Warwick Davis poses as the Leprechaun in 'Leprechaun.'

Director Mark Jones Fought to Keep the Humor in This Classic Slasher Flick

2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the cult classic horror film Leprechaun, starring Warwick Davis (Willow) and Jennifer Aniston (Friends). To celebrate the anniversary, Hulu is streaming all eight movies in the Leprechaun series, which is full of gory, bloody fun.

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The Mary Sue sat down with Mark Jones, who wrote and directed the very first film in the series. Jones spoke to us about his inspiration for Leprechaun, working with Davis and Anniston, and more.

“Being a first time director, everything surprised me,” Jones says. “You know, ‘where’s the camera? Where do I put the camera?’ I was a writer in cartoons, and then I went to primetime television for years, but I really wanted to direct. But the studio was very tough on me. I think they didn’t want a first time director. They offered me more money for the script if I wouldn’t direct. My script fee and directing fee together was less than what they offered me if I just wrote the script. But I wanted to do it, so I finally convinced them.”

Jones’ breakthrough was partly thanks to the film’s unique concept. “The Lucky Charms commercials were playing all the time, and nobody had one a movie [about leprechauns],” he says. “So [I decided to] take some of the history that they can be kind of evil. I created this character who was evil, but had a sense of humor, and that was all planned to make it accessible to kids.” However, Jones got feedback from studios that almost defeated the purpose of Leprechaun‘s concept. “The studio wanted it more gory, with more killing,” he says. “And I said, ‘let’s not lose the humor.’ And so, the kids found it.”

Even then, though, Jones and the film’s distributor, Trimark, ran into problems. “I remember when [the movie] opened up, and I went with my producing partner. We were looking at the kids going in, and Leprechaun came out in January, so the Muppet Christmas movie was out. We were rated R, so you couldn’t get in under 17 without a parent. So these kids would buy tickets to the Muppet movie, and then they would go right into Leprechaun. The Hansen Corporation owes me money because they got a lot of kids buying tickets for their movie. But Leprechaun just resonated and found its audience.”

Even with Leprechaun’s fantastical premise, Jones still did some research for the film. “In those days, there was no internet,” he says. “I had to go to the library, and I actually got books on fairies and gnomes. I found out that leprechauns were shoemakers and pranksters, but they were sometimes so evil in their pranks that they killed people. I did create [the idea that] you can only kill a leprechaun with a four-leaf clover. A lot of people think that’s folklore. But that was me.”

On working with Warwick Davis and Jennifer Aniston

No film is a solitary endeavor, and Davis was vital to fleshing out Leprechaun’s titular monster, Lubdan. “He’s such an iconic part of the series,” Jones says. “He helped develop the character. He would bring in the comedy elements. We fought with the studio a little bit. They were pushing back, but we got through. He would come up and we would do a rehearsal, and I would go, ‘that’s it.’ He didn’t need directing as much because he really understood the character and knew what he was doing.”

Aniston, for her part, faced the same challenges that any actor struggles with, including self-doubt. “There was this time on the set, I remember going to Jennifer and I said, ‘Jennifer, I need to talk to you.’ I knocked on her door, and she had this kind of look on her face, and I said, ‘I’m here to tell you that I’ve been watching dailies and you’re great. You’re terrific. And she had this sigh of relief, and she said to me, ‘Mark, I thought you were going to fire me.’

Aniston, hopefully with renewed self-confidence, went on to star in Leprechaun alongside Davis, and the rest is history. Leprechaun is now streaming on Hulu as part of Huluween 2023.

(featured image: Trimark Pictures)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>