It’s happening again. America (and your twitter feed) is about to be hit by another ‘nado of sharks, and this time it’s devouring the entire Eastern Seaboard, from Washington D.C. to Orlando, Florida. Franchise headliners Tara Reid and Ian Ziering return as the married shark-dispatching duo April Wexler and Fin Sheperd, alongside fan-favorite badass Nova Clarke (Cassie Scerbo), who returns to the Selachimorphic slaughterfest after sitting out the second movie.
Early this year, on a very rainy February day, I visited the set of Sharknado 3 on location at Universal Studios Orlando, where I got to watch some filming, participate in a series of group interviews with the cast, and act alongside Ziering. Well, kind of…ok, not really. What I did was participate in the filming of a protest scene as an extra. A very rained-upon extra. Basically that entailed pumping signs up in the air and screaming, “Kill the sharks!” for about 90 seconds at a time, hours on end. Hollywood, I tell you, is all glamor. So keep an eye out for your friendly neighborhood Collider editor when Sharknado 3 airs on Syfy tonight. If you look hard enough, you can spot me in the picture below (my sign says ‘Fin 4 Prez’, a sentiment I’m not sure I stand behind). I’m kind of like Waldo, but less hipster, way less famous, and super gross from hours in the Florida humidity.
While I was there, I learned a few things about what makes Sharknado the bizarre, unstoppable hype-machine that it is, from how the actors see their characters, to what creates the campy atmosphere associated with the franchise, so I’ve put together a little list of what I learned for your reading pleasure. Check out 17 things to know about Sharknado 3 below.
- Reid appreciates April‘s journey from being weak in the first movie to being a strong, prepared character in the second and third film. “In the first movie I think she was kind of weak, April. She was scared, she was weak, she didn’t care. Second movie — she learned how to fight a Sharknado in the first one, so in the second one, she knew what a Sharknado was. She’s prepared. She left the hospital, she got stronger, she wrote a book…In this one, it’s a whole different April. Now she’s pregnant, she’s stronger.”
- Ziering considers Fin a “fish out of water”, “Again, Fin’s doing everything he can to save his family. In so doing, he also rescues everyone else along the way. He’s a fish out of water character, so to speak. He’s an ordinary man who does extraordinary things and it’s motivated by devotion to his family. He finds himself in these situations where it’s do-or-die and his will to survive propels him to succeed.”
Why do sharks continue to fascinate movie going audience 40 years after Jaws defined the zenith of shark cinema? According to Ziering, “Sharks are the apex predator of the ocean, so they’ve always been mysterious and fear by humans. They’re always going to be fodder for science fiction movies. The only antidote we’ve found so far is a chainsaw to deal with them. It doesn’t surprise me that shark continue to garner interest. There’s other networks that have devoted entire weeks to the shark. They’re interesting, they’re deadly and there’s a tremendous fascination we have with them, so they’ll continue to be antagonists in future movies. Sharks are not going away. They were here before us, they’ll be here after us. In terms of filmmaking, they’re perfect.”
- Of course, since this is Sharknado, the film is jam-packed with cameos, but Reid was particularly thrilled to work with Bo Derek. “[She] plays my mother, who’s amazing, by the way, and she’s so beautiful. Great actress as well. It’s crazy saying my mom is Bo Derek, for me. Are you joking? It’s such a high. Bo Derek, known as one of the most beautiful women in the world, her classic shots. She was just awesome…natural, and good, and fun, and kind.”
- Another favorite cameo is Jedward, an Irish teen pop music duo who Reid asked to join the film. Never heard of a Jedward? Neither had I. Turns out their a pretty big deal. Reid explained, “We’ve traveled the world together, but one time we landed in Dublin where they live. I’m not kidding you guys. Maybe 3,000 girls were all outside, inside, outside, all over the airport screaming for them. They had to rope off the airport…It’s like Justin Bieber. That’s how they are in the UK, but there’s two of them, not even one.”
Everybody agrees that the films are so successful because they are so ridiculous. Said Reid, “It’s over the top, and I think that’s what makes Sharknado so successful is that you’re acting to nothing, but the whole concept is so extreme and crazy, but if you play it deadpan and serious, it makes it funny. Now, if we were laughing with it, it wouldn’t be funny, so you have to make such the most bizarre experiences seem real and that’s where the joke comes in. I think that’s why Sharknado works.” Ziering commented similarly, “The movie just strikes a chord with our audience, because they’re in on the joke but the characters within the movie are not. I think that’s created a new genre, the fun movie. You have your action-adventure, you have your drama, you have your romantic comedy. The fun movie exists when you’re in on the joke, but the story is very real within imaginary circumstances.”
- However, nothing is ridiculous on set. Sharknado 3 was filmed in 15 days, and it’s an intense, grueling process. Said Ziering, “because we shoot these movies in 15 days, it creates that campiness that wouldn’t exist if we had five months to shoot this movie. We’d shoot two pages a day. Not only do we shoot seven-to-ten pages a day, but those pages are changing up until the moment we say them. So it’s like nothing I’ve ever done before and it’s incredibly rewarding and immensely enjoyable.”
- It’s also a fairly collaborative process. While writer Thunder Levin is responsible for the majority of the story, according to Ziering, he and director Anthony Ferrante are willing to collaborate with the actors on their ideas. “It’s a homogeneous process, they’ve very accessible and very willing to take suggestion. This movie is truly a collaborative effort. A lot of cooks in the kitchen, but ultimately it boils down to what’s going to work best for the movie. That’s where the final say goes to Anthony and to Syfy and to The Asylum to narrow it down to the best movie possible.”
I can tell you from first hand experience, you’re going to see the same extras in a lot of different scenes in that B-Movie, we don’t have time for this shit way. In the single day I was on set, I saw the same group used in three different set-ups. Ziering thinks it adds to the charm of the movie, “When you have that genre and you put within it a low budget science fiction movie, you don’t have time for the quality content you see in those movies. So quite often you might see someone running in the background in a huge, hysterical panic scene where once she’ll cross the scene this way, then she’ll wait ten seconds and run this way. She’s running back and forth. You may see that, you may not. You may see someone whose legs were chewed off in a previous scene, that happens”
- For Ferrante, the biggest challenge is making each ‘Nado bigger and ballsier than the last. “As a filmmaker, you have to up the ante, and that’s the biggest pressure for me. We already did the first movie, which was hard enough to do on the schedule and we tried to cram as much stuff as we could in that movie. Then the second one we’re in New York and cramming a lot of stuff. We did 11 days in New York, then did other stuff in L.A. We shot all those locations: Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Wall Street. We shot all around, and it looks huge. This one, we’re trying to up the ante again. I think that’s the pressure because you know people are expecting more.”
- The first film was originally called “Dark Skies” and the cast was initially mortified when they found out the title had been changed to Sharknado. Reid recalled, “I thought, ‘I could do a movie no one’s going to see or hear about called Dark Skies, it’s fine.’ Then they said to me, ‘No, we’re going to call it Sharknado.” Everyone got on the phone, ‘We can’t be in a movie called Sharknado. Are you joking me?’ IMDB’s going to say, Sharknado? It would look so bad.’ It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They were absolutely right about it. It became a cult phenomenon and here we are Sharknado 3 doing the press junket.”
According to Ziering, they’re sticking with the old standby weapons, but the chainsaw’s getting an upgrade. “We’re still using chainsaws, they’re very effective, guns when we can find them. All the tools still apply. In Sharknado 1, I think that chainsaw was a Home Depot special. With Sharknado 2, that was a timber saw. That’s a good 45-pound saw that’s used to cut down big trees. In Sharknado 3, there’s a bit of a change in the chainsaw.”
- Ferrante was thrilled to be filming in the Universal Orlando Studios, and to be able to do so without concealing the park’s identity. “I think this is an unprecedented kind of thing where an actual amusement park in a disaster movie or action movie is name checked. If you think about it, Escape From LA was supposed to be Disneyland but was a fake name. Wally World was Six Flags. Jaws 3-D was Sea World but they called it something else. We are sending sharks into Universal Orlando, and people are getting eaten by sharks. It was really cool to see the park be very open to it in a way I would not be expected to it. We said, “You know people are going to to die in your park?” And they said, “Yeah, but if it’s the sharks doing it, it’s OK.”
- Reid’s favorite scene in the theme park takes place at the Universal Globe “ I can’t say what happens. But the globe is really a good one. The Universal globe.”
- How does one survive a Sharknado? Reid has some tips. “Just try really hard not to go near the sharks when they’re coming at you. If they’re coming at you, hide or have some kind of weapon…Just try to stay under metal. Metal works the best for the shark not to get to you. Not plastic, not anything else, not even the sky, not buildings, but metal keeps you pretty safe. So walk around in a cage basically.”
- Staying inside won’t save you either, “They come indoors. They do come indoors. That doesn’t save you either. You got to be careful. I told you. Maybe if you’re in jail, then you’re safe because it’s metal.”
- Finally, If Tara Reid tweets back at you tonight during the inevitable social media frenzy, it may not be Tara Reid after all. “[Last year] I cheated a little bit. I had three friends with me and I put my password in their phones so we were all answering the questions as the fans were coming in at all times. It was so quick. Otherwise you couldn’t have done it like that.”