A(nother) perfect storm: What we learned on the set of 'Sharknado 2: The Second One'

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Image Credit: kariwuhrer/Twitter.com

This is how your cheapo monster movie sausage gets made:

1. First, there’s the calm before the sharks. Actors and extras take their places. Someone calls quiet on the set. Everyone is silent, still but hyper-aware, their muscles coiled like those of a Great White about to strike. Or something.

2. Suddenly, a crew member bellows that sound is rolling, then yells out, “ACTION!”

3. Chaos. Grown men and women are shrieking in terror. Crowds are surging toward all available exits. Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath jerks his head violently in every direction until finally making a dramatic dive onto the ground. Why? Because an enormous, toothy shark has just wedged itself into the Citi Field rotunda’s 9-foot “42” sculpture, built to honor former Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson.

Well, sort of. This might be a good time to mention that the beast — like all the others attacking the home of the New York Mets — is totally invisible.

Welcome to the world of Sharknado 2: The Second One, the follow-up to 2013’s surprise hit Sharknado. As sequel law demands, it’s bigger, bolder, and even more ridiculous than the first film: The action has been transported from Los Angeles to the Big Apple. Oodles of recognizable (if not exactly A-list) names have been added to the cast. And while the movie’s budget is still a drop in the bucket compared to any expensive would-be Hollywood blockbuster, there’s a little more money this time around — enough to pay for pricey New York City locations, as well as a few extra perks. (Returning star Tara Reid notes that this time, the cast is getting put up in a hotel.)

But don’t worry — there’s little danger of Sharknado 2 losing the original movie’s cheap charm. For one thing, there isn’t that much more money; as Syfy mainstay and new cast member Kari Wuhrer notes, “I think we have to keep it a low-budget film, or the original fans are going to walk away.” For another, the movie’s team hasn’t ditched its signature filming style for more sophisticated techniques. “We’re making believe [we're] with these sharks,” Reid explains, “so that makes it even more ridiculous.” The crew doesn’t, say, dangle a ping-pong ball on a string to indicate where computer wizards will eventually add a shark to a scene; “they just point somewhere. So everyone’s looking in different directions. Nothing makes sense, and I think that’s what works about Sharknado.”

It’s a good thing the film’s creators are fully committed to nonsense. There will be even more of it this time around, thanks primarily to New York’s uncooperative weather. “I wanted to shoot in November, to avoid this junk,” sighs David Latt, production guru at Sharknado studio The Asylum, gesturing toward the powdery flakes that have been falling since early Wednesday morning. “But it was hard to mobilize everyone that fast. So we’re now, we find ourselves in February, in the middle of the coldest winter on record.” The day of the Citi Field shoot, temps top out at a frigid 27 degrees — which adds an extra layer of surreality to watching extras in Mets gear dodge fake sea creatures.

So, what else can bad movie fans expect when a second Sharknado attacks Syfy this summer? After a day spent shivering alongside the film’s cast and crew, and even filming a cameo in a crowd scene — poorly — here’s what I can tell you:

There’s an easy explanation for the snow
As a Syfy publicist puts it, “The sharknado is causing aberrant weather patterns, which is why it’s cold.” Duh.

Locations hit by the sharknado include Citi Field, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building. Maybe. Possibly not.
When asked whether she’s enjoyed filming at any spot in New York in particular, Reid answered “The Empire State Building is going to be amazing.” McGrath also teased that “there might be some iconic buildings involved in the way I do some of my [character's] killing.” But Wuhrer says that while the skyscraper initially permitted the film to shoot there, its people later changed their minds; when asked point-blank whether any scenes take place there, Latt responded, “I’m not trying to be cheeky. I know that we have the Statue of Liberty; I don’t know about anything else.” Eh, they can always add a computer-generated ESB in post.

We’ll get extra butt-kicking, as well as more family drama and a new love triangle
The basic plot of Sharknado 2, besides, you know, the sharknado itself: Reid and Ian Ziering’s characters, April and Fin — divorced in the first movie — have since reconciled and are in New York to promote a book April wrote about how to survive a sharknado. (P.S. The Asylum plans to publish an actual tie-in book as well.) There, they reconnect with Fin’s sister (Wuhrer), who’s been semi-estranged from Fin since she married his onetime best buddy (McGrath). And then there’s Vivica A. Fox, who plays an old flame of Fin’s just itching to pick up where they left off. Tensions will rise, especially after another sharknado separates the group.

Judah Friedlander’s character fights sharks with a toddler-sized baseball bat
In “real life,” though, Friendlander has another weapon of choice: Karate. “When I go swimming in the ocean, sharks lock themselves up in metal cages so I won’t eat them,” he boasts. “And they study me, try to figure out what makes me tick, but they haven’t figured it out yet.” (See his book for more information.)

Vivica A. Fox channels Kill Bill‘s Vernita Green
Know what she uses to slay sharks? “A sword. A big-ass sword, too. Stay tuned, you’ll be surprised where that sword magically appeared from. And baby, I’m telling you, I was wielding it.” That should be no surprise to Tarantino fans; after all, Fox underwent six months of training with Chinese mater martial artist Yuen Woo-ping for Kill Bill.

Moliére basically co-wrote the script
Here’s Wuhrer on why she loves to make Syfy movies: “You have a chance of playing something really absurd and crazy, and then at the same time some humanity. It’s like Tartuffe! That’s how I see it.”

It won’t be too jokey
The sequel “has to be bigger and more extreme without really breaking the fourth wall and winking at the audience,” Latt explains. “I think what was exciting about [Sharknado], getting rid of all the noise on the internet, is that everybody [in the movie] takes themselves seriously. They’re in the moment. This event is happening. It’s authentic. And it’s not a wink to the audience too much. So the trick was not to drink the kool aid of the comedy, and to make it all for gags and laughs. Let that happen organically. Because with sharks and a tornado, it’s going to happen.” Adds McGrath: “There’s a seriousness to what we’re doing as the insanity’s going on around us, is kind of how it was explained to me by the director. And it makes sense. …It’s a lot more subtle than I thought it was going to be. Which is tough for me. I’m a spaz. Inside I’m like, [growling noises]. People think I’m on crack half the time.”

The ending, however, will be NUTS
Latt says the only “heavy pressure” facing Sharknado 2 is ensuring that the ending “kicks ass;” after all, it has to top the first movie’s infamous chainsaw sequence. “That is the one [sequence] that kept getting sent back to the writer —  ‘push it, push it, push it, make it better, make it bigger,'” he continues. “I think we’re there.” When pressed for specifics, all he’ll say is that “there’s gonna be sharks, and a tornado,” though Friedlander gives a possible hint at what to expect: “Well, you know, they had one chainsaw. It’s a sequel. You should probably have a chainsaw in each hand, you know?”

Everyone’s going to be tweeting
Nobody involved in the first Sharknado had any idea that their goofy little movie would hit as big as it did. Its principle cast members weren’t even paying attention when the movie originally aired; Reid was on vacation, and Ziering was, uh, onstage with the Chippendales in Las Vegas. But thanks to the social media firestorm that greeted Sharknado, things will be different this time around. Most cast members said they’d be live-tweeting the sequel’s premiere; Latt added that Syfy and The Asylum will “be very aggressive in making things look like things are naturally happening” on social media. Huh.

Sharknado 3 might be set in space
Or it could be in 3-D. Or… well, anything’s possible, save this: “When we got to Sharknado the Musical, we had to say ‘I think we’ve gone too far,'” laughs Latt. Other than that, though, the shark-filled sky really is the limit for this franchise: Latt sees a bevy of Sharknado films in his future. “We’re not going to stop until the public wants us to stop, until there’s protests in the street, mass hysteria,” he says. “[We'll] just keep pushing it, because that’s what we do.” And a nation of bloodthirsty unintentional comedy buffs thanks them for that.

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