Q&A with Sharknado Star Tara Reid and Director Anthony Ferrante
So, did you catch Sharknado last night, or did you DVR it to watch with other Syfy aficionados on Saturday and comment via social media? In either case, we have a Q&A with director Anthony Ferrante and star Tara Reid to share. Beware of minor spoilers if you fall in the latter category.
Syfy recently hosted a conference call with the pair, and they're both pretty damn entertaining. Just like the film itself! They discuss how much fun they had working on it, the challenges of pulling off something so batshit nuts with their limited budget and time frame, CGI vs. practical effects, the level of gore, and whole lot more. Check it out, and if you missed it, read our Sharknado review here.
Q: This looks like a lot of fun; combining a tornado with sharks is a pretty cool thing. Did you try to use practical sharks or CGI sharks or a combination?
Anthony Ferrante: Okay, well basically there were two things. I mean, we knew we had to set a number of visual effect shots that we had. And I knew I wanted to do some practical effects because I come from a practical background. I like having physical things, and I think the actors like to have things they can touch and that are tangible. So, we built sort of a partial shark. That was probably just about as problematic as it was on Jaws. But it was cool for certain things that we needed.
But it had a lot of issues when we were trying to make it float in the water. But the fins - the practical fins that we used I think were really good and actually I think helped the actors a lot, particularly when we’re out in the ocean and we had the fin kind of floating right alongside. I am veering on a surfboard and the reactions were pretty… it kind of freaked them out a little bit even though they knew it was fake.
And then, of course, we tried to shoot a movie about a hurricane in Los Angeles where, you know, literally the time since we started shooting there’s only been four days of rain. So there’s a lot of practical rain that we did for tight shots and then a lot of times I was just yelling at the actors saying "Shark, shark!" and I lost my voice a couple times as probably Tara can attest.
Tara Reid: Special effects - it was a lot more CGI; there weren’t thousands of sharks in the sky. The shark stuff in the ocean, I didn’t really have any scenes in, so I wasn’t involved in that kind of area. But [for me] it was just mostly CGI, and you just had to have a really good imagination.
Anthony Ferrante: Yes, and it was kind of a new experience for you too, right Tara, for some of the stuff because these were crazy ideas and we showed you some of the storyboards, but a lot of times it’s like, "Okay, just trust me; there are 16 coming from this direction."
Tara Reid: Yes, I was going to say that there was so much green screen. You just had to just use your imagination and pretend that there were sharks everywhere… and sometimes it felt ridiculous because you didn’t know what was going on. But yes, I think we did the best job we can and I think we had a lot of fun doing it.
Q: As far as the tone, this is a movie we can have a lot of fun with obviously, but is there a way you can go too far and make it just plain silly? Do you have to kind of stay within barriers a little bit?
Tara Reid: I think it is a comedy because it’s so crazy. I mean, it is silly and there’s only a certain amount of barriers you could go into. You can’t take it so serious when it’s absolutely the sharks flying in the sky. It’s so out there that it’s actually really funny. I think you’re going to see it and the whole theme of it is so out there that it is funny. I mean, there are moments of seriousness, but when you really look at it, you can’t really take this movie serious. You know, I think it’s a case of, okay, you’re going to watch and have a good time and laugh.
Anthony Ferrante: I think the key to these things is there are two ways to go: one where you’re very self-referential and you’re very aware and it’s very campy because everybody’s in on the joke. And then there’s what we approached with Sharknado is that the concept is so out there, if we ground a little bit the story and the actors and the situations, the humor for me… the best humor in any kind of movie - action, comedy, whatever - comes from character situations and how they react and how they deal with it versus suddenly someone’s telling a joke in the middle of this and say, "Hey we know this is funny." And I think everybody did a great job in walking that balance because, I mean, there are lines said in the movie that you’re obviously going, “How do you say those lines?” And the actors had to say those lines and sell it and believe it. And so I think that Sharknado’s this interesting balance.
I mean, it’s ridiculous and I guess probably the most insane scene in the entire film is with Ian Ziering chain-sawing himself out of the shark, and Ian fully committed to that. He fully committed; we had a practical belly we created and he committed to it. I think when everybody commits to this kind of thing and accepts it, then we all can have fun as we’re making the movie, and I think the audience can have fun as well.
Tara Reid: That’s just going to make it so much more funny because if he was doing it and laughing at it, then it’s not going to work either. So I think committing to it is what makes it so funny. Like, we did go there. Yes, you knew it was absolutely ridiculous. There’s no one going in the shark’s stomach and cutting out with a chainsaw. But because he does play it seriously, it comes off funnier. So I think it’s a story that people are really going to enjoy and laugh with it.
Anthony Ferrante: I think there were some good nights too. For Tara, I remember when we were doing that scene in the pool that was actually a living room set in the pool and it was freezing cold. And you guys were...
Tara Reid: It was freezing.
Anthony Ferrante: …freezing cold in the water. So, yes, you didn’t have to go too far to kind of believe the pain that you guys were experiencing a lot of times, too.
Tara Reid: It literally felt like I was in an ice storm. I think I’ve never been that cold in my life. It was freezing. It was like you couldn’t even talk, you know. So, that was a pretty crazy experience there. And in that aspect, when you’re trying to get out of the house, it was so cold; you really were in pain and you were trying to get the hell out of the house. So the circumstances and a lot of the situations did make it easier to play these parts and make them more serious, and I think that worked for us.
Q: Ms. Reid, can you talk a little bit about your character? How did she get involved with the Sharknado? Does it just land on her, or does your character have some sort of expertise in either sharks or tornadoes?
Tara Reid: No, not at all. It just lands on her. You know, she’s in her house and her ex-husband, played by Ian Zeiring, comes in and says, “Look, there’s going to be a bad storm and there’re sharks everywhere,” and she thinks he’s out of his mind. She’s like yes, ok, sharks are flying in Beverly Hills. Are you joking me? And before you know it—boom, there’s a shark through the pool that jumps through and then there’re sharks coming everywhere. It’s just so unreasonable. I mean, what are the chances that there’s really a shark coming though the pools and in the windows and in the sky. It’s so crazy, just the whole concept of it, you know?
So it’s more shocking to her, I think, than anything else, but it’s just almost so unbelievable. So the only response is trying to get away from the sharks and just trying to save her son.
Q: What was it like working with Anthony Ferrante?
Tara Reid: He’s great. He has a great sense of humor. He is wonderful to work with. He’s just great. He’s patient. He’s fun. He’s just someone that it is easy to work with. And he’s definitely just a great personality. You know he’s a team player and he’s a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed working with him.
Q: And Mr. Ferrante, what’s Ms. Reid like to work with as an actress?
Anthony Ferrante: Tara’s awesome. When she got hired, we started talking about the character and stuff, and we were both on the same page as to how this had to play and everything. And we just had a lot of fun with it. You know, everything is about how do you ground this and how do make it interesting. And it’s a movie where you have to deal with the spectacle a lot of the film, but how can you at least try to weave in these little moments with the characters and try to see how these things are.
There were points where she’s going, "Ah, you know, this line’s gotta [go]," and I go, "You know, exactly right, I agree with you." And she had something perfect to put in its place because it’s all about trying to make it real because if they - the actors - don’t believe in it, then you don’t have a movie.
And I gotta say… like I said previously, putting these actors in these situations where we were covering them in water and rain and stuff like that, I couldn’t have had a better group of people. Tara was in the midst of that with everybody and she stuck it out and she was there to the bitter end. And I see some of the takes; sometimes I’m going, “She’s just shivering.” And it’s like, thank you because these are hard films to do, especially in the short amount of time that you have and the amount of stuff that you have to do. And you need everybody on board. And that was what was so great about working with her, she was onboard the entire time for as crazy as this movie was.
Q: Tara, how much convincing did it take for you to sign on to this film, and do you have any sort of affinity for sharks or any kind of favorite sharks out there—hammerheads, anything like that?
Tara Reid: No, I hate sharks, personally, to be honest with you. When I read the script, I actually thought the concept was so ridiculous that it was almost so bad that it was good. Do you know what I mean? I mean, sharks flying in the sky. Come on, this whole thing is so unrealistic.
I think that’s kind of how the character takes it. Like when her ex-husband shows up to her house and says, “Come on, you've got to get out. There are sharks everywhere. Sharks flying in Beverly Hills.” Like, “What are you talking about? You’re on something.” And all of a sudden—boom, she’s seeing the sharks flying through the sky and in her pool and jumping through stained glass doors. It’s like, what the hell?!? It’s so out there. You know what I mean? But it’s actually funny. You know, like, it’s just so crazy. I think it’s one of these films that people are going to watch and just really, really laugh and enjoy it and watch the comedy in it.
Q: Do you see yourself making more movies like this?
Tara Reid: I’ve never even seen a movie like that. This concept’s just so out there, so I don’t really know. But I did really enjoy making this film. I had a great time, you know. Anthony was awesome to work with. Every day I had a good day. I was happy with how everything went, and it was one of those movies where the whole experience was just positive with everyone.
Q: Anthony, this isn’t your first go around working with The Asylum. You worked with them on your film Hansel and Gretel previously. How was it to work for The Asylum with their obvious budgetary limitations and time restraints?
Anthony Ferrante: Well, you know, every movie I’ve ever had, we’ve had budgetary limitations and time restraints and stuff like that. I think one of the reasons that you go into this is to see what you can do and how you can top the last thing you did. And one of the things with different production companies that you work with and different producers and stuff is you want to find people that want to collaborate. Say what you will about The Asylum and their model, but the producers are great. They’re very supportive of allowing you to try to do things, and if you give a compelling argument, they’ll listen and they’ll even toss extra things your way if you think you need it.
We needed, I think, some extra steady cam days and we got that. You know the hardest part about any of these kinds of movies is that you’re trying to do epic things with very little. I always say, this script was a $100 million movie if you took it to a studio and we did this probably for the equivalent of the craft service budget on Dark Knight, which probably is the craft service for two days or something, you know. It was nuts. It was absolutely crazy but I think that that’s kind of the fun part because I’ve never done a big visual effects movie before and I really wanted to do one. And it was a chance to play. It was a chance to kind of go, “How can we solve these problems?”
And it’s always about anytime you’re making a movie, whether you’re at a studio level or a smaller level, like, “How do you make these things happen?” And we blindly went into this movie, which a lot of people said was impossible to do, except let’s try to make this movie. Let’s see if we could elevate things and go beyond what is possible. And, you know, they have an amazing group of people from preproduction to postproduction and their visual effects team provided by Emile Edwin Smith, he was our visual effects supervisor on the show. He just kicked butt. We storyboarded a lot of the key sequences and we tried to integrate as many things as possible so they had a lot of stuff to work with. And, you know, even in postproduction, the producers, one of them actually knows visual effects, and because some of the visual effects were coming in that were so great, I knew he did a little bit of stuff. I said, "Look, can we get you to do a couple extra shots, kind of balance stuff around it? Can you add a little rain or could you do that?" and he said, "Sure."
So I don’t know producers that’ll do that. I mean, that was like the complete awesome. So this movie was - is - a collaboration from the actors all down to the crew. And we all really wanted to make something cool and we all decided to try to do something. We didn’t look at it that there was a limitation. It was like here’s an opportunity. I look at the first 20 minutes of this movie and I don’t think there’s anything quite like it at this budget level, and we just did it.
A good friend of mine, who is the bus driver in the movie, I showed him a rough cut of the film - and I give him complete credit for this quote because I think it describes the movie - he says, “It’s a movie that doesn’t know it can’t do that”. And I think that’s kind of the fun part about making this movie is it’s a wild concept and we just kind of did it.
Q: Anthony, as you said, you do come from an effects background. The gore effects in the film are fairly minimal. Were you mandated to not have a lot of gore or was this something you wanted to do yourself?
Anthony Ferrante: We had a few moments that we knew were gore moments, but it was one of those things where there was a script in place and then there were some things and ideas that we brought to the table. If it’s a serial killer, it’s kind of easy, you can do something. If it’s a monster, you could do something. You have sharks and you have weather related things that you can do. And so in terms of killing people the variety of things that you can do gets limited. So you can have a shark attack you, you can have a shark bite off a limb. But after that, you know, it would just get redundant. So then that’s why we mixed it up a little bit. There is that big gory scene kind of towards the end with one of the characters getting her arms ripped off and it’s just a blood fest. And then we did something clever with the Hollywood sign and a shark, and then we did the thing at the end, which even though it’s not a kill, it’s pretty graphic with Ian Zeiring and a shark.
I think each movie has its own balance and I think this is more of a fun ride. And if I wanted more gore we probably could’ve had more gore, it’s just at some point coming up with new ways of shark deaths. I mean, I think most of them have been done before so we tried to be creative in how we engineered some of the shark attacks. You know, when you have sharks flying from the sky and Ian Zeiring shooting at them, I think that’s pretty fun.
Q: What is your favorite moment from filming this movie?
Tara Reid: The whole movie was an actual fun movie. It was fun to make; you just had to have a crazy imagination. And just the whole concept of sharks flying in the sky, in Beverly Hills—it’s just crazy. So you just had to have this imagination and have fun with it. And I think when you watch the film, I think more of a comedy. You’re going to watch it and you’re going to laugh and it’s funny. We had a really good time making it. It was a fun film.
Anthony Ferrante: I think there were a lot of fun moments. You take away with the saying that these things are very hard to do and that there’s a lot of stress involved. But the fact is you get to play and I don’t know anybody that could say they get to play every day on a set. There was one day when I was on a little Kodiak boat out off of San Pedro and we’re out in the middle of nowhere following a little fishing boat for the opening shot of the movie and I’m sitting on this boat with the camera guy and just out in the middle of nowhere. This is fun, even though it was freezing cold while shooting that scene in that living room, where we decided to build a set in the swimming pool and then submerge the set. That was just crazy because you’re getting to do these big-budget things on a little budget.
But the other thing, too, is just some of the acting moments. There was bar scene where we introduced all the characters and we spent an hour and a half watching and reversing that to kind of make it feel natural. I love those moments; I love when the actors suddenly do something in character that isn’t expected—it’s fun and it’s real. And I think that’s kind of the neat part about doing these movies, too.
So there were a lot of fun moments that we had. But it was a crazy movie. Like Tara said, it’s sharks in a tornado. You got to either embrace it—as we would say, you got to embrace the ‘nado—or you’re not with it. We were all with it.
Q: What was your favorite kill in the movie?
Tara Reid: Probably the most ridiculous one is Ian Zeiring, being in the shark stomach and cutting out with a chainsaw. So ridiculous. That’s insane but absolutely funny. I mean, it’s crazy.
Anthony Ferrante: Someone was asking Asylum stuff [earlier]… There was an ending originally when a shark just landed on the ground and then ate Ian. And then I wanted to do something kind of like out of a martial arts movie where he jumps into the sky with the chainsaw and the shark’s coming down to eat his daughter and they’re basically going toe-to-toe. And it was this really kind of insane thing that I wanted to do. We storyboarded it and I didn’t know if they were going to let me do it because it definitely takes you just one step further out. And they let us do that and then to cap it off with the chain-sawing out of it! I mean, it’s the killing of the shark, but yes, I think that’s probably my favorite kill.
Q: What, if anything, did you learn about sharks that you did not know previously to working on Sharknado?
Tara Reid: It wasn’t really that kind of thing. It wasn’t like we were with actual sharks. I mean, it was all sci-fi, so I didn’t really learn anything about sharks. It wasn’t like, “Be careful with this shark because you’re going to get bitten,” because it was all complete sci-fi and digital. So, no, I didn’t learn anything about sharks. I just knew run from sharks if you see them. You don’t want to get eaten.
Q: Anthony, how did you come to cast Tara and Ian in this film?
Anthony Ferrante: I think they were getting cast right around the time I was being hired. They were trying to find some interesting cast for this. And so when they said Tara and Ian were interested in it, I was like, “This is great!” We have this awesome cast. There’s Tara and Ian and John Heard and Jason Simmons and other people. Every time I heard somebody new, I was excited. But I got really excited with Tara. I was just thrilled she wanted to do this movie. Like I said, the first time I talked to her, I’m like, “Okay, this is awesome. She’s just totally into this.”
Q: For Mr. Ferrante, can you describe the premise a little more? Obviously it’s a tornado with sharks in it, but how do the sharks wind up in one place long enough to strategize killing anybody? Does the neighborhood flood? How is it that the sharks don’t get plunked out of the tornado and just die from lack of water?
Anthony Ferrante: There is a trajectory. We set up the scene that on the coast of Mexico, a group of sharks get sucked into a tornado. They get deposited onto our coast and then it slowly progresses where it starts to flood, the sharks start coming up from the sewage lines, and then through the storm drains. Then it builds to the full-on Sharknado.
I think if you start looking at how this works or how this doesn’t work, you start poking holes in the logic… and you just kind of have to go for it. I think if you watch the movie, it’s clear. The sharks, they’re in it, they get deposited, and some of them flop around and they die and that’s what happens.
The story is basically about Ian Zeiring, who owns a bar on the Santa Monica pier. It gets flooded, he goes to save his family—his ex-wife, Tara, his daughter, and his son—and it’s their journey. And so one thing I’m proud of in the movie is that there’s no military and no scientists trying to figure out. It’s a bunch of everyday, Average Joes trying to sort through this for better or for worse.
Q: And is there a variety of sharks or are they all great whites?
Anthony Ferrante: I think we had a hammerhead at some point for one of visual effects, but most of the practical stuff was a great white.
Q: Tara, at what point did you really go, “This is going to be fun; this is going to be great?” What was the scene or the moment?
Tara Reid: I think just being on the set with everyone and seeing Anthony’s passion for the film. And just how crazy the concept was and how we all just went for it. We really enjoyed making the film. We had a great time, a great cast and crew, and a great director. Every day, when I would leave the set, I was happy. We were making a fun movie and a funny movie. And I think it will speak for itself on that. I think people will really find it entertaining and funny. It’s a good movie.
Q: Anthony, what was it like to work with the accomplished John Heard?
Anthony Ferrante: John Heard was great. And he had not done something quite like this in a very long time. One of the things I liked about him is that he has the ability to toss out some really funny lines and just make it feel real and natural. And there’s a lot of little bits in the bar where he just ad-libbed some stuff and we encouraged it because, again, to me that’s how you make it feel more natural.
I think there was a little button that he added on the scene like they’re going, “Where is George?” and they find him in the back seat. It was the last day of shooting, and I’m like, “I’m spent. I don’t have any other lines for you, John. Can you give me something?” And he goes, “I just had the worst nightmare.” It just was so funny and it was perfect. He has really great instincts. But the other thing about John [is] the level of commitment. There was this weird idea that I had where everybody in the bar has weapons and we try to decide if John’s character loves his chair and that’s his thing in bar. It’s very subtle but it’s there and he comes this far and he likes where he sits. And so when the bar is being destroyed he grabs the barstool. And we have him running down the Santa Monica pier with his barstool, which is really, really heavy. And he did it every single time. Never complained a single moment doing it and I could barely lift that barstool.
And so it was a blast. He was really fun and interesting and he has all this experience. I grew up watching all these movies he was in. So it was great working with him. I know it sounds like a love fest, but when you get a group of people that want to be there, that’s what you want as a director, and that’s what we had on this movie.
When a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, nature's deadliest killer rules sea, land, and air as thousands of sharks terrorize the waterlogged populace.
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