With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, and Ice-T dropping his new album Bloodlust on March 31, the time is absolutely right to query him about his role in Leprechaun in the Hood, the Irish screen fiend’s fifth vehicle. The rapper/actor has only made a few ventures into the horror genre (Bloodrunners, in which he plays a Prohibition-era vampire, debuted on disc and VOD this month), and the best-known is probably his 2000 confrontation with the green-clad, gold-hoarding little monster played by Warwick Davis.
T plays Mack Daddy, first seen sporting big platform shoes and a bigger Afro in a prologue, stealing a magic flute from the petrified Leprechaun’s treasure stash. Lep is accidentally restored to life (quipping, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last!”) and has a confrontation with Mack Daddy in which the latter pulls weapons out of his supersized ‘do. Mack Daddy manages to get the “midget Midas motherfucker” literally stoned again, and is next seen decades later as a successful hiphop producer with the monstrous statue in his office. A trio of wannabe rappers break into the place, steal the flute—which can control people’s minds à la the Pied Piper—and reactivate the Leprechaun once more, leading to a string of victims and joke lines.
One of the more conspicuous entries in the early-2000s trend of low-budget “urban” horror movies (Da Hip Hop Witch, Vampiyaz, Zombiez, etc.), Leprechaun in the Hood required no less than five writers (including director Rob Spera) to concoct its story and screenplay. All they needed was the right co-star for Davis to give the project some street cred. “I got the offer to do it,” Ice-T recalls, “and of course, I was like, ‘Get the fuck out of here!’”
But like so many actors venturing into the realm of the fantastical, he wound up doing the film for his child. “At the end of the day,” he continues, “my son was a big Leprechaun fan, and he was like, ‘Dad, you’ve got to be in this movie!’ So I did a little more research, and I found out the Leprechaun had, like, four movies already. This motherfucker was an institution! So I signed on for it.”
For all his screen time with the Leprechaun, Ice-T never got to know the man behind the minimonster’s prosthetics. “The crazy thing about that was, dude was never out of his makeup,” he says of Davis. “I never saw him other than as the Leprechaun. He used to scare me sometimes, because he’d come around the trailer looking like that, and I’d be like, ‘Dude, what the fuck?’ But it was fun. That’s one of those horror movies that have a humorous side to them. Stuff like Leprechaun in the Hood and Bloodrunners, they don’t take themselves too seriously, and you can enjoy them because of that. I mean, Leprechaun is wild, man. He rips my finger off, he’s smoking weed at the end; it’s like, ‘Who wrote this shit?’ You just kind of go along for the ride, and the craziest thing is that some people might say, ‘Oh, that’s a terrible movie,’ but to others, it’s their favorite movie. That’s the cool thing about art; you’re always going to find people who really appreciate it.”
Enough people appreciated this particular work of art that it was followed in 2003 by Leprechaun Back 2 tha Hood, though Ice-T wasn’t asked to return for it. “I didn’t even know they did a sequel! You know, you can’t do a hood movie without Ice-T, so I don’t think that was probably much good [laughs]. It was the kind of situation where you do one of these movies, and you have fun with it and move on; I wasn’t really trying to be part of that franchise!”
An oeuvre he has appeared in multiple times is that of perennial B-genre director Albert Pyun. The duo did six movies together that saw release between 1997 and 2001 (one of them, 1999’s Urban Menace, was scripted by Tim Story, who would go on to direct Barbershop, the Ride Along comedies and the first two Fantastic Four epics). “Albert Pyun is the king of knowing how to do what I call block-off films, where he would set the room up so that you could do the movie, but you didn’t have to be there with the other actor. So in Mean Guns, you see Christopher Lambert in the scenes with me, but I never shot with Christopher Lambert. Albert would be like, ‘Ice-T, I can’t afford you for the whole shoot, but how much for one day, two days?’ And then I’d shoot for two days, but I’d be all through the film. He’s a master of that shit, and of just making crazy little movies. I went to, like, Bratislava with him to do a whole bunch of these weird, really low-budget flicks. He’s a lot of fun to work with.”