TIFF 2013: Zach Lipovsky on Leprechaun: Origins


CraveOnline: Now audiences have seen everything anyway. How do you make a leprechaun genuinely scary?

Zach Lipovsky: I think you’ll be surprised. As the title suggests, we’re really telling an origin of where the myth could’ve come from. So we’re really going to a much darker, grittier, kind of like Guillermo del Toro telling a more grounded and grittier, darker version rather than the Lucky Charms version you might be expecting. I think when you first see the leprechaun you’ll be like, “Oh, dear God. This is absolutely terrifying and disgusting.” Rather than, “Oh, look at that funny little guy.”

But it is contemporary, modern day?

Yeah, it just has a feeling of kind of, in that way that Guillermo del Toro has kind of modern films that still feel like they’re set in kind of a mythic time. That’s the direction I wanted to go.

Can you do a slow burn in a movie where the title is Leprechaun?

I think so. I think everyone is going to be very curious as to what our leprechaun looks like, so the longer we can draw out the reveal of that, the better. Because they know it’s a leprechaun but they don’t know what kind and what it looks like and what it’s capable of so those are revelations that we can slowly reveal throughout the film.

Were you involved in designing the makeup?

Yeah, I did all the concept art to begin with and then I brought that to the makeup artists. He’s basically mostly practical so we worked with them to build it and work with Dylan to see what worked with him and everything, but the original design was something I did and then we just brought in the crew and built it from there.

Did Dylan have some notes, like “That won’t work for me?”

He didn’t necessarily have notes. It was more what worked with his physique and what looks the scariest and what’s more comfortable, what gives him more freedom of motion and stuff like that.

How long did it take to make him up as Leprechaun?

Each day it took about two hours, and then he’d basically be in it and wouldn’t really be able to take it off. We would take it off for lunch but then it would mean we wouldn’t be able to film with him for another two hours. It was pretty intense for him. We were shooting in the middle of the summer so he was a trooper.

I imagine this project came with Dylan attached because he’s their star, so how did they present that to you?

Yeah, they presented it in basically just the way that you put it. He’s the star. He’s the one who’s going to be driving eyes. At the same time, you’re not tied to the character that people know him as. So we still have a lot of freedom even though it’s him. It was good. They’re totally open to doing something completely new.

How did the schedule work out with his wrestling schedule?

Pretty good. WWE Studios works obviously very closely with WWE on the entertainment side so they flew him out back and forth for the times when we needed him and then all the way through production he was there. Those guys travel so much, it’s kind of insane. I think he lives in Wisconsin. He’s on the road in a different city five days a week and flies home again for two days, and then flies back. They’re all over the world all the time. I think spending three weeks in one space was probably unusual for him.

Was there any point where you had to recreate Ireland in Canada?

I don’t know if I’m allowed to answer that or not. They told me to keep as much of the story under wraps as possible.

Can you say anything about the other characters in the story?

I don’t know if I can.

Okay, I understand. Is the intention for this to be an R-rated Leprechaun?

Yeah, definitely.

Does that come in the kills?

It comes out definitely in the kills. There’s pretty insane stuff there and just as far as the tone. It’s made for adults. It’s not made for kids. It’s not a total torture porn gore fest either.

You’re doing the leprechaun practical, but are there other CGI effects?

Less than you would think. There’s stuff in there for sure but most of the kills and the leprechaun and everything was done as practical as possible, with really, really talented makeup effects team in Vancouver. We were going so fast, we just wanted stuff to look good on camera. Basically the approach I take is doing it as practical as possible and then using visual effects to help it along.

How hands on or hands off was WWE when you were working?

I mean, they were very involved in the development of the story and what they want to achieve. By the time we started shooting and getting everything rolling, they were fairly hands off. Basically, we all figured out what we wanted to do and then they let me go do it.

How much more post work do you have?

Well, the film’s coming out in the spring. We’re still editing right now so we’ll probably be working on it, editing for a while and then starting sound and color as it gets into the fall. We’ll probably have it all wrapped up by the end of the year.

If this goes well, would you be on board for future Leprechaun movies?

I hope so. We’ll see how it all goes. We have all sorts of funny ideas of where it could go. This film is kind of an origin story, as the title suggests, so there’s definitely a lot of interesting places it could go.

Do you think it could ever go back into space or the hood?

[Laughs] I’m pretty sure they don’t want to go there. I think that territory has been well explored, don’t you?

Yes. Do you have a look at any other WWE film properties they have going on?

Yeah, they’ve already expressed interest in doing another one but we’ll just see how this one turns out. Right now I’m just trying to make this movie. It’s been such a whirlwind. It happened very quickly, so trying to focus as much as I can on it. I also have a film called Afflicted that’s premiering in Toronto that I produced. It’s premiering in Midnight Madness on the 9th and I think people are going to be pretty blown away.

Is it a horror movie?

Well, I don’t want to give anything away. It’s best watched without knowing anything about it and that’ll be the world premiere, so that’ll be the best time to see it. There are some great reveals. I just produced this one with a close group of friends of mine. 

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Shelf Space Weekly. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.