WWE Studios is taking their movies seriously. They’re not just making vehicles for wrestlers. They’re hiring real filmmakers and casting established actors, like Halle Berry in The Call or Niels Arden Oplev directing Dead Man Down. For horror, they are taking a franchise that used to be a joke and making it scary again.
Leprechaun: Origins stars WWE superstar Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl as the famous monster, and a cast of new and veteran faces. The original series had six parts that eventually included Leprechaun In Space and Leprechaun Back 2 tha Hood, with Warwick Davis as the creature.
Zach Lipovsky got the chance to direct Leprechaun: Origins. He’s made a number of short films, many while he was a contestant on the filmmaking competition On the Lot. I got to meet Lipovsky in San Diego when he was at Comic-Con presenting Leprechaun: Origins to the fans. The film is in theaters August 22 and VOD August 26.
Dylan told us he doesn’t have much dialogue in the film. Was that already in the script as a conscious decision to keep him more of a silent menace?
Yeah, the decision was, that was a symptom of a bigger decision which is how do we make a leprechaun threatening? What are all the things that culturally people just think leprechauns are these silly, non threatening, non scary things. So when we were trying to reinvent the origin of what this mythology and this creature could be, one of the things was that he’s cracking jokes or has this Irish accents won’t be as threatening as if he was more a creature that still verbalizes, but more of a creature. Like Gollum, this disturbed, disgusting thing that’s crawled out of the earth to come and take your gold. That was the approach and it really works well with all the sound design of these terrible screeches and growls. It’s making noise but it’s not saying clever one-liners.
Was sound design a big factor in the production of Leprechaun: Origins?
Yeah, they had one guy whose entire job was just the leprechaun noise. He spent two months just working on that.
Do you know what materials he used to create the sound?
No, I mean, they’re mavericks with that stuff, just taking from everywhere and putting it together.
Is this the first Leprechaun film actually set in Ireland?
The first one has a little bit in Ireland and the leprechaun gets shipped to the States. That’s where he’s originally captured, but generally the whole film takes place in Ireland. It’s kind of part of the feeling of going to an ancient place. It’s still modern day but you’re going into a place that’s kind of forgotten to time.
So how do these characters stumble onto the leprechaun and accidentally steal his gold?
It’s a bunch of teens that are on a trip in Ireland, two couples. There’s kind of this town that’s off the beaten path and not even the driver will drive them there. He drops them off out of the perimeter, your first sign that something’s wrong. They go into this ancient town where there’s a group of Irish that you can tell the town is down on its luck and something has been messing with them. The teens get wrapped up in the story of a town that’s being plagued by a killer leprechaun, and things go wrong from there.
Do you have to step up the kills in a post Saw world of horror?
I think with anything, you’re trying to find some sort of originality and it’s difficult to come up with new ways to kill people because a lot of people have been killed over the years in really interesting, creative ways. So we really tried to think of ways that were unique to this approach to this leprechaun. What are ways that we can kill people that only would fit in this movie, and trying to think of things that hadn’t been done and that would be something that stick in people’s mind as an iconic way of doing something like that.
Does your leprechaun have special powers or advantages as a killer?
Well, leprechauns are clever. They’re cleverer than you are, right? So they might cause you to make mistakes that could end in people’s death. And then there’s also just his size, being so small kind of leads to it being a creature that is just out of view and coming at you from below, that kind of stuff. We came up with some pretty creative uses as well of him getting his gold back from people in pretty grotesque ways.
Do the people know they have his gold, or is it a case of mistaken identity?
It’s not as specific as that. It’s approached in more of a general way. It’s hard to say without giving away too much.
Does Warwick Davis pop up in your movie?
No, we looked into it and it didn’t happen but it was something we were exploring.
So you wanted him on your end. Did it get to him?
I don’t know the specifics of what went down but I know that it was explored and then it couldn’t happen for whatever reason. He wasn’t available or something.
Was that part written out or did someone else play it?
It was written out. There were some ideas of ways of having a cameo that could be fun, kind of honoring the past and starting anew kind of thing, but it just didn’t work out.
Is this the biggest film you’ve made so far?
I directed a Syfy movie that was really fun called Tasmanian Devils. Same budget level but it was kind of a different scale.
Really, Leprechaun: Origins has the same budget as a Syfy movie?
Well, it was a big Syfy movie. It was one of the biggest ones they had done. Then I produced an ultra low-budget horror film called Afflicted that came out a few months ago.
The VOD release is a new model. Are you excited about it?
Yeah, I just want as many people to see it as possible. If that means on any screen, I’m cool with that. I’m really excited by how new media is kind of changing the way people watch stuff and watch what they want when they want rather than having to wait forever or go to a theater where it might not be playing near then or whatever the case may be. It allows for smaller type films to be seen by more people.
So you’re not precious about people seeing it on the big screen?
I mean, it’s always going to be a better experience. I am always pro-theater but it’s not always available for everyone because it takes a lot of effort to do that. If it’s possible, then absolutely. If not, then it’ll stand up on your big widescreen TV.
I don’t think a generic AMC Theatres is necessarily a good presentation anymore.
I mean, I usually, for my own preference, in L.A. we’re lucky to have really nice theaters that really cater to the cinephiles that live there. Definitely some of the more lower rent theaters can be a challenging experience. You may as well just stay home.
Did the original Leprechaun franchise have any presence in your life growing up?
I was aware of it pop culturally I guess. I hadn’t sit down and watched them all the way through. Once this film came around, I did and really went through them and also researched online what the fan base liked about them. I incorporated the elements in a fan kind of way, like props in the back of certain scenes that you would remember from other ones, and character names where if you were a fan you’d probably be able to pick them out.
Are there any Easter eggs from space or the hood?
Not from space or the hood, but there’s a tricycle in the back of a scene that’s really famous from the first one.
Did you watch the series all the way through Back 2 tha Hood?
Yeah, I watched through most of them. That was a while ago now, probably a year and a half or two years ago. It’s pretty funny. A lot of that stuff, they did very well what they were doing. It wasn’t really relevant to what we were trying to attempt because it was really a totally fresh perspective. I didn’t have a lot of experience with the previous franchise and that kind of allowed me to have a fresh slate to start from, but just honor the heritage that we have.
When you wanted to become a filmmaker, did you want to make horror films?
I’ve always been a fan of the genre, like horror/sci-fi/fantasy/adventure. That’s always been the space that I loved the most. Horror has turned out to be a really great starting ground because many huge directors started in horror and worked their way to the larger scale stuff. I’ve always loved all those genres which is why I come to Comic-Con every year just as a fan. This is my fifth now. Exploring all that stuff, horror and fantasy, I like stuff that combines genres. There’s a film I’m working on now that’s contained horror but sci-fi, so it has giant robots and people dying.
Has that been announced yet?
Will that also be with WWE Studios?
No, just one that I wrote that I’m trying to get made.
Would it be bigger scale or could you do it on a Leprechaun budget?
Still smaller scale. There’s something about being able to keep it small and contained allows you to have a bit more ability to have control, but also just try riskier things. The bigger it is, the more general it has to be.
Dylan is used to playing to big arenas. Did you have to direct him much to give a film performance?
No, because he started his career as a nonverbal performer. That was what he was famous for. In this, it’s a creature who also is fairly nonverbal, so all his talents, communicating with his eyes and his body language, all that kind of stuff worked really well here. Also, just the pure endurance. He as a wrestler is a really amazing athlete and can put his body through a lot. We definitely had to do that on this. He had to go through hours and hours of makeup and film all day, doing really arduous physical stuff. I think if it had just been a normal actor in there, they wouldn’t have been able to keep up the way he did and never give up.
He did say he had a tough time with the makeup so were there times you had to help him through it?
No. There’s a really awesome makeup team. It was more it just took so long and it’s a really painful process. Sometimes it took longer than we were hoping but other than that, he did everything he could. He was game.
Who are the other characters you cast in Leprechaun: Origins?
There’s kind of two groups in the film. There’s the kids but then also the Irish folks. They’re some really great character actors that people will probably recognize. One of them is Garry Chalk who’s been in a million TV shows. He’s also the voice of Optimus Prime and Conan from the cartoon days. He plays an awesome antagonist/protagonist Irish guy that’s kind of dubious. He’s really great. All the actors for the kids are fairly new, all from Vancouver which was really great to bring all the actors who had been in my short films that I had grown up with in that community. To be able to do something bigger with them was really fun.
When you read the script, were you already casting your short film cast members?
Yeah, it was a mix of people I knew of but hadn’t worked with yet or people I did know and people I had known. It was kind of a mix of everyone in the community but there was a few, like Mary Black who’s, again, a very recognizable actor in Vancouver and is in tons of movies as well. I knew instantly she would be perfect for one of the older Irish women. It was great to be able to get her in there. She did a really good job.
In success, are you on board to direct Leprechaun: Origins II or whatever comes after Origins?
Yeah, it’s really interesting. Obviously the franchise has legs because so many of the previous ones were made. I don’t know if this one’s going to space but we’ll see. Definitely the film leaves it open to continuing. This film does complete it’s story and a lot of the characters don’t make it to the end but it definitely is an origin of setting up what this mythology is and what this creature is and our new take. So seeing where it could go would be really cool.