‘Sharknado 2' aims to have even more bite

Ian Ziering, star of "Sharknado 2," at the Asylum studio in Burbank.
(Francine Orr, Los Angeles Times)

If it’s true that lightning never strikes in the same place twice, then neither does a sharknado.

For the sequel to last summer’s surprise social media phenomenon, director Anthony C. Ferrante knew he had to take his low-budget sharks-in-a-tornado premise somewhere else — in this case, east to New York City. “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” premieres July 30 on Syfy.

“The climax of the first ‘Sharknado’ took place in a parking lot and an alley in Van Nuys,” Ferrante said. “With New York City we can take our little budget and use these great landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Empire State Building.”

The next chapter in the Sharknado tale reunites the stars of the first film, Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, along with new cast members Kari Wuhrer, Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath and Judah Friedlander as they once again do battle with deadly airborne man-eating sharks. And yes, there will be more chainsaw action.


“That’s a story point, where do you find a chainsaw in Manhattan?” Ziering says. “But I got one and it’s the biggest chainsaw I’ve ever seen. It’s a four-foot chainsaw, the kind of thing you’d use to cut down redwood trees. It must have weighed 35 pounds.”

In the sequel, Ziering is back as surfer-turned-shark fighter Fin Shepherd, who must save New York and his extended family, including brother-in-law (McGrath), sister (Wuhrer) and childhood best friend (Friedlander).

“When I got the script for the sequel it read like a 100-million-dollar blockbuster,” Ziering says. “After the first 10 pages, I almost had to take a nap.”

No one expected much from the first “Sharknado” when it premiered last summer. The latest in a string of low-budget Syfy original productions such as “Arachnoquake” and “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid,” the film didn’t get a whole lot of fanfare. Ferrante watched it with his wife and daughter at a friend’s house, and Ziering didn’t even take a night off from his gig dancing with the Chippendales in Vegas.

But somehow, “Sharknado” clicked with the hive mind of Twitter, and before the film had even ended, it was a pop culture event. Media personalities including Wil Wheaton and “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof live-tweeted it. Newark then-Mayor Cory Booker and Mia Farrow also chimed in. At its peak, more than 5,000 tweets per minute were being sent about the film.

Though the actual TV ratings for the premiere were relatively soft, with 1.4 million watching, subsequent airings grew. By the time the film had aired a third time weeks later, it drew an audience of 2.1 million, making it the highest-rated encore performance of a Syfy original film.

“Normally with a movie like this you just get the horror crowd,” Ferrante says. “But then we got the kids. Five- to 10-year-olds embraced this movie. It’s a concept that feels like it was created by an 11-year-old mind.”

Naturally, the sequel won’t have surprise on its side. In fact, viewers will see this one coming as easily as a tornado full of sharks. Which makes the challenge one of managing expectations for Ferrante.


“I’m not saying we’re trying to make Shakespeare,” the director says. “We want people to have the same amount of fun watching as we do making these movies.”

One thing Ferrante and his crew didn’t anticipate was the outbreak of actual weird weather during their shoot. The film shot in January and February, during one of the coldest, most brutal winters in the city’s history. The program is supposed to take place during the summer.

During a 12-hour period while the filming at Citi Field in Queens, the crew experienced sun, clouds and snow. Then sun and snow again. Naturally, that’s all reflected in the picture.

“We have Al Roker and Matt Lauer talking about the crazy weather and how there’s snow in the summer,” Ferrante joked. “So we have legitimacy!”


“Today”'s Lauer and Roker aren’t the only ones making cameos. Though “Sharknado 2" was made with the same low-budget guerrilla spirit as the first film, many more noteworthy people were interested in participating this time. Perez Hilton, Billy Ray Cyrus, Pepa of Salt-N-Pepa and Judd Hirsch, who plays a taxi driver, all make appearances.

“We had more people than we knew what to do with,” Ferrante said. Which led to some outrageous situations, such as the 79-year-old Hirsch doing his own stunts.

“We had him swinging on a rope in front of a green screen,” Ferrante said. “We kept asking if he was OK!”

It’s definitely too soon to tell if the first “Sharknado” was a fluke, but whether you watch the sequel, live-tweet it or just ignore it, the onslaught is far from over. Syfy has already greenlit “Sharknado 3" for next year.