by Joel G. Robertson
It’s interesting how many stars forget their roots. Where they came from. How they got their start.
I’m not talking about their familial or ancestral lines, or the crime-ridden burg they called home as a child. No, I’m talking about first movies.
It’s like they’re ashamed to admit they once starred opposite a chainsaw-wielding madman. They don’t want their fans to know they were credited as Tranny Hooker #3 in Red Shoe Diaries 18. Or that their featured role in that straight-to-video, Lorenzo Lamas-starring “epic” lasted onscreen only slightly longer than it takes to dig a popcorn shell from between your back teeth.
Take Leprechaun (1993) starring Jennifer Aniston, for example.
When this little gem showed up at the multiplex in January of 1993, I was about to turn seventeen. I was a Fangoria-loving, Bruce Campbell-worshipping, horror movie freak.
How big a freak was I? Well, I plastered an entire wall of my bedroom with horror movie stills and monster pics from back issues of Fangoria and Gorezone. My other walls (including the bathroom) were adorned with genre posters carefully selected from my local video store’s “take ’em, they’re free” bin. We’re talking posters for cinematic gems like Howling VI: The Freaks, Demon Wind, Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers. and The Blob. (Okay, that last one actually is a great creature feature.)
Obviously, I was very discriminating in my tastes.
But I digress.
The point is, I loved me some horror movies! And when I read about an upcoming horror flick in Fango, I had to see it.
Leprechaun was no exception. In fact, I was looking forward to it. I even made sure I was there opening weekend. It played in House 8 at the Springlake 10 Cinema in Winter Haven, Florida . (House 8 was the smallest theater in the 10-screen multiplex. That really should’ve been a clue as to the film’s quality and opening weekend expectations.)
If you’re not familiar with Leprechaun, here’s a quick plot summary:
After stealing an evil leprechaun’s (Warwick Davis) gold, Daniel O’Grady captures the violent creature, imprisoning it. Years later, The Reddings, J.D. (John Sanderford) and his daughter Tory (Jennifer Aniston) move into O’Grady’s vacant home where the titular beastie is still trapped and hidden away. When one of the painters the Reddings have hired hears cries for help in the basement, he “accidentally” releases the leprechaun. Soon, the shamrock-loving monster is unleashing his own brand of unlucky charms on anyone who gets between him and his gold.
As a movie, Leprechaun is utterly predictable. It represents an unapologetic effort on the part of writer/director Mark Jones to create the “next, great horror movie franchise”. I suppose he did succeed with at least 50 percent of his goal. He did create a horror movie franchise (5 sequels and a possible reboot in the works).
While far from being “great,” Leprechaun is a fun little time waster. It has a few creative kills (death by pogo stick anyone?). And Warwick Davis (Willow, Return of the Jedi) has a blast as he literally chews the scenery, relishing his role as the bloodthirsty, old world, Grimm’s Fairy Tales reject.
There is also the excellent work of special effects artist Gabe Bartalos (Gremlins 2, Darkman, Dolls), who designed the Leprechaun make-up. I’m a sucker for well-executed practical make-up work, and despite this movie’s low-budget, Bartalos created an effective prosthetic that didn’t overwhelm Davis’s performance.
But let’s return to the point of this post, the star of Leprechaun (after Mr. Davis, of course): Ms. Jennifer Aniston.
When Leprechaun came out, no one knew who Aniston was yet. At the time, I recognized her from her guest spot on the short-lived Fox sitcom Herman’s Head. Aniston played, Suzie, the troubled kid sister of the show’s main character Herman Brooks (William Ragsdale of Fright Night fame). She appeared in a couple episodes, but that was it.
(Fun Trivia Fact: Herman’s Head also starred future The Simpsons voice actors Hank Azaria (Chief Wiggum, Moe, Comic Book Guy) and Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson). And another Herman’s Head cast member, Jane Sibbett, went on to play Ross’s (David Schwimmer’s) ex-wife on Friends, which also starred, as I’m sure you know… Jennifer Aniston!).
Consider this: the year after Leprechaun squirted through theaters faster than a greased-up turd out a leaky asshole, Ms. Aniston starred in what would become one of the biggest sitcoms of the 1990s, Friends.
So, there it is, the early work of Jennifer Aniston. Of course, Ms. Aniston has raised her cinematic standards significantly since Leprechaun. After all, she’s starred in such memorable fare as Love Happens, The Bounty Hunter, and The Switch.
What movies can you dig out of the celluloid closet? Please share them in the comments!