The SyFy Cable Television Network is well known for its deliciously
campy cheese fest of so-bad-it’s-good, made for TV, science fiction,
horror, and fantasy B-films. This past July, SyFy experienced an
unprecedented pop culture phenomenon and some of the highest ratings
in the channel’s history with the broadcast of Sharknado!
The witty, self aware, and deliriously exuberant tongue in cheek,
low budget disaster film, depicts ocean formed water spout tornados
scooping up man eating sharks and depositing them with flooding
seawaters into the streets of Los Angeles. Chaos, pandemonium, and
an intentionally fun, over the top blend of gore, mayhem, and humor,
take center stage as an infectiously likable rag tag group of
friends brave their way through L.A. to hopefully find a way to
destroy the sharknadoes and ultimately find safety.
I caught up with the man behind Sharknado, screenwriter
Thunder Levin – who wrote the amazing, clever, and riveting
screenplay for the film – to discuss the movie and the myth!
stars Beverly Hills, 90210’s Ian Ziering in a career-defining
dynamic performance as the heroic Fin Shepard. Ziering performs all
his own stunts in the film, including a thrilling scene in which he
rappels off a bridge to save a school bus full of children. He
saves the day while battling and dispatching bloodthirsty sharks and
raging weather catastrophes. As Levin best puts it, Ziering
literally “reinvents himself as an action movie hero!”
The film also stars American Pie’s Tara Reid as Fin’s ex-wife
April, acclaimed stage and screen actor John Heard as Fin’s buddy
George, Baywatch’s Jaason Simmons as Fin’s pal Baz, and a
firecracker performance from newcomer Cassie Scerbo as badass
heroine Nova Clarke. Director Anthony C. Ferrante deftly helmed the
film, combining just the right mix of thrilling suspense, warm
character development, and winking humor.
captured the imagination of a nation when it seemingly took over
Twitter upon its first broadcast, sending the Twitterverse into the
stratosphere with celebrities and fans alike tweeting the film’s
praises. Its original broadcast and subsequent two re-broadcasts
in July 2013 scored viewers and ratings into the millions. The film
garnered an August red carpet premiere at L.A.’s Regal L.A. Live
Stadium 14 Theater with the cast and crew turning out to cheering
fans in support of a subsequent midnight showing and theatrical
release in 200 movie theaters nationwide. Ian Ziering and Tara Reid
were special guests on The Discovery Channel’s hit Shark Week
spin off Shark After Dark, and the cast members, Ferrante,
and Levin have been invited to appear on numerous talk shows and
August 8, 2013, the SyFy Channel officially announced the sequel to
Sharknado, titled Sharknado 2: The Second One, (the
title was submitted and chosen by fans via a contest on Twitter) to
premiere July 2014 on SyFy. This second chapter will see the shark
infested tornadoes wreck havoc on the citizens and streets of New
York. Ian Ziering will be back to reprise his role as Fin and
Thunder Levin is already in the beginning stages of writing the
Levin has forged a career as both a successful and talented director
and writer mostly in the realm of low budget science fiction,
fantasy, and horror films. He’s performed duel creative duties,
directing and writing 2008’s outrageously fun cult classic
Vampire Zombies From The ‘Hood!
starring C. Thomas Howell, 2013’s American Warships starring
Mario Van Peebles and Rocky’s Carl Weathers, and the
2013 science fiction epic AE: Apocalypse Earth starring
Adrian Paul from TV’s Highlander and Richard Grieco from
21 Jump Street and Booker.
wrote 2011’s Fast And The Furious “mockbuster” riff, 200
M.P.H., as well as co-writing 2013’s delightfully humorous
Atlantic Rim which riffs on Pacific Rim with wit, flair,
Just a day
after Labor Day weekend 2013, Thunder Levin graciously took time
from writing Sharknado 2: The Second One to discuss his
creative process behind Sharknado, as well as his many
writing and directing film and TV projects. Levin also exuberantly
discusses the two upcoming projects he’s most excited about, his new
indie film Shadows Of The Jungle and his new science fiction
epic TV series 2176.
Hi Thunder, how are you? I want to wish you many congratulations on
the phenomenal success of
Sharknado! I had such a blast watching it! It’s so much fun!
What do you think it is about Sharknado that so resonates
with fans? Why do you think people feel such a strong connection
to the film and to the concept of such an incredible and (comedic
tongue in cheek) terrifying weather event?!
think people have really tuned into the sense of fun we had
with Sharknado. I had fun writing it. Anthony and the cast
and crew had fun making it. Even the marketing department, with
“Enough Said”, clearly had fun with it. I think, maybe, in this
summer of prepackaged, bloated budget blockbusters, just the silly
sense of fun of our little movie shone through. And, of course, who
wouldn’t have fun with a tornado full of sharks?! It’s better than
a barrel of monkeys!
you seen the photos on the web of fans at San Diego Comic-Con
International 2013 who made their own amazing costumes and dressed
Sharknadoes? There was one girl in particular who was an awesome
Sharknado. What did you think?
Not only did I
see the photos, but I was there and got my photo taken with her!
That was great! And just this past Labor Day weekend at Dragon-Con
2013, at least two more people dressed up as sharknadoes.
Have you thought about putting something together at Halloween, just
Rocky Horror Picture Show?! You can have the midnight
screenings at theaters with fans dressing up in Cosplay characters
as Fin, Nova, Baz, George, and April….and of course the sharks, all
while re-enacting the dialogue!
I’m hoping Sharknado becomes the next Rocky Horror and
plays at midnight movies for all eternity!
Let’s talk about
Sharknado’s origins. How did the film come about? How did you
become involved with writing the screenplay, and how did you come up
with such an awesome and surreal concept?
I didn’t come
up with the concept. SyFy came up with the title Sharknado
and I was hired to write it. (Author’s Note: After SyFy came up
with the title, The Asylum film production company produced and made
the film for SyFy and hired Levin to write the screenplay.)
What was your mindset and creative approach to writing
was two-fold. First, it’s called Sharknado, so I had to have
fun with it, and nothing would be too over the top. But even a
movie this ridiculous needs to have a realistic foundation. So I
started with the fairly straight-forward question, “What would
happen if L.A. were hit by a hurricane?” This is a city that’s not
designed for much rain at all. Our streets flood if it rains for an
hour. So there’s no way it could handle the deluge of a hurricane.
The whole city would fill up! So that’s where I started. And then I
added sharks and tornadoes.
you on the
Sharknado set during filming?
I wasn’t on
set. I was actually in Costa Rica at the time, directing another
film that I wrote, called AE: Apocalypse Earth (2013).
It’s a fairly serious science fiction, action movie starring Adrian
Paul and Richard Grieco. It’s out on DVD and streaming now.
Did you have any input on the casting choices and what did you think
of the actors that took on the roles? I especially thought that Ian
and Cassie are great and are so badass in their heroic roles saving
the world and L.A.!
absolutely zero input on casting. But I thought Ian was a
revelation. Like most people, I only knew him from Beverly
Hills, 90210, but I think he reinvented himself as an action
movie hero. Now he’s going to be known as Fin Shepard first, and
Steve Sanders was that “other role” he played.
It’s scientifically documented that objects as big as freight train
cars can be picked up many feet in the air and carried away long
distances by tornadoes. Did you do any weather related research on
tornadic phenomenon when writing the movie?
documented cases of fish falling from the sky miles inland after
waterspouts, tornadoes, and other meteorological phenomena. I just
took it to the perfectly logical extreme.
It’s apropos that a film as cool as
Sharknado was written by someone with just as cool a name, and
weather related too! How did you get the very awesome and badass
It was the
1960’s. There were a lot of strange things happening!
The biggest and most positive reactions have been on Twitter with
many celebrities catching
Sharknado fever. Who were some of the celebrities that most
surprised you that started tweeting about the movie? I heard you
wound up in a Twitter conversation with Damon Lindelof!
Well the most
surprising participation on Twitter had to be Mia Farrow. But the
conversation with Lindelof was pretty surreal. He tweeted that he
was going to write a sequel to Sharknado and have it done
before Sharknado was finished airing. I said it should be a
prequel, only not quite. And he responded “Touché”! That was fun.
sharknado was the result of a hurricane that hit L.A. in the movie.
So why was the title of the movie not,
Sharkicane or Hurrishark?
aren’t as good titles!
I want to applaud you for creating the character of Nova. It’s so
awesome to have a strong, intelligent, courageous, resourceful
female hero and role model. Nova’s like a female Rambo, she’s such
a kick ass lady! What was your inspiration for her character and
the idea of her dropping bombs from a helicopter on the sharknado?
strong female characters in most of my scripts. I love Nova too.
The inspiration for her character was simply Quint from Jaws.
I thought “What if Robert Shaw’s character was a really hot badass
Wiki defines a nova as
“cataclysmic nuclear explosion in a white dwarf star”, which
describes the character of Nova to a tee. How did you come up with
A Nova is the
brightest thing in the universe. I always wanted to name a daughter
Nova, but I’ve never had children. So I gave birth to her another
What about Fin’s name and its very obvious tongue in cheek pun? Was
that your idea as well and how did his name come about for you?
was my idea. It just seemed obvious. In fact, his whole name is
tongue in cheek. It’s Finlay Shepard. So not only is his first
name shortened to Fin, but as a “Shepherd”, he takes care of his
flock and guides them to safety.
It’s no secret in the movie that Fin and his ex-wife April are on
tenuous terms before the sharknado takes place. When Fin goes to
save her and his two teenage kids, April’s blustering boyfriend
“chews” Fin out, and then her boyfriend gets his when he’s literally
chewed, that is eaten by a shark! Was justice served?
In my draft,
the boyfriend was actually her new husband and he wasn’t quite as
much of an ass. But it was felt that the film would lose too much
momentum if a more likeable character that she was actually married
to was killed, because then we’d have to spend a lot of time
mourning him, so he was changed into what you saw in the finished
version. It makes sense.
Man Of Steel had a pivotal scene where a young Clark Kent saves a
school bus full of children that plows off a bridge into a river.
But the young Superman is no match for Fin, who also saves a school
bus full of children, and unlike Clark Kent, Fin has to fend off
deadly chomping sharks! Next to the film’s big finale, that’s my
favorite scene in the movie.
few characters buy the farm in the film. How did you decide which
characters would get munched by sharks, and which characters would
make it out alive?
characters that we care about have to die in a movie like this, but
we obviously didn’t want Fin or any of his family to get eaten. So
Baz and George were the obvious choices. And they had to die in
order for the audience to believe that Nova was dead when the shark
What inspired you to write the most badass end to a film, EVER! Fin
cutting his way out of the belly of the shark with a chainsaw, and
then, going back to pull out of the shark, a still very much alive
I don’t know,
it just came to me. Obviously the story of Jonah and the whale
lurks in our collective unconscious, so that was probably the
original impetus. And at first it was just Fin going in and then
chainsawing his way out. But as I said, Nova’s character is based
on Quint from Jaws. And the only disappointing thing about
Jaws is that the most colorful character dies. So I figured,
why not bring Nova back? Have her still in the shark and Fin pulls
her out? It makes him even more heroic and it allows her to have
the great line, “I really hate sharks.”
How old were you and what first inspired you to become a writer and
also to work in the medium of film writing screenplays? How has
the success of
Sharknado changed and affected your career and validated what you
do? Is there a special sense of pride, satisfaction, and joy in
seeing your craft validated so highly in the public consciousness?
When I was a
little kid, my favorite show was the original Star Trek. I
knew that when I grew up I wanted to explore outer space aboard the
Enterprise. But I was just old enough to understand that the
Enterprise wasn’t real. At the same time, one of my earliest
memories was of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. And that just seemed so
primitive! So I knew I didn’t want to be a real astronaut. But
then someone gave me a book called The Making Of Star Trek.
It really wasn’t age appropriate, it was way too dry for a little
kid to read, so the first thing I did was turn to the photo
section. And right there in the first picture was a group of studio
technicians in their 1960’s shirtsleeves working on the bridge of
the Enterprise. And so I guess it just kind of clicked in my little
kid brain that there WAS a way I could work on the Enterprise!
There were other influences as well, of course, as I grew up….a TV
production class in high school, the stage musicals and plays I
worked on, and of course Star Wars. But it all probably
started with that book about Star Trek, which years later I
read from cover to cover and thoroughly enjoyed.
The success of
Sharknado has certainly opened up new opportunities to me.
I’ve got a new agent with a prestigious agency and I’m getting
meetings at much bigger companies than I might have before. There
are some very exciting possibilities now and I’m looking forward to
what the next year will bring!
What were some of your most memorable experiences co-writing the
Atlantic Rim (2013), which I thought was much better than
Pacific Rim, and also co-writing another favorite of mine 2008’s
Mutant Vampire Zombies From The ‘Hood!, which ties with
Sharknado for the coolest concept and title ever!
wasn’t that big a part of Atlantic Rim. Richard Lima and I
wrote a first draft, but then they wanted significant changes and I
was already prepping AE: Apocalypse Earth and didn’t have
time to work on it. So it was handed off to another writer. The
basic backbone of the story, and the principal characters still
resemble our draft, but there’s not a single line of our dialogue in
the finished film.
Vampire Zombies From The ‘Hood!
was a great production to be involved with. It was my first
feature, we put together a GREAT cast and crew and everyone got
along better than on any film set I’d ever been on. The script’s
impetus was a northern California producer named Roger Saunders who
was putting together a financing package for a series of low budget
urban horror films. We’d been talking for a while and he asked me
to write one. I’d collaborated with George Saunders (no relation)
before and so I asked him to work with me on a zombie film with
gangs that could be done well on a very low budget. We wrote the
script in record time, but then
Roger suddenly passed away of a heart attack. So I told George that
we’d better raise the money and make the film ourselves, because you
never know when your time will be up. So we did! And it was a
wonderful experience. Many of the people I met on that production
have become friends for life.
What other film projects are you working on and what’s your dream
project? What’s a concept that you would love to write about and
what actors or directors would you love to work with?
important to remember that I’m a director myself. In fact, I’d say
I’m a director first and a writer second. Having said that, I’d
love to work with Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, and James
Cameron. They’re pretty much my professional role models. As for
actors, there are so many, but I’d especially love to work with
Harrison Ford or George Clooney, or any of the surviving cast of the
original Star Trek!
As far as
dream projects go, I’ve got an indie film that I’m trying to get off
the ground called Shadows Of The Jungle. But my real DREAM
project is a science fiction epic called 2176. I’m actually
pitching that around town as a TV series right now.
Without giving away too much, what can you reveal and tell people
about the sequel to Sharknado, Sharknado 2: The Second One?
I really can’t
talk about the sequel yet!
The sequel is already planned for broadcast on SyFy, July 2014. Will
you and the
Sharknado 2 cast and director be attending Comic-Con 2014?
I hope so!
There are already
Sharknado T-Shirts, hoodies, and merchandise. The Discovery
Channel just had Ian and Tara as guests on their Shark Week
show Shark After Dark. Why do you think that Sharknado
is such a fascinating fixture in pop culture and it would seem
It was all
part of my evil plan to take over the world!
I would love to see a versus film mashup concept for
Sharknado. There’s already Alien vs. Predator, and SyFy
had Pegasus vs. Chimera, one of my favorites! Here’s my idea
for a mashup. Sharknado vs. Mastodonmeltdown, that’s right,
rampaging mastodons from the ice age awakened and released from
global warming melting the polar caps!
I really don’t
know what to say to that!
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