Exclusive Interview: Drew Daywalt Talks Leprechaun's Revenge and More
On Saturday, March 17th, Syfy is set to debut Drew Daywalt’s latest feature film, Leprechaun’s Revenge, and in honor of the occasion Dread Central recently had the chance to catch up with Daywalt to get the lowdown on the project.
In our interview Daywalt discusses working on Leprechaun’s Revenge, explains the challenges and importance of making a "practical" creature feature and sets the record straight on the film’s recent title change as well.
Read on for our chat with Daywalt, and make sure to check out Leprechaun’s Revenge when it debuts this Saturday on the Syfy network.
Dread Central: Can you talk a bit about how you got involved with the project and taking the leap toward horror feature filmmaking?
Drew Daywalt: It's interesting. A lot of horror fans who enjoy my work think this is my first feature film, and in a way they're right as it's my first feature HORROR film. And frankly speaking, it's not even really horror. It's a lighthearted Syfy creature feature. It's more funny than scary. Leprechaun's Revenge was produced by After Dark Film, and I'd been working with them for a while developing another project - a much darker horror piece - when the opportunity to do this lighthearted monster movie came up so we went for it.
DC: I think I remember you mentioning that you worked on the story a bit after coming on board- is that correct? Did you put some Daywalt flair in there to flesh out the story more?
Drew Daywalt: I did. Anthony C. Ferrante wrote the screenplay and did a bang up job of creating the family and the town that's at the core of the film, and when I came on board, he was very gracious in working with me to flesh out the mythology of how this town came to capture a leprechaun and imprison it beneath the roots of an oak tree.
We also worked really hard together to tie the leprechaun in this film to a more realistic Celtic view of leprechauns, which painted them as dangerous little woodland goblins. I did the usual director pass with the story, but Anthony did the heavy lifting, for sure. My big contributions came in the mythology and the characters and the creature design.
DC: You have such a great cast in this with a lot of wonderful character actors; can you discuss working with them, and did you encourage them to put their own little touches on the roles while filming?
Drew Daywalt: Since the film wasn't my baby, it was easy to open up and let everyone pitch in with their ideas. As a writer-director, when you give birth to a screenplay, then you live with it and rework it and tinker and finally sell it; it's harder to let people come in at the 11th hour and toy with your work.
But for me, on this one, because I had such great talent as Billy Zane and William Devane and Courtney Halverson, it was actually really easy to let them play. The story centers very strongly around this quirky, dysfunctional family, and they all jumped right in and had a lot of fun with it. We also knew, as a group, that if we tried to play this too serious and not embrace the camp and the silliness of a leprechaun as an antagonistic beast, then we were in for a world of hurt. We had to get ahead of the joke, or we'd become the joke. So at the end of the day, together with the actors, I was able to make a quirky, tongue-in-cheek monster movie. We were aiming for the tone of Tremors or Creepshow or Big Trouble in Little China. Subtle laughs and ridiculous situations, but without being wacky or stupid.
DC: I know you are a huge proponent of using practical effects over CGI and would love to hear more about why that was particularly important on this movie and more about developing the look of the creature and making sure it wasn't a design fans had seen countless times before (which it isn't!).
Drew Daywalt: I knew we wouldn't have the money to do the CGI right. These things never do. But if we were careful, we could make the creature look good if we did it physically. Plus, I'm a horror fan. I'm a fantasy films fan and know what the rest of us know - CGI only works if there's a ton of money and time poured into it. So with our low budget I knew we needed a suit and mask, enhanced later by touches of CGI (facial expressions and blinks and snarls, etc.) so that it would work. Jeff Farley came on board and built a wonderfully impish little devil of a creature based on early designs by Jacob Hair.
DC: How was production for you?
Drew Daywalt: Production was tough on this one for the entire cast and crew. We had one week of prep and 15 days of shooting. And in that time I had to pull off car chases, a parade with hundreds of extras, dozens of kill f/x, stunts, melee fights, the whole thing. It was a classic case of ten pounds of stuff in a five-pound bag.
I used to be critical of directors on films like this, but now that I've done it, I see that they were up against the wall. Is the film perfect? No. We didn't have the luxury of time or budget to get everything that was asked of us. But what we did capture was a lot of fun in the characters and the story.
DC: How much fun is it to be having the movie premiere now on Syfy for St. Patrick's Day?
Drew Daywalt: I'll be with my cast and crew drinking green beer and making a drinking game of the film with everyone else so I'm very excited. The whole team is. We're very proud of the fun little film we've made despite some ridiculous odds.
DC: A lot of people have been making comparisons between the Warwick Davis series and this movie- do you want to set the record straight for fans?
Drew Daywalt: The comparison is inevitable so I totally understand that, but there's a funny story there. When I came on board, the script was titled St. Patrick's Day so I never saw it as similar to the Warwick Davis Leprechaun films. The story's different, the creature was entirely different, and the concept was that our leprechaun is what a real Celtic goblin from ages past looks and acts like, not a caricature of a Lucky Charms box.
In our film the Lucky Charms style leprechaun is something that people have painted over the years to hide the horrors of what real leprechauns of old were really like. During production the script was retitled Red Clover because no agent in town was going to give their client a script called Leprechaun's Revenge. Not only is it a bad title, but it apes the actual Leprechaun franchise, and not in a good way. But somewhere along the way they changed the title from Red Clover to Leprechaun's Revenge, and now the cast and I have been burdened with having to repeatedly explain that "No, this is not part of the Leprechaun series," and "No, Warwick Davis is not in the film."
All of us feel a little duped at this point, and the audience is seeing right through what's been done and they're not responding to it well either. Unfortunately, the marketing conceit is backfiring on them.
DC: So what's up next for you since I know you’re a guy who likes to keep busy?
Drew Daywalt: I have a couple things lined up, but I'm not allowed to talk about them in detail yet. One is a very dark ghost story that I wrote and will be directing later this year. It's dark and layered and complex. A nice turn from a lighthearted leprechaun creature feature.
Look for the flick on the Syfy Channel on Saturday, March 17th, at 9:00 pm.
Daywalt directs Leprechaun's Revenge written by fellow horror filmmaker Anthony C. Ferrante (Boo!, Scream of the Banshee). Those facing the ire of this little Irish hellraiser terrorizing Cajun country will include Billy Zane (Titanic), William Devane (“24”), relative newcomer Kelly Washington, Courtney Halverson (“Death Valley”), Azure Parsons (“Death Valley”), Matty Ferraro (“The Lair”), and actor-stuntman Kevin Mangold.
Sixty-six years ago the town of Irish Channel in Louisiana was the site of a horrible massacre on St. Patrick's Day. Some blame a terrible storm that blew through the town, but those that were there don't speak of the truth. Due to petty superstitions St. Patrick's Day festivities were banned for the last 66 years, but now the new Mayor wants to tempt fate and celebrate.
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