Sharknado 2 director Anthony C. Ferrante is so unassuming that when he sits down at a table full of journalists, one of them (not me) tells him, “That seat’s reserved for talent.” His response, a matter-of-fact “I know,” both informs us who he is and indicates the relative lack of glory that the social-media phenomenon has shone (or not shone) upon its humble auteur.
But rest assured, he’s serious about this business of fun. “The key to this movie, I mean, you’ve seen movies that try to do campy, and everybody’s over the top, and the idea is over the top. I think what we did is we wanted everything grounded,” he says. “If you ground the characters – you have your comic relief characters, like Judd Hirsch or John Heard in the first movie – but if the action and the jeopardy is there, then you kind of buy it. Or at least you forget how ridiculous the stuff is that’s going on. But I think that’s part of the joke. In horror movies – I’ve done a lot of horror films as a director, I’ve written them – you get one gimme. You can have a ghost, but you can’t have a vampire too, unless it’s a mash-up. You pick one, and that’s how you do it. Here, the crazy thing is the sharknado. If suddenly we start throwing other things, like, ‘Here’s a squid,’ or something else, it takes away from the fact that it’s a sharknado.”
His employers at Syfy, responsible for films like Mega Shark vs. Crocasaurus, might disagree. What’s more notable is that his star seems to. Asked about expectations for the sequel, Ian Ziering simply notes that “There are no expectations. The expectations are always set by people who are expecting a different movie. It’s going to be more of the same. They didn’t change the formula. They didn’t change the budget by much. The only way to really change this movie would be to infuse $50 million into it. But then you would lose the campy nature. You wouldn’t see people running through the background who had their legs chewed off in a previous scene. That’s kind of the giggly kind of fun. It’s like, oh my god, there’s no shading on that shark! Look at that! We didn’t try to raise a bar with Sharknado. We created our own.”
Ask him how it is to be part of a pop-culture phenomenon now versus back in the 90210 days, however, and he suddenly gets incredibly serious. “I’m very lucky to be part of a project that touches people in a positive way,” he says, with an intense stare that betrays no irony. “If you’re referring to 90210, that was lightning in a bottle. For ten years I worked on that show, I was very grateful. But for me, it was more about the work, and not the glory. And it still continues to me that way. I’m very appreciative when people tell me they’ve seen the movie or seen the show, but I’m more compelled by accomplishment rather than glory, so that’s what really guides me.”
Yet he admits he didn’t always think this would be a positive move for him. “This is a movie I had second thoughts on in the first place,” he offers, “but it was at my wife’s behest that I accepted it, because with a baby in her belly and one on her hip, she said ‘You need to go to work!’ I needed to make my insurance in early January, get my union – it’s where I get my insurance, so I realized, gosh, I’m a provider too. Sometimes you lose sight of the fact – I lose sight of the fact – that I do this to support myself, too. I have so much fun when I get a chance to work, and doing all these crazy characters, and what have you, that now that I’m a husband and a father, I’m also a provider. So it’s like, that’s something – failure’s not an option, so you have to do whatever it takes. That’s when I realized I’m going to have to do this movie. And my wife never misses an opportunity to remind me that she told me so. So thank you, Erin.”
Sequel costar Judah Friedlander, on the other hand, actively lobbied to be included, even taking matters into his own hands. In a rare moment of seriousness during a conversation with press that devolves into him pitching something called “Vaginaconda” as the next Syfy movie he wants to see, Friedlander noted that “when I had agents, I let them say ‘Hey, what about this?’ They’d never do anything. And then when Sharknado 2 came around, I didn’t have an agent, and I just contacted them myself. I think they realized I was serious, and then we were able to work something out. So I did two days on the movie. It was great.” He plays “a big New York Mets fan, and yeah, you know – just a regular Queens guy. Trying to enjoy the Mets and the sharks fuck up the game!”
Alas, for all the fun that was had, there is one great gag you won’t see, and it’s been misinterpreted as a deliberate reference. Says Ferrante, “Someone was mentioning though when they saw the trailer with the rolling Statue of Liberty head that they were like, ‘Oh, you’re paying homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and that wasn’t the intent. In the script, I had this thing in my head that I wanted the Statue of Liberty head to get decapitated, and the two truck drivers, the garbage truck drivers, are playing a game of Pong with the head to divert it away from the crowds and stuff. So then when we got to set, they were like, ‘You’ve got one truck.’ It’s like, OK, how can I make this still work? So then it’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, by default.”
Maybe that can be restaged in the inevitable three-quel.
– Sharknado 2: The Second One airs July 30th