Mark Jones, the man behind cult movies like Leprechaun and Rumpelstiltskin, not to mention having worked on a whole host of shows that were favourites from our younger years, has teamed with Sadie Katz for his latest feature, Scorned. Starburst grabbed half an hour with the duo and got the lowdown on the revenge thriller, not to mention the juicy details on just how the two came up with the idea, and Jones gives his thoughts on the Leprechaun series and a possible new, crazy franchise with fan-favourite Warwick Davis.
Starburst: So, tell us about Scorned.
Mark Jones: Well, it’s kind of, I guess you could call it a cross between Fatal Attraction and Misery with young people. It’s basically a girl finds out her boyfriend’s been cheating with her best friend through his cell phone, text messages, and basically knocks him out, ties him up, texts the girl and invites her away for a weekend at a lake house. She shows up thinking she’s going to be having a rendezvous with the guy but this character proceeds to…
Sadie Katz: Get her revenge.
MJ: Get her revenge on the two. AnnaLynne McCord, who plays the lead, was terrific. She was kind of a young Kathy Bates, a young, pretty Kathy Bates. And Billy Zane did a terrific job, and Viva Bianca, who was the girl he hey cheated with, she did a terrific job.
It seems very much like a revenge thriller. How gruesome does it get?
MJ: Well, y’know, it’s funny – it’s not a bloodbath particularly, but there are scenes where she teaches her a lesson and puts her fingers in a vice, takes a tooth out… some psychological torture, along with a little bit of violence.
SK: It also has a little bit of a funny… there’s a little bit of cutting humour to it. I think it’s every man’s worse nightmare, to piss off a woman. And this woman’s pissed!
MJ: Anybody who’s dated a female will understand this.
SK: I’m guessing she’s PMS-ing. She’s having a pretty bad PMS episode.
MJ: She also has some history, that we find out later, of being in a mental institution when she was a little girl, and she’s off her medication and taking pills and drinking, so she gets pretty crazy. But it’s got some twists and turns.
With the films you’ve done before, Mark, there’s often a sense of dark humour. Is that prominent here as well?
MJ: Yes. There was a lot of humour in the script. AnnaLynne McCord responded to the script because of the humour.
SK: It’s cheeky. It has that… the thing is, when you really watch somebody lose their cookies, especially a woman, there’s something inherently funny about that when you’re off your rocker. The thing is, she really feels, the character Sadie really feels that she’s doing something that down the line will help them stay together. So it’s a little bit of therapy for her – that’s her version of it.
With yourself, Sadie, we understand this is your first major writing gig. Where did the ideas come from? Was it a case of some bad exes?
SK: Well, actually, the biggest thing is Mark and I had written something before, a script, and then we had a particularly crazy break-up and, it’s funny to say this, but I didn’t react very well to it. We were discussing the fact that I keyed somebody’s car and maybe that seemed excessive. However, most of my girlfriends thought it was completely normal and the guy had it coming to him. That feeling of the loss of control, Mark and I kept talking about it. You’re like out of your mind at that moment, then later on your like “Oh my gosh! This is terrible!”
MJ: I just figured it was a way to make some money out of a relationship that got a little bit crazy now and then . But we’re actually terrific friends.
KS: Yeah, actually that was mine and Mark’s relationship, by the way.
MJ: I dunno, that’s kind of an exclusive that we’ve only told you.
SK: We haven’t told anyone that.
So it was a therapeutic process writing the film then?
MJ: Yes, yeah. It’s interesting. I think the great thing about the movie, we found that women really like the movie and they kind of get it; they’re sort of rooting for Sadie. There is a twist at the end, which I won’t give away, but it kind of doesn’t go where you think it’s gonna go. But we had fun with it – it crosses all age levels. Older people watch it, and they’ve all been on dates, they’ve all had girlfriends at one time. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it actually is a very good looking film; we had great production value. We actually shot in Ohio, and we were able to take advantage of a great tax credit and bring up the production value.
SK: The people in Ohio were really, really excited that we were shooting. They didn’t have anybody else shoot there.
I guess the main question is, in the real-life break-up there were no fingernails being pulled off and no teeth being knocked out; it was all quite civil, yeah?
MJ: No . Yeah, we took a little bit of creative license. We’re actually good friends, and we’ve got another movie that looks as if it’s going to go. So we said, ok, we’ll at least turn it into a great writing team.
SK: That’s Hollywood and LA for you.
You said the movie works for all ages, but we guess for the younger audience members, who have maybe not been involved in a serious relationship, it acts as a warning sign to treat women well…
MJ: Actually, I think the warning sign is to tell all men to erase their texts . Don’t let ‘em see your texts!
Mark, you’ve been active since the ‘70s, mainly with writing gigs, but you’ve only directed 6 or 7 features. Is there any reason for this?
MJ: I started as a writer very young, actually in cartoons, and then I got into prime time and did a lot of the action shows like The A-Team and Knight Rider. I loved directing and it was a lot of fun. The first one was Leprechaun, which I wrote, and I liked directing, but writing is really where the power is and, that’s where the money is at times. But it’s a lot of fun to make small pictures and I’ll continue to do that. The next picture we’re doing, I wrote and I’ll be directing.
Most will know you best for Leprechaun and Rumpelstiltskin, but you also worked on Alf, The A-Team, Superboy, Scooby-Doo, James Bond Jr. and Police Academy. You had your fingers in many pies…
MJ: I did! Years ago, when I was young, I wanted to be an animator but I wasn’t a good enough artist. And I got into the animation studios as a gofer, Xerox processor, and I kept saying I wanna animate… but the animators said to get away from animation and become a writer. So I started writing a lot of animated shows, then produced, and then just a natural progression to live-action. But I will say directing is the most fun. You don’t do anything, you let everyone else do you work for you when you direct.
Mark, you’re synonymous to a certain generation with your horror movies, more recently Triloquist, and Sadie you’ve dabbled in horror. What appeals to you both about horror?
SK: I’m a really scaredy cat, so I think the thing is, y’know, I still sleep with the lights on… The idea of scaring other people like that is a visceral, crazy feeling, to be afraid of things, it’s a drama.
MJ: I like horror because it’s just, as a filmmaker you bring every element; you bring music and lighting and characters. I just think they’re more fun to make as you’re bringing a little bit of fantasy. Leprechaun, a lot of people noticed that I sort of made a live action cartoon. It was colourful and bigger than life, almost like Scooby-Doo. I find it fun.
SK: It’s a little bit of a fantasy that people can relate to.
Were there any particulars films or actors/actresses that drew you to cinema when you were younger?
MJ: As a kid, I loved everything. I have a very eclectic… I like the dark dramas, Leaving Las Vegas, I liked Time Machine as a kid, the original George Pal’s Time Machine… I was just a lover of movies. Anything that was on television, I watched.
SK: I was really a fan of Jodie Foster when I was younger. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a movie that I was kind of obsessed with. I like Juliette Lewis a lot and all her edgy stuff, especially the stuff she did near the beginning. I think Mark and I have the same thing; we were born just knowing that we had to be in entertainment. I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything else.
MJ: I never limit what I wanna do. It’s sort of, we get an idea and it inspires me and then I say let’s write it. The next film that is likely to go is a very dark drama based on a true story about a home invasion, so that’s sort of on the lines of almost, tone-wise, In Cold Blood. That’s what I love: you can do one movie completely different to the next. And I think Scorned is a little different to my usual horror movies, like Leprechaun and Rumpelstiltskin, because there’s no little person and no monster other than the lead character.
We loved the Leprechaun films and Rumpelstiltskin, but they’re about these mythical creatures. Scorned is a lot more of a grounded, basic, primal story about a pissed off woman.
MJ: There was a point where I said “OK, I can do something beside a little ventriloquist puppet or a little leprechaun; I can actually do something that has more of an adult theme.” And Scorned does. Again, I give Sadie a lot of credit, because, I think, working together we were able to bring it to another level. The dialogue is very real and I think the picture works on a much different level, so it was fun to do.
As mentioned, you are most famous for the Leprechaun series. You wrote and directed the first film then produced the second one. How involved were you with any of the later films where the character went to space, to Las Vegas and to the hood?
MJ: I was involved financially – I made sure they gave me my credit and my money was actually terrific, and we may do a project together again. On number two, I produced, I consulted on it but wasn’t as active on it because I went over to do Rumpelstiltskin. The others, I didn’t really have much of an input other than they would let me read the scripts and then take a phone call and probably didn’t listen to anything that I had to say.
How did you feel on the direction the series went in? It’s an outlandish premise in the first place but the series went in a completely different direction with the later films.
MJ: I probably would’ve done it a little differently but, y’know, Leprechaun in the Hood and Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood have such a following. I’m not going to dismiss the fact that people seem to love ‘em. They got silly and they didn’t take themselves serious, and Warwick, again, maintained the character and did a great job. As long as the cheques kept coming in, I was happy.
When the first film came out in 1993 it was much more believable to have a leprechaun as the main villain, whereas it would almost be laughable these days. That said, WWE Studios is remaking Leprechaun. Did you ever have any talks about that?
MJ: Actually, yes, I’ve read the script. Oddly enough, and we’re in an actual discussion now because there’s some interesting drama going on, they went to, really, a first draft of mine before the actual Leprechaun that we made which had some comedy in it. They want back to a crazy, killing creature and they’re making it much more of a horror movie and they’re not using Warwick, which I think is a mistake. But they’re doing it more like a monster, which, oddly enough, is the original script that I gave the studio. Then I rewrote it and went in the direction that that first one went. So there’s some interesting legal positions we’re all taking on it, which will be interesting. I think it’s all gonna get handled and solved. They think they’re creating a new franchise with Leprechaun and I don’t think they quite realised that they just went back to my actual first draft that the studio had. So there’s some legal manoeuvring we’re doing. But we’ll see when it comes out.
You said you’re working on a project after Scorned. What can you tell us about that?
MJ: There’s a couple. There’s one - there’s a home invasion one that Sadie and I wrote - and that’s a very dark drama. It’s based on a true story that happened in Wichita, Kansas on Christmas Eve. There is another franchise that I’ve created called Vamprechaun, which is a vampire bites a leprechaun and he turns into a vamprechaun. It’s a tiny little vampire. That’s one that we’re in discussions with Warwick Davis to play the lead, and Warwick and I will come up, hopefully if it gets going, we’ve come up with the next franchise. It’s a little bit… we’re sort of saying to Lionsgate in the new one , which I think Warwick was the reason that people loved the Leprechaun movies, we came up with kind of a comedy horror that I think is bubbling right now and I think it’s going to go. In the next few months you’ll probably hear some press on it.
SK: I’m actually, right now I’m directing a documentary about a wild party. It’s something that’s kind of top secret but I’m doing that right now. On the acting front I have a couple of films that are coming out. Chavez Cage of Glory is coming to video. I’m waiting for a film that’s coming up, but there’s things like that.
MJ: Also, Sadie has a cameo in Scorned.
SK: So does Mark .
MJ: I have a little cameo at the end too. But no, Sadie also has an acting career and she will probably, I have a feeling she’s going to force us to write a script and she’s gonna probably star in it, so that’ll be something coming up.
Maybe getting involved with Warwick?
SK: That would be great! He’s great!
MJ: Warwick came in a couple of years ago, and I met with him… he’s terrific. Every time he comes in, we try and get together. He’s a great guy.
Have you mentioned Vamprechaun to him at all or is it just that you have him lined up for it?
MJ: We’ve discussed it, yeah. I had a number of phone calls with Warwick and we’ve discussed Vamprechaun, so we’re trying to see if we can put that deal together. I think fans of Warwick will absolutely love it.
You have a world at the moment where you have giant sharks versus giant octopuses so why not a vampire and leprechaun movie with Warwick Davis?
MJ: I think it’s a very clever way of using his popularity, him being the Leprechaun, my creating the series, and we’ve come up with a totally unique character that’s never been done. I think it will work well.
And that will take a similar tone to the Leprechaun films?
MJ: Absolutely! There’s a lot of comedy. You’ve got a tiny little vampire who’s gotta bite people on the ankles as the neck he can’t reach, so we’re not taking this serious. It’ll have the vampire gore but it’s a comedy horror.
Share your comments below or on Twitter @STARBURST_MAG
Find your local Starburst Magazine stockist HERE, or buy direct from us HERE. For our digital edition (available to read on your iOS, Android, Amazon, Windows 8, Samsung and/or Huawei device - all for just £1.99), visit MAGZTER DIGITAL NEWSSTAND.