What do we do during the Television Critics Association sessions in Los Angeles? Serious things, often; during the 16-day stretch that just ended, we chatted with writers and producers and generals, plus Kobe Bryant and Dave Grohl and the Kiss guys.
But things also get silly, sometimes. Like the night we saw "Sharknado 2" at a swimming pool. Or a few days later when -- sandwiched between the PBS president and brilliant filmmaker Ken Burns -- I rushed back to my room for a conference call with the "Sharknado" stars and director. The movie arrives Wednesday on Syfy; here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
LOS ANGELES -- For Ian Ziering, this was the movie-star
experience. “I felt like I was a in a big Hollywood premiere,” he said.
Well, sort of. Except the biggest premieres have red carpets
and fancy gowns and movie theaters. “Sharknado 2: The Second One” was shown on
a wall alongside the Beverly Hilton swimming pool, with fake sharks in the
water and real hot dogs on the catering table.
The film – which debuts Wednesday on Syfy – is what the
title suggests. “This is not a deep movie,” Ziering said helpfully. Added Tara
Reid, his co-star: “It’s not like National Geographic or anything.”
National Geographic might say sharks can’t be lifted from
the ocean and flung – still alive and feisty – into New York City. “A shark can’t
do that,” director Anthony Ferrante said, “but a sharknado can.”
Forgive him for feeling possessive. Years ago, he said, he
pitched a different movie which had one character saying: “We don’t want what
happened in that other town. Remember the sharknado.”
Syfy rejected that film, but liked the word. It ordered a “Sharknado”
movie, which Ziering said he originally rejected. “I didn’t have the vision and
foresight to see what they had.”
Fortunately, his wife had financial foresight. A former “Beverly
Hills, 90210” star who divorced a former Playboy playmate, Ziering, 50, is now married
to a nurse and has two kids, ages 3 and 1; his wife suggested he take a job to
remain qualified for Screen Actors Guild insurance.
“I thought, ‘Well, no one’s ever going to see the movie,’”
Ziering said. “Boy, was I wrong.”
Something about the goofy title seemed to capture a
social-media world. The audience went from 1.4 million for the first airing (July
11, 2013), to 1.9 million for the second and 2.1 million for the third, James
Poniewozik wrote in Time magazine. “One in six tweets that (opening) night was
about ‘Sharknado’ …. Everyone from political pundits to Mia Farrow joined in
The film drew the usual monster-movie audience, Ferrante
said, but it went further. “Somehow, we also captured the mainstream audience ….
It was this fun little film that caught on.”
So the sequel follows the same route. “This(had) a very
campy nature,” Ziering said. “The only way to screw it up would be to change
it.” The only key changes involved:
Moving the filming from Los Angeles to New York.
That created some discomfort – filming during a frigid February – Ferrante said,
but “makes the movie look gargantuan.”
Adding cameos. That’s Robert Hays (“Airplane”)
flying the plane, Judd Hirsch (“Taxi”) driving the cab. “They told me I was
going to be eaten by a shark,” Hirsch said. “I said, ‘I’m in.’”
There are many other quirky cameos, plus all the big moments
that an action film requires. The actors, Reid said, were “reacting at sharks
coming at you, but nothing is coming at you.”
Those would be added later, with more than 700 special
effects. The stars didn’t get to see the final result until they joined TV
critics for a poolside evening that was (a little) like a Hollywood premiere.
“Sharknado 2: The Second One,” 9 p.m. Wednesday, Syfy; repeats at 11:02 p.m.
“Sharknado” (2013) reruns that night at 7 p.m.
and 1:02 a.m.
“Sharknado” and “Sharknado 2” rerun at 5 and 7
p.m. Saturday, leading into “Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda.” That one (starring
Conan O’Brien, produced by Roger Corman, 88, the micro-budget movie master) is
at 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., part of a 20-hour monster marathon from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m.