The man responsible is Sharknado scripter Thunder Levin (whaddayamean, “People are actually paid to write these movies?” Show some respect!), who says he was just as surprised as everyone else when his creation blew up into a social media phenomenon.
“That was just the most surreal night of my life”, he recalls. “The cast and crew were supposed to be doing a live tweet where people were gonna ask us questions about the movie. I’d done that once before, and we had maybe 100 people asking questions… instead there was this torrent of tweets! Somebody would say something, you’d look down at the keyboard to type a response and by the time you looked back up at the screen, another 200 tweets had come through. So it very quickly became evident that something very strange was happening. The next morning I was woken up by phone calls and emails from people wanting to do interviews. It was really wild.”
And it wasn’t just your average Syfy viewers tweeting about the movie as it aired, either. So were the likes of Mia Farrow, and a certain big-name Hollywood screenwriter.
“Damon Lindelof - I was trading tweets with him! That was pretty extraordinary. I had a bit of fun at his expense too. A friend of mine, Jon Spaihts, wrote the first draft of Prometheus , and then Damon Lindelof came in to do some rewriting so it became no longer a direct Alien prequel. So that night, when Damon Lindelof said that he was gonna write the sequel to Sharknado and have it finished before Sharknado was off the air, I said, ‘Okay, but I think it should be a prequel, only not really!’ And he responded, 'Touché!'”
In reality, it takes a little bit longer to write a Sharknado sequel...
“It took about a month”, Levin says. “But the story process actually took several months because, unlike the first one, where I was pretty much left alone to do my thing, because this was now a sequel to a very popular movie, everybody wanted to be involved.”
The more cynical amongst you might assume that writing a movie like this is basically a matter of coming up with a handful of trailer-friendly moments of eye-popping shark-based insanity, then joining the dots.
“That’s not how the first one happened”, Levin clarifies. “With the first one I just sat down and thought, 'Okay, a hurricane hits Los Angeles and spins off tornados and they suck up sharks. Now what could happen?!' And I just went with it. But for this one, we were doing two separate processes – one was coming up with the story that’d take our existing characters through New York, and the other was, ‘What kind of crazy stuff do we want to have happen?’ So we had a list of things that we wanted to do with the sharks, and I had to make sure that as many as possible fitted into the story.”
But can any of that “crazy stuff” hope to match the moment from the first film where the hero leaps into the mouth of a falling shark, then chainsaws his way out the other end ?
“That was a very big question that people kept asking me: ‘What's gonna be that moment?’ I think the answer is that there's no way to top it. I didn’t want to do the same kind of thing, only bigger – I wanted to find something different. But still everybody remembers that, so there had to be some kind of insane, special moment that would take the place of that at the climax of the film.”
“During the early part of the process, people would ask, ‘What's the big moment gonna be?' and I’d say, 'I'm not sure, but I'll figure it out by the time I get there!' I probably had a lot of people worried about that, but I always knew it’d work out. Then when I got to about page 10 in the script, the moment came to me, and I called up the director and told him my idea, and he loved it. Then I made him promise not to tell anybody! So while I was writing the script, there were some very frustrated producers, but when they read the first draft everybody loved it, and I'm very excited for the audience to see it.”
So has being The Guy Who Wrote That Crazy Shark Movie been good for Levin, or a millstone round his neck? Mostly the former, it turns out.
“On my tombstone it will say, ‘The writer of Sharknado ’”, he wryly acknowledges. “It's been a great boon for my career, though. I've been getting a lot of professional attention that I wasn’t getting before, and hopefully that will lead to much bigger and better things. The only drawback is that now when I talk to people about projects, they're expecting something wild and crazy, but most of the stuff that I’ve written and directed has been more serious. I go into meetings wanting to pitch these serious dark thrillers and they're expecting sharks falling from the sky! So it’s a double-edged sword, but it's been a wild ride and I wouldn't trade it for anything.”
Sharknado 2: The Second One debuts in the UK on Syfy at 2.15am on Thursday 31 July (shortly after the US premiere), and is then repeated at 9.00pm the same day.