Ian Ziering would like nothing more than to brag about his savvy show-biz instincts.
He wishes he could say he agreed to star in Sharknado, Syfy channel’s campy nature-goes-nuts movie, because he had a gut feeling it would be the pop-culture/social-media sensation of summer 2013.
But as Sharknado 2: The Second One stages a much-anticipated rematch between the chainsaw-wielding Ziering and nasty flying sharks, the real story comes out.
“I didn’t have the vision and foresight to see the potential of this movie,” Ziering says. “I didn’t think it was going to be what it turned out to be.
“But my wife said, ‘Look, you’ve got to work so you can make your insurance quota.’ I have a family. I’m a provider. I had to make sure I had coverage from the union. So I took the job, thinking I was taking one for the team.
“I also thought, ‘Oh, well, what the heck. No one’s going to see this movie anyway.’ Boy, was I wrong. And now my wife doesn’t hesitate to say, ‘I told you so.’ ”
Sharks on Wall Street
In Sharknado 2, premiering at 8 p.m. Wednesday, a new onslaught of twisters carry in thousands of sharks that take a bite out of the Big Apple. It’s up to Ziering and Tara Reid (as Fin and April) and a few new allies to save New York City.
The new movie is more ambitious than the original in almost every way — with a bigger budget, a more outrageous plot, crazier stunts, splashier special effects, unlikely celebrity cameos and so many sharks that Fin’s gonna need a bigger chainsaw.
This isn’t to say that Sharknado 2 is a good movie. Like the original, it’s deliberately bad, created in the spirit of cheapie B-movies that become cult favorites. As such, it’s completely critic-proof.
“I remember when I read the first one,” Reid says. “I went out to dinner that night with friends and I was telling them about it: sharks flying in the skies over Beverly Hills! My friends were laughing so hard. They were like, ‘This sounds amazing! It’s so funny! You have to do this!’
“So the next day I called my agent and said, ‘Let’s do it,’ never knowing it would become a phenomenon.”
Director Anthony C. Ferrante didn’t anticipate the outbreak of Sharknado Fever either.
“With genre movies like this — and I’ve done a lot of them as a director and as a writer — you have your core audience,” he says. “But somehow the mainstream became attracted to this movie.
“I think it’s because there was something so silly about the title. It seemed ridiculous, but when you saw the trailer, it looked like a big studio movie, or at least it was trying to be.
“So people watched, partly to see if we would fail. Some loved it. Some hated it. They all made fun of it. They had a blast.”
On the night that the original premiered, the buzz on Twitter reached a peak of 5,000 tweets per minute.
“Social media is what took us to the next level,” Reid says. “It kind of exploded, to a worldwide level that we weren’t expecting.”
“In this business, you get your 15 minutes of fame and then it’s up,” Ferrante says. “But Sharknado just kept going and going.”
The premiere in July 2013 brought in about 1.4 million viewers. A week later, Syfy re-aired it and got 1.9 million. A week after that, another encore broadcast brought in 2.1 million.
“Then we went into movie theaters,” Ferrante marvels. “Then we went international.”
Plans to make a sequel were quickly announced — and a movie franchise was born.
“It’s kind of a surreal experience,” says Ziering, whose main claim to fame before Sharknado was 10 seasons of Beverly Hills 90210. “Keep in mind, this is a TV movie.
“But the fan response, not just here in the United States but globally, has been overwhelming. We caught lightning in a bottle.”
Here’s another way to gauge how big Sharknado Mania has become. “No one cared when we were making the first movie,” Ferrante says. “But on this one, shooting on the streets of New York, we had paparazzi everywhere.”
Incredibly, it all started with a throwaway line in a throwaway movie.
“I wrote a movie for Syfy called Leprechaun’s Revenge,” Ferrante says, “and I put a reference to a Sharknado in it.”
In the story, there was a cover-up. People were trying to keep news about grisly leprechaun attacks from getting out. “So someone says, ‘We don’t want to have what happened in that town over there. Remember the Sharknado? They never lived that down.’ ”
The next thing Ferrante knew, network executives were asking him to turn the jokey line into a tongue-in-cheek disaster movie.
“I always liked the title,” he says. “You would tell people the title and they would just start laughing. But when we started shooting the movie, it was called Dark Skies because, when they tried to go out and cast the film as Sharknado, no one wanted to be in it. No one embraced what it was initially.
“Later, my actors were about ready to kill me when they found out that it might be called Sharknado. But they like me now!”