The story so far: Following the release of Jaws, legendary exploitation-movie producer Roger Corman hired fledgling director Joe Dante to direct a rip-off movie about small, killer fish. The result was 1978’s gore-drenched, but tongue-in-cheek Piranha, which cost less than $1m to make and grossed around $14m in the U.S. alone.
The huge success of the original Piranha came as a surprise to Roger Corman. “Piranha achieved astonishing results,” says the producer. “These low-budget exploitation films can very often get a big gross the first week, but then fall away. Piranha did not fall away. It held, two and three weeks, against major studio competition.” Unfortunately for Corman, his deal with Piranha executive producers Chako van Leeuwen and Jeff Schechtman meant the pair were free to seek financing elsewhere for the film’s inevitable sequel. “I had just a one-picture deal,” says Corman. “I wasn’t able to participate in the other ones.”