Thunder Levin (Writer - 'Sharknado 1+2')
'Bat Er' Up: Sharks Ahoy!'
As you all well know by now, 'Sharknado' was a 2013 made-for-television satirical disaster film about a waterspout that lifts sharks out of the ocean and deposits them in Los Angeles! It first aired on the Syfy channel on July 11th, 2013, and stared Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo, Jaason Simmons, John Heard, and Ian Ziering.
Due to its incredible success, 'Sharknado 2: The Second One' became the 2014 sequel to the original. Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, and with both having been written by Thunder Levin, it also saw both Tara Reid and Ian Ziering reprising their roles.
A celebrity who's-who also got on board this time, with other featured appearances from the likes of Vivica A. Fox, Kari Wuhrer, Kelly Osbourne, Judah Friedlander, Judd Hirsch, Mark McGrath, Robert Hayes, and a whole host of other big celebrity cameo appearances!
The film premiered on July 30th, 2014, and was the highest-premiering film on the SyFy Channel.
Sitting down with the creative scribe mind behind the madness, Thunder Levin, I first wondered how long ago had he had the original idea for 'Sharknado' in his own head before bringing others into his zany world?! "I didn’t actually have the original idea for 'Sharknado.' Syfy had the title, the Asylum provided me with a page of notes about what it might be, and I had to create a story and a script to make it all work and to balance the ridiculousness and fun with an actual disaster movie."
"They probably brought it to me in the spring of 2012 and I wrote the first movie that summer. The first draft took about a month and then there were some minor rewrites. The Second One was a longer process, beginning with conversations with the Director, and then with the Asylum and Syfy, to lock down the story which took a couple of months, starting in September of 2013."
"Then writing the first draft of the script again took about a month. We continued to revise it right up to, and even continuing through production and even into post-production."
Knowing there is a third 'Sharknado' due in 2015 (to be tagged 'The Third One,' we can only assume!), what can you tell us about the location and the trouble our heroes will partake in? "Well, I can divulge there will be sharks in it ...!"
Indeed, was there ever a cleverer subtitle than just 'The Second One' that came close to being chosen, perhaps? "I was fighting for 'Sharknado 2: Live On Broadway' or 'Sharknado 2: The Great White Way,' but obviously I was overruled."
The second one features an OVERLOAD of celebrity cameos, which the first one veered away from. Why the change of heart for the second one? "They had a hard time getting ANY known actors to appear in the first one. NO ONE wanted to star in a movie called 'Sharknado.' It wasn’t until the script was sent out with the title 'Dark Skies' that they finally landed Ian Ziering and Tara Reed. So there was no intentional veering away from celebrity cameos, they just didn’t happen. When 'Sharknado' blew up, suddenly everybody wanted to be in the sequel and we gladly embraced that."
Aside from the now-you-see-them now-you-don't cameos such as Will Wheaton, Andy Dick, Perez Hilton, Jared Fogle, etc. the true inspiration of character casting was in stars such as both Robert Hays (pilot) and Judd Hirsch (taxi driver). But how did you choose the quick cameos Vs. the long screen time ones? "Well when you can get Judd Hirsch to play a TAXI DRIVER and Robert Hays to play a PILOT, you don’t want to squander such wonderful opportunities on a quick cameo. Judah Friedlander was a big fan of the first film and had been communicating with the director about doing a cameo, but once we learned he’d be willing to play a bigger role, we combined several characters into one and kept him in more of the film. We would have been nuts not to! The quicker cameos were probably determined by the celebrities’ availability. In fact, Wil Wheaton actually had to get a few hours off from shooting Big Bang Theory to come shoot his cameo, so that’s all he had time for."
Were the Today and Kelly & Michael TV teams something that was offered to you or did you fight to have them join in, so to speak? "I believe they were offered after Ian Ziering was a guest on their show."
Will 'The Third One' adhere to the celebrity overload also, as Daniel Radcliffe has made it known he wants to be in it ... but ONLY if he gets eaten in a spectacular way! "I would imagine there will be plenty of cameos. But really we’ve only just started talking about the story for the third one, there’s nothing confirmed. In fact, I’m not even signed to write it yet."
We were all waiting for it and it finally came late in the second one: "You know what you just did ... don't say it ... you just jumped the shark!" Classic use of the line, given what Fin had just done, but how did you know when to save it until the right moment (given that the original might have been a one-off had the SyFy numbers been low?) "Interesting question. I don’t think it ever occurred to me to actually use the line in the first movie since the whole thing was basically jumping the shark. Then, to sort of acknowledge how the first movie had blown up, it became clear that we had to use that idea in the sequel somehow."
"The original idea was to have Henry Winkler playing the cab driver and have him actually jump the sharks. Once we couldn’t get him, it became clear that our hero Fin had to do the jumping, but I didn’t think he should say the line. In fact, we debated about the possibility of not actually saying the line. Just have Fin say “Don’t say it”, because it was quite obvious what he’d just done."
When Fin says, atop the NY bus, "Let's go kill some sharks" and then strikes that one-arm raised with a chainsaw pose is it a direct play on the infamous pose / stance opted for by Bruce Campbell in 'Army Of Darkness,' perhaps?! "You’d have to ask the director about that. I wasn’t thinking about Ash when I wrote that scene. We’d actually been referring to it as the “Braveheart Speech”, and I was also influenced by the President’s speech in 'Independence Day,' I guess."
My favorite line from either one of the movies is: "Why's a residential home next to an airport? ... It's because old people can't hear!" Priceless, but where was that line born?! "I don’t know. That was an ad lib on the set and I wasn’t there."
Having watched one and two back to back for this interview, I kid you not my dreams / nightmares were chock full of flying sharks and bright CGI backgrounds! Is that what you had hoped for with all those wonderfully wacky, uber colorful images?! "Yes, I’m firmly opposed to anyone ever getting a good night’s sleep again!"
When Tara Reid ** spoiler alert ** loses her hand at the start of the second one, and later ** spoiler alert ** attaches a swirling hand saw blade to it to slice and dice an incoming shark, that was (in all its slo-mo glory) one of the BEST cinematic moments I have seen in a number of years! Bravo, my friend. Bravo! "Actually, the scene I wrote that introduced her with the saw hand was cut out because we couldn’t get the location. In the approved draft, April got the saw from the hospital and then she reunites with Fin in the Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink, which has flooded and now has sharks swimming in it. That’s where we were supposed to reveal the saw hand, which was right before the Empire State Building scenes."
"But we couldn’t get the skating rink, so on the fly the Director and I decided to just have her cobble the hand together at the Empire State Building and join Fin on the observation deck. So he deserves as much credit for that moment as I do."
"And in fact, it was the execs at Syfy who originally insisted that April should lose her hand and attach a chainsaw to it. I changed it to a rotary saw, but still, the impetus came from them."
Finally, we here at Exclusive Magazine love Penguins (not sharks, but you get the picture), so we wondered if you had any love for them also, perhaps? "The Penguin was great in the old Batman TV series!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
Thunder Levin Twitter Page!
'Sharknado 2' Trailer
'Sharknado' Official Website
'Sharknado 2' Official Website
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