The early 90s was certainly a strange time for slashers. The titan franchises like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street had delved far into diminishing returns with their umpteenth sequels, and Scream would not breathe fresh life into the subgenre until 1996.
The subsequent years gave birth to the only horror franchise associated with St. Patrick’s Day in March (despite being released in January of that year). Leprechaun wasn’t a series that started out great and fell into camp along the way.
It was campy, ridiculous, and hilariously bad right from the beginning. But it remains a cult favorite, so in honor of its 30th anniversary today, here are 30 fun facts about Leprechaun!
1. Writer/Director Mark Jones got the idea from the iconic Lucky Charms cereal, when he realized that there had never really been a horror movie about a leprechaun before.
2. At the time, Mark Jones’ only experience was as a TV screenwriter, and he had never directed a film before. As a result, the studio offered him more money to not direct the film, but he persisted and showed them all of his storyboards, winning them over.
3. The film was plagued with production conflicts between the creative team, who wanted a gory slasher, and the distribution company, who wanted something more family friendly in the vein of Gremlins. Warwick Davis himself tried to add a more comedic tone, and the result was a movie that was kind of all over the place tonally.
4. Initially, the production wasn’t sure if someone as big as Warwick Davis (who had just starred in the very successful Willow) would be interested in a low budget campy horror film. At the time however, Davis hadn’t worked in nearly 8 months and wasn’t even sure if he wanted to continue acting. He and his wife had also tragically lost their newborn son, who died at only 9 days old. So taking the role was his way to get back into acting and even proved therapeutic for him.
5. In order to get Warwick Davis a working visa so that he could work in the U.S., the office of the Vice President got involved to speed up the application. As a result, Vice President Dan Quayle received a special thanks in the credits.
6. George Lucas also received a special thanks for allowing Warwick Davis to appear, despite his contract with Lucasfilm.
7. Before the movie was released, Trimark Pictures put out an eight-page comic book which served as a prequel to the movie. Although the events in it completely contradict the movie.
8. Leprechaun was Jennifer Aniston’s feature film debut. Up to that point, she had appeared in TV series like Quantum Leap and the Ferris Bueller TV show, along with an uncredited extra role in Mac and Me.
9. Initially, the studio was against casting Aniston as they wanted a blonde actress for a more “valley girl” type character. Director Mark Jones fought for her, even claiming that she would dye her hair blonde once filming began (which she did not).
10. Mark Jones invented the mythology of the Leprechaun’s weakness being the four leaf clover. He was hoping it would take hold similar to silver for werewolves or stakes through the heart for vampires. Reportedly, he was disappointed when the subsequent sequels abandoned this idea.
11. Due to the difficulty of finding a stunt performer his size, Warwick Davis did most of his own stunts for the movie. As an unfortunate result however, he had to be hospitalized with a lung infection.
12. Shot between October and December 1991 in Saugus, California, but wasn’t released until January 1993.
13. The scenes set in the hospital were shot in the very same location as the hospital scenes in Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
14. Several scenes were also shot at a Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, California. This was the same location where episodes of Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons had been filmed. Warwick Davis joked that it felt blasphemous to be filming a horror movie there. The same location would also be used in 2017’s Annabelle: Creation and 2018’s Leprechaun Returns.
15. The makeup process to turn Davis into the titular villain took 3 hours to apply and 40 minutes to remove. Fortunately, he got along very well with Gabriel Bartaos (the artist applying the makeup) and the two of them had “bizarre conversations” to pass the time.
16. Davis admitted that while the platform shoes were difficult to walk in, he felt that they were just as vital to the character as the makeup was.
17. Mark Jones admitted that shoes became a popular theme, and even featured many shots of characters’ shoes, since that was Leprechaun’s POV.
18. Director Mark Jones and makeup artist Gabriel Bartalos both had cameos in the diner scene.
19. During the wheelchair chase scene, Jennifer Aniston had to run in slow motion since it was very difficult for Warwick Davis to control the wheels with his prosthetic hands.
20. Due to its R rating, children under 17 weren’t able to see it in theaters. Mark Jones claimed that fans have told him that they bought tickets to The Muppet Christmas Carol, which was still playing from December of 1992, and then snuck in to see Leprechaun.
21. For years Jennifer Aniston was embarrassed by the movie, especially when the poster was changed to feature her prominently in order to cash in on her success in Friends. Warwick Davis even accused her of denying the movie’s existence, but she did admit that she was proud of it as her feature film debut.
22. Aniston at one point was in negotiations to appear in the sequel, however, once her career took off with Friends, she was no longer available or interested.
23. In 2019, Jennifer Aniston rewatched the for the first time in many years with her boyfriend at the time Jusin Theroux. She reportedly cringed and hated seeing herself on screen.
24. Despite Leprechaun’s incredibly poor reception, it grossed $8.6 million at the box office on a $1 million budget, and reportedly made another $15 million in VHS purchases/rentals, especially after Jennifer Aniston became much more famous with Friends.
25. Mark Jones has defended the film’s poor reception, stating “I wasn’t trying to make Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby” and “There was a fan base that understand what i was doing and never took myself seriously.”
26. Leprechaun “won” the Worst Film Award at the 1993 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards. It was also nominated for Best Makeup, but lost to Army of Darkness.
27. The film would go on to spawn a franchise of 8 movies in total, including 6 direct sequels, a reboot, and then a legacy requel in 2018 which followed the original movie.
28. Mark Holton would be the only returning cast member, reprising his role of Ozzie in 2018’s Leprechaun Returns.
29. At one point, Leprechaun crossover with the Candyman films was discussed.
30. Darren Lynn Bousman (director of Saw II-IV and Spiral: From the Book of Saw) campaigned on Twitter for the chance to direct a reboot of Leprechaun, potentially bringing Warwick Davis back to the role. As of April 2022, Lionsgate stated they were accepting pitches for a follow up.
Which of these did you already know? Which ones surprised you? Let us know in the comments!