If, after watching 2013's Sharknado, you thought the threat of airborne sharks was merely another downside to living in Los Angeles, think again. The weather phenomenon can strike at any time and any place -- at least that's what the director and stars of Sharknado 2: The Second One hoped when filming the sequel.
In the cameo-filled movie, which premiered July 30, the action moves from L.A. to New York City, as sharks attack an airplane, Citi Field and even the set of Today. So why the Big Apple?
“New York afforded us things we couldn’t do in L.A., particularly bad weather," director Anthony C. Ferrante told reporters at Comic-Con International in San Diego. "A lot of the problem of shooting the first movie is shooting a storm movie where it’s sunny every day. Can’t shoot the sky, can’t shoot the ground. So you gotta be creative, and the CGI just fills in the blanks. On this one [we had] bad weather, so we could shoot up and see the city. We had actual locations. I’d love to do international, but no one’s really talked about the next movie. It’s just, ‘Let’s finish this.’ We just finished the DVD version, which has more footage. We haven’t even thought about Part three yet. No one’s been hired. I haven’t been hired."
However, he has clearly given some thought to the future -- even the distant future -- of the B-movie franchise.
“The thing is, the premise allows it to go wherever you want it to go,” Ferrante said. “Plus, we established the idea that it’s not sharks, it’s not tornadoes -- it’s sharknadoes! That’s our villain. Like Freddy Kruger or Jason. Jason keeps getting hacked and slashed and he keeps coming back. You don’t question it. Our thing is that because you have a sharknado we can do whatever we want. Yeah, it can be in the sky. Yeah, it can tear through subway cars. So that’s the fun part about it. People get hung up on they can’t do this. Cars can’t turn into robots but you accept that, too. As long as you continue to accept that this stuff can happen you can take it anywhere. I’d love to see number 10 and the whole world is sharknado-infested and they’re corralling the sharks and putting them into camps and stuff.”
Ian Ziering, who stars as Fin, has his own thoughts on a potential third film. “Sharks in the Hood. Sharkpocalypse Now," he suggested. "I don’t know what to expect in the third installment. I’d like to see it taken to foreign shores. It’s a movie that’s got global appeal.”
Judah Friedlander, who plays Brian, agreed, saying, “I think [the next sequel should take place in] Europe. Either London or Iceland. That’s the direction it’s going. I don’t think it’s gonna be China yet. That’s probably a couple ahead.”
In the unapologetic B-movie, Ziering lands battles his airborne attackers with a chainsaw, concocts an unlikely plan to destroy the storm system and, at one point, literally jumps the sharks -- situations the Beverly Hills, 90210 veteran admits made the role a bit of a challenge.
“When I read the script, there’s really no character prep you can do to prepare you for a sharknado," Ziering said. "There’s no sense memory that you can draw from. None of the classical training that I’ve had helped me deal with this. It’s all about the ability to act naturally in imaginary circumstances, and that’s pushed to the limits when you’re dealing with visual FX and you’re having to run across a street where you know your actions are later going to be substantiated by visual FX that are being painted in that will turn your actions in to real reactions.
"In the first movie I didn’t have quite the trust that I had in the second movie because I didn’t know what they were going to paint in," Ziering continued. "I didn’t know if I was going to be dealing with a Sleestak or Sigmund the Sea Monster. The stuff that came out was more in line with contemporary level of special FX so I had trust. The visual FX editors really did a great job of making me not look foolish for doing things that if I didn’t have a shark jumping at me would have made me look like I was skipping. They protected me so in the second movie, knowing what they were capable of, it really was much more freeing.“
Looking back, Ferrante revealed why he thinks the first film resonated with fans.
“These movies have a base of genre fans, people that like sci-fi movies or horror movies," he said. "We have that base. Somehow we got past that base. We got families to watch these movies. There are a lot of kids we meet at these conventions that love Sharknado. We did not make a kids’ film. We made a movie with people getting their arms ripped off. But it has the spirit of a 12-year-old. It has this sensibility of, 'Wouldn’t it be cool if you had sharks in a tornado and someone got swallowed and he chainsaws his way out?' It has that spirit, so families watch it. There’s no overt sexuality. It’s kind of benign aside from the gore. I think that’s part of it. The left and right embraced us. There’s nothing polarizing you have to argue. We got a lot of people who wouldn’t normally watch us. I think it’s because there were so many movies at the theater last summer that were dark. There were good movies but Man of Steel was a very brooding movie. There was no joy in the Superman movie. I liked the film, but it was different. I think that was the whole summer and then Sharknado came along. Here’s a free movie that looked like a studio blockbuster but maybe not.”
As popular as the original Sharknado turned out to be, it wasn't easy getting the film off the ground.
“I had written a lot for Syf, and I had pitched [Sharknado] to them two or three years ago," Ferrante recalled. "Nothing happened, and then I wrote a script for Syfy called Leprechaun’s Revenge, and in there I put a reference to Sharknado because we loved that title so much. ‘We don’t want to have happen what happened in that town over. Remember sharknado? They never lived that down.’ And Syfy said, 'We gotta do [Sharknado]!’
“When we were shooting the movie, it was shot under the title Dark Skies because no one wanted to do a movie called Sharknado,” he continued. “We were shooting in the hardware store when all the actors found out it might be called Sharknado, and it was like all pitchforks. I told them to trust me. If it’s called Sharknado it’s a good thing. Trust me. And it worked out. It’s called Sharknado, and we’re here. I don’t think it would have worked out if it was called Dark Skies.”
Asked if he was given more creative freedom by Syfy for Sharknado 2, the director replied, “There’s not necessarily creative freedom, because you have a script. But you have a $200 million script that you have to do for the craft-service budget of a normal studio movie for one day. You have to figure out what you can’t do and then what else you could do. You don’t have day 70 to come back to something. They stick you with a shot and yell go, and you have 12 hours. If you don’t have everything you’re screwed. So you do everything you can. In this one in New York there was a lot of this living organism thing because of all the cameos. Like, the night before you’d heard this person wants to be in the movie and we’d have to write something.”
Friedlander is one of the many actors who makes a cameo appearance -- along with the likes of Robert Hays, Wil Wheaton, Andy Dick and Kelly Osbourne -- but don’t look for his trademark trucker cap.
“I wasn’t playing anything like my stand-up persona or anything like that," he said, "so I didn’t wear any trucker hat in the movie. I wore a New York Mets winter hat. It made my hair kind of look short. I play this guy named Brian. Local Queens guy. Huge Mets fan.”
He said he enjoys roles that don’t require him to play his stand-up persona. "It was a little different but I’ve done that a lot over the years: American Splendor, The Wrestler. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again," Friedlander explained. "30 Rock was great, but it was seven years.”
Friedlander said his shark-killing weapon of choice would be “a baseball bat. That’s in the film. Real life? Heroes don’t need weapons.”
He shared his best sharknado survival tips so viewers, too, can be heroes: “You gotta study sharks and you gotta study tornadoes. Then you put the two together. I recommend living underwater for a couple years. Learn the shark’s environment and how they work. Sleep next to a fan so you can be around win 24 hours a day. Get rid of your windshield and just drive. Get used to heavy wind. It’s all training.”
The comedian said the actors had to be on their game because of the film’s short production schedule. “This film is basically a three-and-a-half-month shoot done in 15 days, so my guess is they probably used every take," Friedlander sai.d "That would be my guess. As an actor it’s way more fun. There’s no waiting around. You have two minutes to film a scene that would normally take two days. You just go for it and hope for the best.”
“There wasn’t much time to film stuff,” he continued. “We had a scene that was two or three pages of non-stop dialogue and we had to film it from 3 a.m. to 3:10 a.m. on the subway. You gotta know your lines. A lot of these big-budget movies people don’t know their lines. You can’t fuck around on this thing. You gotta know your shit and do it. Then if you get an extra take then maybe you can add a couple things here and there.“
Vivica A. Fox, who plays Fin’s high-school love interest Skye, added, “We made this film in under 20 days. Can you believe it? Twenty days. And then after this Ian and I did Celebrity Apprentice together. We kind of spent three months together. We became really good friends. I love him a lot.”
Fox enjoyed getting back to her action root, saying,“I got a great scene with a samurai sword on the top of a building. It was awesome. Even though it was cold as hell. Oh, my God, it was so cold! But we did it.”
The most challenging aspect of the production for Fox? “Lots of running -- lots of running in tight cargo pants," she said. "Lots of running in cold weather. Lots of running in snow hoping I didn’t fall and bust my ass in those cargo pants. That was tricky. The action part was hard for me. It kind of took me back to the days of Independence Day when you had to act with something that wasn’t there. It was kind of like going down memory lane. It was a great refresher course. “
Ziering said he was happy to welcome Fox and Friedlander to the cameo-heavy cast. Asked which actor he’d like to cameo in the next installment of the franchise, Ziering said, “Matt Damon. I’d like a little help from Matt Damon. I dig his action sequences and he’s like an everyman. He’s making it happen, kind of like what Fin has done. He’s an unwitting hero who is doing something he is very capable at but really just wants to save his family.”
Sharknado 2 never explains why exactly the sharks are so angry, but the cast has theories.
“I’m not a scientist, but my hunch is that it all has to do with global warming," Friedlander suggested. "Humans we’ve been polluting these oceans for years, and I think the sharks are angry. I think they’re misunderstood. Yeah, they’re the villain but they have a right to be pissed off. There’s a reason they didn’t attack the Midwest. They’ve attacked New York and LA. Those are on the water. The ocean. That’s where there’s been more pollution.”
“Because a lot of them got sliced up the first time," Fox offered. "April even says it in one of the scenes, ‘I think they know me. I think they’re out for revenge.’ I thought that was really funny. Everyone goes on a wonderful adventure trying to get their revenge.“