve got to get you the Leprechaun films,” because I’d never seen one. I watched like, an hour of the first one and about 20 minutes of the second one, then I called my agent and said, “You’ve got to get me out of this!” She said, “You’ve already got the job, you can’t walk away from it.”
She also told me something that altered my thinking. She said, “Do the movie that you want, not what they want. If they like it, great. If they don’t, they’ll fire you and they still have to pay you.” So, I got to it. I never thought of the Leprechaun as a scary figure — I thought he was absurd — so I wrote this absurdist, silly, dark comedy fable about greed and gambling. I didn’t take it seriously. How could you take it seriously?
Writing the movie was tough, though. I kept having to go back and forth with Trimark. I remember I got into a debate with this producer, Henry Seggerman — he’s the guy who discovered Crocodile Dundee — he kept telling me to put in this line of dialogue where the Leprechaun says, “Come to the green side!” I said to him, “What the fuck does that mean?” and Henry said, “It’s like Star Wars!” I told him, “Henry, that’s not funny.” It ended up in the movie anyway because they eventually fired me. See, if I didn’t write the final draft, they could save $5,000 and put that money elsewhere, which they probably put in the art department.
Trenchard-Smith: We had to shoot the movie in 14 days. Primarily we shot it in the abandoned Ambassador Hotel, which is where Robert Kennedy was shot — there was even an “X” marked in the tiles where his head rested as he awaited the ambulance. We also did one night of guerrilla shooting in Las Vegas for the exteriors. We set ourselves up in the pawnbroker’s district and after Warwick was in makeup for three hours, we went onto the streets with a camera and a trolley. We had no permits. We’d actually been refused permits by all the major casinos, because, apparently, they didn’t want their glorious image tarnished by our little leprechaun. We did a bunch of little improv scenes where he’s trying to hitch a ride out of town and things like that.
Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: “Run around and behave like the Leprechaun!” was Brian’s only direction for most of these scenes. Filming was immediately interrupted on the Strip when some teenagers recognized me from the first film. “Get rid of them! Walk down the Strip!” Brian yelled, looking around anxiously for cops. “Just act; do stuff!”
Brehmer: Leprechaun 3 is kind of the distilled essence of what Leprechaun is. It’s by and large the fan favorite. If you want to show someone what a Leprechaun movie is, show them Leprechaun 3.
DuBos: About a year after I got fired, I watched the movie and I thought, “Well, it is what it is. Who’s going to watch this fucking thing?” Turns out, a lot of people. It wasn’t just successful, it was the most successful direct-to-video title that year. It made a shitload of money. It made so much money that they ended up making, what, three or four more of these things?
‘Leprechaun 4: In Space’ (1997)
Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: Why’s he in space? Surely we don’t need to explain that, do we?
Trenchard-Smith: After the third one had been so successful they said, “We’ve got to do another one,” and at the Trimark Christmas party, there was talk about a joke poster, putting the Leprechaun on Apollo 13. Then someone said, “You know, actually, maybe that’s a good idea!” So I was asked to direct and I suggested that, rather than go the Apollo 13 route, why not pillage Aliens and have space marines hunting down a creature that turns out to be a leprechaun with a lightsaber in his shalaylee?
Brehmer: In Leprechaun 4, the Leprechaun is in space. We don’t show him getting to space, but it seems like he’s been there for a while because he’s already getting to know this alien princess and he is plotting the takeover of her empire. So, wherever he is, this has been in the works for years.
Bartalos: For part four, excitingly, there was such a long list of things for me to build. My biggest challenge wasn’t keeping an eye on Warwick’s makeup, it was all the makeup effects and kills and characters. The director just dreamed up so many hilarious things. You could edit up that movie and make four feature films with the sheer volume of content.
Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: One of my favorite moments of my acting career came in that movie. It’s the scene in which the Leprechaun is zapped by some kind of laser, which causes him to expand to gigantic proportions. To pull it off, the special-effects guys built a scaled-down replica set with lots of crates made of tiny plastic boxes. I think I was enjoying myself a little too much — even bashing my head on the ceiling was a new treat.
“Warwick, that was great,” Brian said, “but we’re going to have to do that again, this time try not to make the sound effects.” I realized then that I’d been producing the sound effects myself. I thought they were in my head but every time I’d stomped my foot on the ground I’d growled, “Boom!” and every time I’d smashed a crate I’d yelled, “Smash!”
The one thing I couldn’t understand about this film was that after the Leprechaun becomes big, he looks down the front of his trousers and admires his enlarged manhood. This never made sense to me, as proportionately speaking, it would still look the same size to him. Still, it was never mine to reason why, this was a Leprechaun film; nothing was supposed to make sense.
Konopka: I like Leprechaun 4. It has the same director as Leprechaun 3 and you can kind of see how it’s going for some of the same humor, but while 3 hits the perfect balance, Leprechaun 4 just took it to a whole other level. It’s also the point in the franchise where, if you were kind of on the fence about the first three, that’s where you fall off and just never come back.
Trenchard-Smith: When I delivered Leprechaun in Space, I pitched to them the idea that the next place we should send the Leprechaun was to the White House. I pitched this idea with these evil Republicans plotting against a president who had zipper problems, but they said, “Let’s see how this one does first.”
Well, while I thought Leprechaun in Space would do at least as well as Leprechaun 3, that turned out not to be so. Anyway, 18 months later, the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, so I called Trimark and left a message saying, “Remember my pitch for Leprechaun in the White House? Wouldn’t you like to have 1,200 prints ready for a theatrical release right now?”
I never got a call back.
Konopka: Man, it’s such a shame that we never got that movie. It would have been great! I mean, we can get dumbass reality TV hosts in the White House, but we can’t get the Leprechaun? Come on!
‘Leprechaun in the Hood’ (2000)
Brehmer: Producers noticed that mostly non-white audiences were turning out for these movies, so it was a big thing at the time to cater horror movies to Black people. This happened with the Killjoy movies and that’s why you’ve got LL Cool J in Halloween H20 and Busta Rhymes in Halloween: Resurrection. In a way, they were recognizing the fact that Black audiences were embracing these movies that almost never had Black people in them. So, many horror movies were looking to design something to cater more towards these audiences, even if the movies were still being made by white people.
Rob Spera, director of Leprechaun in the Hood: When I was hired for Leprechaun 5, the movie was going to be “Leprechaun in the White House.” But then they decided to change it to Leprechaun in the Hood. I said, “I’m sure I can’t write that. I might be able to direct it, but we’re going to need to bring on some different writers, perhaps some African-American writers.” We went through a handful of writers for it to get it to where it needed to be, and then we were still writing and changing things when we were filming.
I loved working with the young actors who starred in it, they brought a lot of life and energy to it and I really loved working with Ice-T. He has a great sense of humor and was just great to be around.
Ice-T, excerpt from interview with Birth. Movies. Death. in 2017: I got the offer to do it, and of course, I was like, “Get the fuck out of here!” At the end of the day, my son was a big Leprechaun fan, and he was like, “Dad, you’ve got to be in this movie!” So I did a little more research, and I found out the Leprechaun had, like, four movies already. This motherfucker was an institution! So I signed on for it.
Spera: At one point we heard that Coolio was interested in coming by. I don’t know how all that unfolded, but we staged this sequence with a stand-in, then he showed up, we put him on the marks, we shot it and he left. I probably spent a sum total of about seven-and-a-half minutes with Coolio.
Coolio: It was cool, but I was disappointed in not having a bigger part. As far as the filming was concerned, it was quick and easy and I got to meet some cool people.
Spera: Since everyone was rapping in the film, we couldn’t afford to pass up the opportunity to have the Leprechaun rap.
Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: I kept asking them for the lyrics, but the writers just said, “Don’t worry, we’ll just write them on the day.” I went to my fellow cast members for advice on how to rap. These included Coolio and Ice-T. They were very kind and did their best to teach me how to rap. When we eventually did the song, I was pretty pleased with it and I thought it might go out as a single. I could see myself performing it on MTV and even today I get requests for the “Leprechaun Rap” at conventions. I always pretend I’ve forgotten the lyrics, but I must confess that I recall every single word.
Spera: I realize, of course, that there are some aspects to the film that might be concerning today, especially with having a director that isn’t African-American. I even had some concerns about it back then, which is why I wanted other writers. I mean, it’s a silly film that never takes itself seriously, but I do see how some of it might be viewed differently today. Even if I was offered the directing job today, I just wouldn’t take it.
It’s funny, it’s a movie I spent 17 days on 20-something years ago, and yet it just has its place in the film cosmos. Today, I teach at the American Film Institute and I have kids come in all the time who can recite all the raps from the movie and they rap them to me. I’m just stunned by the life this film still has.
Konopka: I made a joke about audiences falling off after Leprechaun 4 and I think that’s true, but the unfortunate thing about that is that you kind of miss a gem with part five. It’s funny that he gets to space before he gets to the hood (I mean, it took Jason Vorhees 10 movies before he got to space). Leprechaun 5 is really great though. I mean, who doesn’t like watching the Leprechaun smoke a joint?
‘Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood’ (2003)
Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: Number six, Back 2 tha Hood, followed soon after. In that film I smoked a bong that was as big as me. It was filled with herbal tobacco and it made me half-laugh and half-choke, which helped me produce the most evil cackle I’ve ever done.
Steven Ayromlooi, writer and director of Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood: At Lionsgate [which merged with Trimark], they told me they wanted this spring break Leprechaun movie, so I did this 70-page treatment. Then they told me, “We’re actually rethinking this. Leprechaun 5 did so well that we just want to do it in the hood again, so just take your idea and transfer it to the hood.” My idea was about these spoiled rich kids on spring break, so that wasn’t going to work, but I wanted to keep a female protagonist. I also wanted as much action as possible — I wanted him to be like a mini Terminator, I wanted him getting run over, getting shot and always bouncing back. That’s what made it fun for me.
Although, because we had so many stunts in the movie, our stuntman got hurt one night. He’s this great stuntman, Marty Klebba, who is the little person from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The first night we were going to use him, they were rehearsing with this air ramp and the poor guy busted open his head. He wasn’t unconscious, but he definitely needed stitches and I felt so bad. I was like, “Should we keep shooting tonight?” But we were a low-budget, three-week shoot, so the producer was like, “There’s no not shooting tonight! There’s no coming back! If we don’t shoot tonight, we don’t shoot it!”
This was a pivotal scene too, so the producer was scrambling to find a little person stuntman at like, 5:30 as we’re sitting in Downtown L.A. Finally, at like 10 at night, the new stuntman arrives, and it was Deep Roy, from all the Tim Burton movies. We finally got it, but it was such a tense situation. Fortunately, the producer really pulled it all together.
Konopka: Part of the appeal for each film is that they all kind of did something a bit different, but with Back 2 tha Hood, it felt like they were trying to mine resources that they’d already burnt out. It had its moments, but it felt like a rehash. Also, when it comes to the two Leprechaun movies in the hood, it’s pretty safe to say they couldn’t be made today. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was kind of this return to the “Blaxploitation Era” of film with a lot of low-budget, direct-to-video movies targeting Black audiences, but they also had a lot of negative portrayals of Black culture, so they’re very much a product of their time.
‘Leprechaun: Origins’ (2014)
Jones: Number seven, Leprechaun: Origins, was like my first draft — where the Leprechaun was like this horrific creature — but I thought it wasn’t very good at all. Once the franchise worked already, to try to do that was foolish, I thought.
Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl, author of Life Is Short and So Am I and “The Leprechaun” in Leprechaun: Origins: The audition process was very, very rigorous for Leprechaun: Origins. WWE came to me and said, “Hey, we’re doing a Leprechaun film and it stars you” — that was it. The funny thing is, I have never seen a Leprechaun movie besides mine. I’m not a horror movie guy. I am deathly afraid of the dark. When I go to bed — when I go from my living room to my bedroom — I have to turn on the kitchen lights and the hallway light, then I go back and turn off the living room light. It’s bad, man. It’s disgusting at 34 years of age how afraid I am of the dark. It’s funny that I got to star in this movie, but I think all it was, was that WWE bought the rights to make a Leprechaun movie and then they realized, “We already have a leprechaun, why not use him?”
I found out about it like, two years before it happened. It just kept getting back-burnered, and finally, after about a year, I walked into Vince McMahon’s office and asked, “Hey, is this happening?” and he said, “Let me check.” Then, a week later, I got an update that we were doing it in the summer.
When it began, I got flown to Vancouver and filming was tough. I was wearing 30 pounds of prosthetics in the hot Vancouver summer. It took me two hours to get into that suit and an hour and a half to get out of it. It was tough, but honestly, I had a lot of fun, too. It was a great time.
Brehmer: I — and most Leprechaun fans — don’t like Leprechaun: Origins. I’m open to new takes and new interpretations, but Leprechaun is the last franchise you’d want an earnest, gritty reboot for.
Postl: My thing is, if you go into Leprechaun: Origins with the mindset of a horror movie, you’re probably going to be happy with it. If you go into Leprechaun: Origins with the mindset of Leprechaun one, two or In the Hood, you might be let down. I’m very proud of the movie. I have the poster hanging in my office with my name on it, which is pretty awesome. I also have the creature’s head from the movie because — spoiler alert — his head gets chopped off, and now that head is in my basement bar and it’s one of the coolest things in my house.
Brehmer: WWE signed for multiple pictures — that’s what you do when you buy a franchise — but I think the negative response to the movie ended those chances.
‘Leprechaun Returns’ (2018)
Jones: SyFy did number eight, Leprechaun Returns, which was a direct sequel to my original. They even brought in Mark Holton, who played Ozzy in the first one. I actually like that one a lot.
Linden Porco, “The Leprechaun” in Leprechaun Returns: I first auditioned for Leprechaun Returns in November of 2017, and after a bit of waiting, I got the part, which was just huge and life-changing. What’s funny is, while I knew about the Leprechaun films, in my childhood I was very scared of horror movies. My friends would drag me to them, and I’d sit in the theater with my hoodie over my face.
We shot the film in South Africa and when I got there, that was the first time I’d watched the first Leprechaun. But while this was a continuation, I wanted to do as much of my own thing as I could. I wanted to stay true to the franchise but I also wanted to bring myself to the character.
It took seven hours to put the makeup on the first time, but eventually they got it down to three hours. I really enjoyed that though. I enjoyed the whole experience. It was such a fun set that I’d even go there on my off days. As a stand-in, they had this dummy that was made up to look just like the Leprechaun and, a few times, I’d go over to where the dummy was standing and I had someone move the dummy somewhere else and I’d scare the shit out of people. That was always fun to do.
Konopka: Most fans of the franchise really dug Leprechaun Returns. It was a nice return to what the movies were originally. I loved Linden Porco’s performance too. Warwick Davis [left] some pretty big shoes to fill and Porco did a fantastic job while still making the character his own.
Porco: It was very heartwarming that the fans of the franchise really like the movie and my performance — it meant the world to me. I haven’t heard anything about a sequel yet, but I’m looking to the future and maybe there’ll be more.
The Legacy of the Leprechaun Films
Konopka: Leprechaun is a franchise that knows what it is. Ever since the original film it’s never taken itself too seriously and that’s the key to the success of the franchise. The films are crazy, they go all out and there’s nothing really holding them back — except for a budget. I also think they’re great gateway horror films. There are things that aren’t totally suitable for kids — especially as the movies go on — but overall, they’re fun and it’s kind of a stepping stone for more serious, adult horror films later on.
Davis, excerpt from Size Matters Not: I know the Leprechaun movie franchise is not to everyone’s taste but I had a great time making them and I’m proud of my performances in every one of those crazy films. I’m doubly proud that I had my own horror franchise.
The Future of the Franchise
While they may be uneven, low-class, B-movie horror flicks with zero sense of continuity, Leprechaun has been around for nearly 30 years now, and a dedicated fanbase has kept the sequels — and reboots — coming. Undoubtedly, there will be more Leprechaun films too, perhaps even with Warwick Davis. While Porco was well received in Leprechaun Returns, Davis had this to say in 2018, when asked why he didn’t return for the sequel: “We did six Leprechaun films, and around Halloween people always watch them and love them. Horror is an interesting medium. I think it’s different when you have kids; you look at horror in a slightly different way. Since I finished the Leprechaun films I had kids and I see the world through their eyes, and to be in a horror movie right now is probably not quite right. I will wait until my son turns 18 and then I’ll do some horror again.”
As Screen Rant eagerly pointed out, Davis’ self-imposed deadline is less than two years away, which means, perhaps, that we’ll see him as the Leprechaun again one day. And even if he doesn’t return, it’s doubtful that the Leprechaun will be gone for too long — after all, that nasty little penny is bound to turn up again sooner or later.