By the time we finished watching all 90 minutes of SyFy original movie Sharknado Friday morning at his suite on the 36th floor of the Rio, Ian Ziering had already received two new script offers, a score of media requests and an offer to do Oprah.
I told him this could be his John Travolta-in-Pulp Fiction moment.
He says he’s going to tell anyone who sends him scripts from now on he’s waiting for Tarantino.
Ziering is nearing his end in Chippendales. His final show is Sunday, so the sudden swell of interest in Sharknado comes at the perfect time.
“I stopped a long time ago trying to be proactive in my career. At a certain point you become powerless. Your success is subjected to people who have an opinion, or are accountable to someone else. As an actor, you can’t guarantee success,” Ziering says. “But there are moments in time where I’ve been lucky enough to catch lightning in a bottle. My 90210 experience, this Chippendales thing and now Sharknado.”
This is the power of Sharknado. And this is the story of a man who stars in Sharknado, watching Sharknado for the first time.
0:05 – We open with a shiver of sharks, fins slicing the water, swimming directly for a tornado over the ocean. Which immediately sucks them up. I’m not a marine biologist, but I’m fairly certain this isn’t normal shark behavior. Or, in the proper SyFy parlance, sharkavior.
2:50 – A shady Asian businessman hands over $1 million stashed inside a tackle box to a sea captain who looks way too much like Tommy Lee. “That’s a million dollars? Must be a shrinking economy,” Ziering scoffs.
5:13 – The ship’s crew is overrun by the first stirrings of the Sharknado. At this point, Ziering hops off the couch to sit on the table closer to the TV. Who the hell wants to be far away for all this sweet Sharknado action?
7:19 – Ziering plays a surfer named Fin. Who owns a bar named Fin. I see what screenwriter Thunder Levin did there. We’re also introduced to Nova (Cassie Scerbo) with a shot that lingers on her ass for roughly 72 minutes. She works for Fin and appears to have a thing for him.
10:26 – Finally. We had to wait seven whole minutes between scenes with a shark attack, but now the sharks are on the beaches of Southern California. Though still, technically, in the ocean, where sharks belong. “I remember watching Jaws when that first came out, and I think this has just as much impact as that did,” Ziering says.
12:54—Faithful sidekick Baz (Jaason Simmons) is getting attacked by what looks like the shark at Universal’s Jaws ride.
16:40—The fake newscast says “Experts are saying global warming is the reason for this unprecedented event.” For making sharks fly? Thanks for nothing, science. “I always like to make sure my projects have a political slant,” Ziering says.
16:57—It’s John Heard! The dad from Home Alone is a wash-out drunk! We can’t wait for Macaulay Culkin to star in one of these. Maybe Megashark vs. Sadaboutnotdatingmilakunisaurus.
19:10—Sharks come exploding through the window like Michael Bay shot them there. Nova winds up spearing one through the head. “I like a chick who’s badass and has perfect hair at the same time,” says Ziering.
20:35—Heard just beat a shark to death with a barstool! This is the greatest thing that has happened in the history of ever. Baz stuffs an air tank in a shark’s mouth and Fin shoots it. Ziering is noncommittal when I ask him if he had to resist the urge to say “Smile, you son of a bitch.”
29:10—Heard brought his shark beatin’ stool with him from the beach to the 405, and just used it to free a dog trapped in a car. This man is a hero to drunkards everywhere. “Every barstool should have his name on it now, in bars everywhere. They should call it a John Heard. ‘Pull up a Heard,’” Ziering says. I love this idea. Sadly, this moment of heroism slows down Heard long enough to take a shark to the dome. Taken from us far too soon.
20:16—Baz laments, “There are kangaroos loose in the paddock, mate.” He is so aggressively Australian I expect him to be dressed like Steve Irwin by the end of the movie.
30:39—Fin perfectly times a series of waves crashing down to drive underneath them to freedom. It’s like a Mega Man level. “I can already see the Sharknado video game happening. This is amazing,” Ziering affirms.
32:50—Tara Reid plays Fin’s ex-wife, April. She doesn’t want to let Fin and his crew inside her mansion. During a Sharknado. That is ice cold. “I don’t understand why he still cared about his wife when she was so miserable. He had Nova who just loved him,” Ziering says. “That’s the hardest thing for me to believe in this movie.”
34:27—“Sharks in a swimming pool? That’s imposs—” So much for April’s douchey new boyfriend. There’s a lot of shark-filled water exploding into buildings going on here. Is this part of the atmospheric condition that makes a Sharknado possible? Is it the same kind of thing that makes toilets flush backwards in the Southern Hemisphere?
37:55—Fin is going to distract the shark trapped in the flooded house so everyone else can escape. By … being extra delicious? We guess? “We shot this in the middle of the night at the bottom of a community pool, so we could flood the set,” Ziering says. “The water was barely above freezing. Jumping into that water made my testicles ascend to the heights they were pre-puberty.”
41:54—Ian Ziering: action hero. He did his own stunts in this scene where he rappells down a bridge to save a bunch of kids and bus driver Robbie Rist. Who was Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch. “He walked on stage and I was like, ‘Holy shit dude! You were on The Brady Bunch.’ I get star struck too,” Ziering says. “It turns out he does one of the voices on Doc McStuffins, which is one of the cartoons my daughter watches.”
Ian Ziering getting starstruck by Robbie Rist on the set of Sharknado because of Rist’s work on Doc McStuffins officially eclipses the time Maynard James Keenan of Tool was autographing bottles of wine at a Whole Foods in Green Valley as the most everyday life-surreal thing I’ve ever heard of.
44:33—The Sharknado gang uses ropes to lift the first schoolkid to safety. “You couldn’t even tell a 45-pound 9-year-old transformed into a 120-pound stuntwoman,” Ziering says. “Seamless.”
47:10—There’s a shark eating its way up the rope Fin is using to climb to safety. Nothing to add here. Just re-read that sentence.
48:59—Oh. Oh dear. Cousin Oliver, uh, went to live on a farm upstate with John Heard.
50:47—Sharks eating through a car. Your move, Sam Jackson.
53:46—The liquor store clerk who’s still somehow at his post blames the government for creating the Sharknado. It’s a nuanced, trenchant parallel to the current NSA scandal. By way of sharks. “It’s a very topical movie,” Ziering agrees.
56:02—The Hummer the Sharknado gang just stole has the kind of nitro button that Wile E. Coyote would have installed. I’m surprised it wasn’t just a cone-shaped rocket strapped to the roof of the car.
1:05:52—Nova finally tells the story about her mysterious scar that looks exactly like shark teeth. Turns out it’s not that a shark bit her after all. It’s that sharks swarmed and ate an entire raft full of people, including her grandfather, and then bit her. That’s why she hates sharks, you know, other than the fact that they’re soulless, inhuman killing machines. This isn’t unlike Quint’s Indianapolis speech in Jaws. Except that Cassie Scerbo looks way better in a bikini than Robert Shaw.
1:08:52—The Sharknado gang’s plan is to fly helicopter right up to the edge of the Sharknados and heave homemade bombs into them. Because that will equalize the pressure differences that cause the tornado conditions in the first place. Not even going to check with the National Weather Service; pretty sure that’s all on the level.
1:10:20—“We’re going to need a bigger chopper.” I’m beginning to suspect Nova has never actually seen a shark. She’s just pretending every shark-related reference she heard is really about her. Can’t wait until she tells about the time a landshark tried to sneak into her home with a telegram.
1:13:02—Incoming! Shark vs. Fin with chainsaw. “With all the grace and speed of a ninja, I cut that shark in half,” Ziering says. Then Fin picks off a couple more with a pistol. “And that’s years of Doom and Halo paying off.”
1:15:50—Fin just managed to blow up a pool—a thing you can’t blow up—at the old folks’ home adjacent to the airport. “I can’t believe that didn’t work as well when I was a 9-year-old boy trying to do the same shit,” Ziering says.
1:17:46—Holy cats! A shark just ate Nova, falling out of the helicopter, on the fly. That shark has mad hops. That is the Michael Jordan-in-’89 of sharks.
1:21:26—After Fin takes care of the last Sharknado, the fallout shark debris (fine, “sharkbris”) ruins the sign at the Hotel Roosevelt. “Not the Roosevelt!” Ziering sounds genuinely horrified. “That’s where I met my wife.”
1:21:48—Oh no! One last piece of sharkbris! And it’s coming right for Fin’s daughter! It’s self-sacrifice time. Right into the great white’s mouth, chainsaw held high. That is, incidentally, exactly how I want to die.
1:22:22—But wait, what’s this? Movement in the shark’s belly? Could it be? Is it? “Yeah, boy!” Ziering screams. Fin cuts his way free. Never doubt the triumph of explosions and chainsaws over the very worst nature has to offer. As Fin claws his way out, bloodied but unbowed, it’s a touching moment of metaphorical rebirth, of Fin’s recommitment to his estranged family. And then he reaches back in the shark and pulls out Nova. Who nearly makes out with Fin’s son, while covered in shark goo. Screw it, close enough.
“Awesome. I just got chills,” Ziering says. “It’s better than I expected. You always hope for the best. I’ve got to really hand it to [director] Anthony Ferrante for pulling this together so masterfully. This was not an easy project to direct. To have the faith in the cast with such a challenging script, to have faith in the visual effects was a huge gamble for him, and he pulled it together beautifully. This is a perfect example of excellent low-budget filmmaking. It’s got greater recognition than movies that spent $100 million. I did Domino and the opening weekend they did $5 million. That was with Keira Knightley, Tony Scott directed, Mickey Rourke. This has a bigger impact than that.”
Also, there’s an important, and comforting lesson for Las Vegans: There are no Sharknados in the desert.