Welcome to the most unusual dinner party of your life.
Only, it’s not a dinner party, but director Anthony Ferrante and the stars of “Sharknado 5: Global Swarming”—Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo, Masiela Lusha, Chloe Lattanzi, Chris Kattan and Fabio—at the same table for an eight-on-one interview at San Diego Comic-Con.
And it is awesome weird surreal.
For the uninitiated (um, where have you been?), “Sharknado” is the SYFY original movie series about an unfortunately recurring waterspout that lifts hungry, man-eating sharks from the ocean and tosses them at helpess victims in Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C. and wherever it damn well pleases.
“Sharknado” became a surprise pop culture phenomenon when it debuted in the summer of 2013—the 2014 sequel broke SYFY records with nearly 4 million viewers—with much of the campy franchise’s success attributed to fans who tuned in to “hate-watch.”
“I think people misconstrue it as a hate-watch,” said Ferrante, who has directed all five films in the series.
“In Tampa, two weeks ago, I was there for Shark-Con,” he continued. “And this huge theater put on a screening of the first movie. There were over 300 people there, some people I knew that had seen it, some people that hadn’t. I watched it with this audience, and everybody reacting. It wasn’t ‘it’s so bad, it’s good’—they were invested in this movie. It was amazing watching their reactions, laughing at it, having fun with it, and there wasn’t any hate in that room.”
When “Sharknado 5: Global Swarming” premieres on August 6 at 8 p.m. ET on SYFY, the teeth-gnashing wind-funnel crisis goes international as our heroes Fin Shepard (Ziering) and April Wexler (Reid) chase the sharknado from continent to continent in search of their missing son, while simultaneously investigating ancient texts in hopes of ridding the world of the sharknados for good.
The film features Scerbo, Lusha and Lattanzi as Nova, Gemini and Electra, members of the underground sharknado-fighting “sisterhood,” and colorful celebrity cameos from the likes of Kattan, Fabio, Charo, Katie Price, Bret Michaels, Downtown Julie Brown, Greg Louganis, Abby Lee Miller and Olivia Newton-John.
For more on “Sharknado 5,” check out my full San Diego Comic-Con interview below:
David Onda: The “Sharknado” series has morphed from something people love to hate into something fans legitimately look forward to. What do you make of that whole transformation?
Anthony Ferrante: Kids love it. Families watch it. They like it because it’s a movie-going experience that they can just have a party, and it’s kind of wholesome despite people getting their limbs ripped off. I think what it’s morphed into is this thing where we have these two leads—and Cassie has been in three of them—that have followed us through the course of these movies. It’s an ongoing story that people are invested in. They like the fact that it’s just silly and fun and ridiculous and absurd. There’s this energy of desperation making these movies. It’s not always polished, but they see that we’re having fun and that we’re doing it for them.
Tara Reid: I think that’s the beauty of the film. At first, people are like, “How can sharks be alive without water?” Or, “Is it real sharks?” Everyone knows they’re not real sharks.
Fabio: [sarcastically] Really?
Reid: They would ask detailed questions. And they were ridiculous. And so, finally, we came up with an answer. I think that it was Ian that came up with the answer. He’s like, “It’s a ‘Sharknado.’ Anything happened in the ‘Sharknado.’ There’s no rules. We have no laws.” If someone disappears for a movie—[Cassie] disappears for two movies—of course she’s allowed back in.
Chris Kattan: It’s called “Sharknado.”
Cassie Scerbo: We always say it’s more like an event. We don’t think of it as movies. We think of it as the Super Bowl of SYFY. It’s an event every summer, and people look forward to it because they’re fans of it as a brand.
Ian Ziering: [to publicist] We’re calling this “the Super Bowl of SYFY.”
Scerbo: Super Bowl of SYFY! That’s totally what we’re running with. Hashtag “Super Bowl of SYFY.”
Reid: You’d be shocked how many little kids love this movie. It’s a family event as well. The grandma, the kids, everyone. They love this film. It’s fun for them. Even the kids—they’re not scared. It’s now like “Jaws.” It’s a fun movie, and people share it together, and look forward to it every year. As Ian said, it’s an event.
Ferrante: This woman came up to me—she has a bunch of kids—she said, “Thank you for making ‘Sharknado,’ because my kids were scared of sharks because of ‘Jaws,’ but ‘Sharknado’ made it OK for them to not be afraid, and they kind of laugh at sharks now.” It’s the total polar opposite. If you’re afraid of “Jaws,” “Sharknado” makes it acceptable.
Scerbo: We had kids come in from Children’s Hospital. They came in, and we allowed them to come around the set. Anthony was talking with them, and explaining to them how it works behind the scenes. And they got to do a fun little scene.
Ferrante: I don’t think these two [Reid and Ziering] get enough credit, because they’ve been here for five movies. On that first movie, they could not have trusted me and just said, “I’m not doing this.” They may have been leery of the title, but they gave me 150 percent—him birthing himself out of the shark, [to Reid] you doing the crazy stuff we had in that movie. They put a little faith in me, and they didn’t know me from Adam. Maybe they were terrified, but they still gave me 150 percent. And you see that in the movie, which is what I think the audience reacted to.
Onda: Ian, what’s your big moment in “Sharknado 5”?
Reid: He has so many.
Ziering: Anthony made sure there were several hero moments for Fin Shepard, but I think probably the most incredible feat that Fin Shepard has ever pulled off was his reentry from space using a shark as a heat shield, surviving reentry, landing on the beach and then crawling out the mouth of the shark.
Kattan: It’s been done.
Reid: I think the real moment for you was in New York City, when he had a whole crowd of people. He was standing on a fire bus. He was like, “We’re New York, and we’re gonna fight together!” They weren’t extras.
Ziering: The whole city block screamed, “Yeeeah!”
Reid: They weren’t hired. They were screaming because he gave such a great speech. They were like, “Yes! New York!” It was amazing. I was even like—and it was freezing—like, this wasn’t goosebumps of being frozen. He killed in that scene. Everyone who was with him was like, “Yes, New York City!”
Ferrante: Because we’ve all been involved in the five [movies], we’ll be on set, and I’ll know this Fin line doesn’t work. And [Ian will] go, “Yeah, nope.” We care about these characters, so even though the situations continue to be absurd, we are adamant that—no, Fin does not ask questions. Fin does this. April can do this. Nova does this. There’s always this sort of consistency, because we’ve been there from the beginning. I think that’s why people respond to it. We know what we’ve done, and we know what we can do and what we shouldn’t do.
Reid: We all know how the characters have grown. Obviously, Ian’s always the king of the castle. Nova’s now going into the … she makes this mafia, like this sisterhood of…
Scerbo: Army. There’s a new army now.
Reid: I’m not human anymore. I’m almost a straight-out robot.
Scerbo: There’s been a really cool evolution for the characters, for sure. I don’t know how the writers do it. Every time I’m like, “How are they gonna make this one bigger and better?”
Masiela Lusha: And it really is a family. As soon as I entered “Sharknado 4,” it felt like we were entering the fold. It was like, welcome to the Shepard universe. And that was it. We never looked back. It feels incredible.
Kattan: I can’t believe how many places they’ve been all over the world.
Ferrante: We [filmed in] five countries. We went to Italy, Australia, Japan, England and Bulgaria.
Reid: But we cheat about 20 countries.
Ferrante: But at the same budget as the last movie. We’re doing crazy stuff and we still extend it out.
Onda: If you made “Sharknado 5” even bigger on the same budget, where did you cut the money from?
Ziering: I think we all chipped in.
Kattan: Actors’ pay.
Ferrante: Asylum knows how to pull this off, and we had a great production team. We’re scrappy. We’re still doing it the scrappy way, but that’s part of the charm. In Japan, we had a crew of 10 people, and we did so much.
Scerbo: It’s no longer guerrilla-style—it’s shark-style!
Lusha: You just have to completely trust Anthony, because sometimes lines could be rewritten right on set. You can’t memorize anything.
Scerbo: I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone up to Anthony and I’ve been like, “Ok, but wait, as an actress, where am I coming from?” He’s like, “Just trust me. Look that way and scream, and look this way and do that, and I’m gonna add this line.” And you just trust it. You believe it because he has this vision inside of his head. He’s a mad “Sharknado” scientist.
Reid: [to Ziering] You’re kind of the leader of going, “This makes no sense.”
Onda: But is it possible for something to make “no sense” in the “Sharknado” movies?
Ziering and Reid: Yes!
Ferrante: No, there is a logic!
Lusha: You’ve got the Marvel Universe, right? And there’s multiple things in the Marvel Universe where it’s basically like different laws of physics. You’ve got a “Sharknado” Universe, and I think there’s different laws of physics that apply, right?
Ferrante: The other thing, too, with [Scerbo]—this is the thing to give her credit for—she gets the brunt of my madness, because I’m kind of like the only person who understands how Nova talks, and it’s how I talk. I throw her the weirdest …
Scerbo: Monologues. Don’t say lines.
Ferrante: But then I throw you weird stuff on set.
Reid: No, the biggest words. I don’t know what they mean.
Scerbo: I go into this “Sharknado” zone. My brain just goes, “You gotta get into ‘Sharknado’ zone, Cassie.” I don’t even know what I’m saying, like, “The vortex of this. And then the skeleton. And then the trampolines are gonna pop out of it.” It doesn’t even make sense! But it’s all good.
Onda: For those of you who are new to the series in “Sharknado 5,” can you tell me a little bit about your characters?
Reid: [to Kattan] He’s, like, the Prime Minister.
Kattan: I play Fabio.
Fabio: And he’s doing a really good job.
Kittan: Thank you.
Fabio: I play the Pope. First of all, [to Ferrante] he’s really good. He’s really good giving direction and everything. Growing up in the middle of the Catholic Church, I was like, oh my god, I can give them back all the s–t I got. [laughs] All those years of school. I love it. Let me be the Pope!
Onda: And Chloe, you and your mom, Olivia Newton-John, play members of the Australian branch of this sisterhood militia run by Masiela and Cassie. Did you personally ask your mom to do the movie?
Chloe Lattanzi: I spoke with Scotty [Mullen], the writer of the film. And I called her up and said, “You have to do this with me.” I’m a huge fan of Tara and basically everyone here. This really is a phenomenon of a movie. To be offered a role in something like this is a huge honor. I love working with my mom. It’s always fun. I’m like, “Mom, you have to do this.” She was like, “Hell yeah!” She was actually really excited. She’s never played a badass before.
Ferrante: And this is her first movie in a long time, right?
Lattanzi: Yeah! It was great. We got to play off each other. My mom got to pretend like she knew about anything to do with computers. And she hates guns, and she got to—I’m like, “Be violent!”
Kattan: Be violent, mom! Like in “Xanadu!”
Scerbo: They have a battle zone-slash-research center underneath the Sydney Opera House. Nova creates this crazy, insane army of girls. Masiela’s a part of it—what’s your character’s name again?
Scerbo: The names are the coolest, by the way.
Ferrante: They’re constellations.
Lattanzi: They’re kind of stripper names.
Ferrante: The other things, too, is they have a conflict this time. Fin has always been about—his family gets involved when he saves the day, but he’ll always been a hero. What [Scerbo’s] been doing, and what we didn’t see in the last movie, is she’s been getting frustrated with inefficiency in the government, so she’s basically created this alternate sisterhood to take care of it. And they have different views on how that works, and there’s really great drama going on in there.
Scerbo: I feel like the storyline really prevailed, and we got to play the most with our characters and our dynamics and the drama of it. It was really cool for Ian and I—Fin and Nova—just to have those moments that tie in everything from the beginning.
Onda: One of the things people love about these movies are the various shark kills. What’s the most outrageous kill in “Sharknado 5”?
Ziering: I think everyone’s got their own way of dealing with sharks.
Kattan: I hit one with a suitcase. I don’t know if it kills it.
Ziering: April has all these amazing powers now.
Reid: I have gadgets. I could fly now. I have lasers. It’s crazy.
Ziering: Gemini has …
Lusha: High kicks. That’s how I kill them—with my heel.
Ziering: Nova’s signature weapon is … the handgun?
Scerbo: It was the shotgun, but Nova’s just nuts. She’s always got a new weapon. Now she’s got the Wolverine claw.
Farrante: Oh, that’s actually a cool kill!
Scerbo: We’ve got a Wolverine kill, so that’s pretty cool.
Kattan: What—you have a Wolverine claw in this?
Scerbo: Yeah, it pops out of the glove.
Ziering: And the Pope doesn’t use his hands.
Fabio: I’ve got a chainsaw. The Pope with a chainsaw!
Farrante: The Pope uses his hair! The Pope does his hair, and the sharks fall from the sky.
Kattan: That’s the power of the Catholic Church.
Ziering: As an example of having to be fluid and malleable on the fly, we were shooting at Trevi Fountain [in Rome] at six in the morning, and we needed to mock up a chainsaw store. Fin’s signature weapon is the chainsaw, but as we’re working at Trevi Fountain, Anthony looks across from the fountain and there’s this magnificent church. He’s like, “We have to have the Pope give him the chainsaw.” That wasn’t even in the script. We had to write a quick scene, and then we were fortunate enough to get Fabio to come play with us, and we shot that later. That all came about instantaneously.
Farrante: And I was the Pope in Italy, and they had to kiss my hand, which was awesome.
Kattan: You played the part of Fabio’s hands?
“Sharknado 5: Global Swarming” premieres August 6 at 8 p.m. ET on SYFY.