When the director made it bad on porpoise.
Such is the case with “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” a sequel to last summer’s unlikely hit “Sharknado.” The B-movie spoof premieres Wednesday night on Space and Syfy.
The film was actually one of the high points of the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles, Calif., which should give you some idea of the press tour. It was screened poolside at the Beverly Hilton, high up on a white wall where a bad surfing short often runs ad nauseam. Cool benches shaped like `50s cars were plunked around the pool. Stars Ian Ziering (“Beverly Hills, 90210”), Tara Reid (“American Pie”), Vivica A. Fox (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and others winced along with critics as they watched sharks flying through the air, shredding careers in their wake.
The premise of the film is simple: A mysterious double tornado is reported (by Al Roker and other “Today Show” morning TV personalities). It hovers over the ocean picking up sharks and then drops them all over Manhattan. Hilarity and bloodshed ensues.
Ziering and others thought it would end their careers; instead it has put them back in the spotlight.
“Sharknado 2” features cameos by other B-List celebrities in need of a career boost or even just a paycheck: Andy Dick (“NewsRadio”) appears as a cop; Kelly Osbourne as a flight attendant; Billy Ray Cyrus as a doctor. Besides Roker, Matt Lauer from “Today” makes several appearances. (“Sharknado 2” airs on Syfy, a cable network owned by NBC Universal, which also produces “Today” for NBC.)
Both Sharknado” films were directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, a director of straight-to-video horror releases in the past and also a former reporter/editor who only a year earlier attended the TCA press tour as a critic.
He says he’s always wanted to be a filmmaker, running around with a Super 8 movie camera as a kid and studying film at San Francisco State.
When the original “Sharknado” took off last year—thanks mainly to social network buzz with even Mia Farrow tweeting in—Farrante was quickly hired to do a sequel. It was the cable network’s highest-rated offering ever. Syfy has already announced plans to do a third movie.
Ferrante and screenwriter Thunder Levin—his real name, he claims—said they had a bit more budget for “Sharknado 2,” but still had to crank the film out in 18 shooting days.
The success of the first film made lining up stars for cameos much easier this time. Judd Hirsch from “Taxi” plays—what else?—a New York taxi driver. When Ferranti found out Richard Kind (“Spin City,” “Luck”) wanted to be in the film, he combined a couple of lesser roles to give the actor more of a showcase. He did the same with Robert Klein, who wound up playing the mayor after former mayors Rudolph Guiliani and Michael Bloomberg did not take the shark bait. In a rare show of restraint, even Donald Trump passed.
Others couldn’t wait to get in on the fun. After Subway pitchman Jared Fogle tweeted about the first movie, Ferrante and company put him in the second as a subway rider.
When Fox became available, Ferrante and Levin made her character a love interest for Ziering’s chainsaw-wielding hero. “We made her his high school sweetheart,” says Ferrante.
Shooting the sequel in New York this past winter posed some chilly challenges, Ferrante admits, but he was glad to be able to incorporate some actual New York Mets baseball footage. A scene inside an airplane had to be done in Los Angeles when it became too cost prohibited to bring a fake fuselage down from Canada. Robert Hayes, remembered for this “Airplane” comedies, returns to the cockpit for “Sharknado 2.”
In one ridiculous special effect, Ferrante takes great liberties with the Statue of Liberty, smashing off the head of the New York harbour landmark and sending it tumbling into the streets. “We originally thought we can’t have the Statue of Liberty hurting and killing people,” he says. “Then we went against that.”
A scene made especially for Canadian audiences will be shown featuring a Rob Ford look-a-like. In it, the Toronto mayor is seen offering aide to New York before becoming a shark snack.
Ferrante hopes “Sharknado 2” will allow him to someday direct a bigger movie. “Give me $50 million and I’ll make a $200 million feature,” he claims. He points to British filmmaker Gareth Edwards for inspiration. That 39-year-old parlayed a $100,000 independent movie called “Monsters” into a big studio career shooting “Godzilla” remakes and the next “Star Wars” film.
In the meantime, Ferrante is happy to swim with the sharks. He suggests Europe might make a nice setting for “Sharknado 3.” “Why not?” he says. “Let’s work in a little travel.”