LOS ANGELES — The idea of making a movie about a tornado that scoops up thousands of sharks and sends them flying through the air to chomp their way through a bevy of people, places and things sounds totally ridiculous. That didn’t stop Syfy from moving ahead with “Sharknado,” a movie that became a pop culture phenomenon last year.
The movie embraces cheesy special effects, melodramatic acting and absurd plot, making it the “Citizen Kane” of schlock movies. Viewers exalted the movie’s campiness through every form of social media. The mania reached such a fevered level, a flood of merchandise followed and a sequel, “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” was ordered.
Director Anthony C. Ferrante, whose career was filled with little known horror films before making “Sharknado,” believes the film struck a nerve because of its humor.
“All of the big movies released last year were very dark,” Ferrante says. “Then we came along and people liked how this was so silly and light. You’re making a movie called ‘Sharknado,’ and if you don’t embrace it, there’s a serious problem. If you don’t embrace it, you end up with a movie that’s not fun, and I think that’s one of the big reasons of why the film worked worldwide.
“This was not made for kids. But, I’ve met 5- to 12-year-olds and they embrace it because it’s like an 11-year-old wrote the film. It has that sensibility. We were trying to emulate a blockbluster movie with the craft service budget for a day.”
That’s why Ferrante went for the same silly tone in “Sharknado 2,” which premieres Wednesday night on Syfy.
Ian Ziering and Tara Reid return to face another marine meteorological dilemma as the action shifts from Los Angeles to New York. Although both actors admit they had major concerns about being in the first movie after they saw the script, they are glad they stuck with it and came back for the sequel.
The way Ziering looks at it, most people can’t remember the last TV movie except for “Sharknado.” But everyone has heard of ‘Sharknado.”
“This film just came at the right time. When the movie blew up, I was surprised. Everyone was surprised. No one expected the first film to do what it had done,” Ziering says. “The sci-fi fans are the most supportive fans in entertainment. They are all like-minded and because they exist together on the same digital platform, they are all connected. So when we made ‘Sharknado,’ word got out. We delivered a movie they were all excited about.”
And it wasn’t just Americans who embraced the movie. Ziering and Reid spent five months after the original film aired touring the world to do publicity.
Although the sequel was made for a little more than the $2 million spent on the first film, it features a much larger supporting cast that includes anchors from the “Today” show, Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath, Kari Wuhrer, Judah Friedlander, Kurt Angle, Andy Dick, Judd Hirsch and Robert Klein. There’s also a surprise cameo appearance.
Many of the actors contacted Ferrante about being part of the next shark attack. Friedlander jokes that he asked to be in the movie because it is the “most important film ever made about climate change.”
Mark McGrath has had a good career as both a singer and actor, but he says being cast in “Sharknado 2” is like winning a prize.
“I’m in this movie because I’m a fan. I was such a fan of the first one. I find myself in a cab on Broadway acting with Hirsch. Okay? Dreams can still happen. It happened for me in “Sharknado 2.” McGrath says.
Although “Sharknado” is most remembered for all of the killing, “Sharknado 2” star Wuhrer stresses there’s more to the sequel than just sharks vs. mankind.
“It’s about people. It’s about family. So it’s a whole different story as well, not just sharks ripping through flesh,” Wuhrer says.
Ferrante agrees. To him, the heart of the first film wasn’t the military and scientists, but a family trying to deal with weird stuff and doing dumb things like blowing up tornados with bombs. That was the mandate he followed when making the sequel.
“Sharknado 2” was filmed in 18 days during a very cold winter in New York. The low budget, bad weather and guerilla filming conditions only pushed the director and cast to work harder.
“We had a little bit more money because it was New York, but I think the thing is that if you look at all the movies in this kind of budget range and schedule, we pushed what we could do with the budget to the max,” Ferrante says. “A friend of mine, Robby (Rist), who was in the last movie, said when he saw the rough cut, it’s a movie that doesn’t know it can’t do that.”
“Sharknado 2: The Second One” premiers at 9 p.m. Wednesday on Syfy.