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America may have never known the phenomenon of Sharknado.
Why? Syfy’s campy B-movie about a tornado filled with sharks, led by Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, was almost called Dark Skies, actress Cassie Scerbo reveals to The Hollywood Reporter. When director Anthony Ferrante broke the news to the cast that the title would likely have to change, bringing up the possibility of Sharknado, Scerbo thought it was a joke: “There’s no way!”
“Just you wait, this name will actually do so much for the project,” she recalls Ferrante telling the cast on-set. For a low-budget project, the escapist title definitely caught the attention of viewers on Twitter, generating hundreds of thousands of tweets — peaking at one point with a 5,000 tweets-per-minute average.
“I’m completely stunned and blown away,” says Scerbo of the day-after coverage, rattling off news organizations like E! News and the Today show as airing segments. “This funny little film we did called Sharknado has caused so much buzz, I would have never imagined. It’s literally caused more buzz than anything else I’ve ever done. I had no idea that it was going to turn into this phenomenon.”
She adds: “I’m happy that people went along with it; they got the point. We clearly signed on to this knowing this wasn’t a serious, serious film. We’re going to have a blast, it’s going to be fun and everyone’s going to roll with the punches. That’s exactly what we wanted. We just hoped everyone enjoyed it as much as we did when we were filming.”
The Hollywood Reporter: What was it like filming Sharknado?
Cassie Scerbo: The crazy thing about it is [Nova] was kind of a challenging role. It sounds silly. You have to imagine everything that goes on. This is one of the most over-the-top, insane, ridiculous [TV movies], so we really had to imagine crazy things. We had to imagine sharks being blown up in tornadoes, which is hard to do because you’re like, “Is my reaction too big? Is it too small?” Because we’re on greenscreen and on a sound stage this whole time, like, “I wonder what Ian or Tara are doing. Am I making crazy faces because this is what I would feel like and this is what I think I’d look like if I saw sharks flying in the sky.” [Laughs] It was filmed in January in California, so we were freezing. Everything on Sharknado somehow, for some reason, something went wrong with everything. The days we had the water towers, they weren’t working. We had one scene in April’s house that was actually a set built inside of a pool. The water heaters didn’t work. We were in, no joke, 20-degree water, at four in the morning. I was just scared getting hypothermia shooting this thing. It was one big adventure.
THR: The title perfectly encapsulates that feeling. Can you talk about that?
Scerbo: It was actually supposed to be called Dark Skies, which was a film that had already come out, which is why I’m guessing they changed it. (Sci-fi/horror film Dark Skies was released February 2013 and starred Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton.) When our director, Anthony Ferrante, came on-set and was like, “Guys, we think we have to change the title. We’re thinking about Sharknado.” We actually thought it was a joke. We were like, “Ha-ha, that’s funny.” He was like, “No, I’m serious.” We were dying. “There’s no way!” Tara and I kept doing this voice: “Cassie Scerbo. Ian Ziering. Tara Reid. [changes into deeper, dramatic voice] Sharknado.” We were dying. We were like, “This is ridiculous and embarrassing.” He was like, “Just you wait, this name will actually do so much for the project.” We were like, “All right, whatever!” And here it’s trending for more than 24 hours. I can’t even believe it. [Laughs]
THR: What was the most ridiculous scene to film?
Scerbo: Besides everything? [Laughs] It was like a big playground for an actor. The craziest, most ridiculous scene for me was when we were in the helicopter, which was clearly on a sound stage. We have this whole choreography [for the scene]. I mean, I wouldn’t know how to set off a bomb; apparently the way that they designed the bombs in the movie, if that was done in real life, they would actually go off. That’s an actual way to make a bomb. The wind is blowing, our poor PAs are rocking the chopper back and forth, and it was so hilarious when I had to take that knife and stab into the air, I was like, “You have to film this. I need to send this to my family so they can laugh at me. This is the most ridiculous thing!” That was probably the funniest part. They were like, “It doesn’t look like there’s any tension on the way up, so I’m sitting there midair trying to make it [look real]. The most ridiculous thing in probably movie history is when I get chain-sawed out of the shark.
THR: That was my next question: The ending when your character, Nova, and Ian’s character, Fin, get chain-sawed out of the shark was memorable for so many different reasons. Talk about filming the finale.
Scerbo: That was filmed in the parking lot on the beach at 7 o’clock, when it’s the most freezing, especially when you’re by the water. I remember sitting under this fake shark, and the blood they put on you is not just a watery substance, it’s a goop from literally head to toe. It’s apparently what they put in milkshakes. Ian and I were laughing inside the shark shivering with the gooiest, thickest blood covered all over. Even though it was disgusting, it was fun. We were laughing a couple of times when he actually had to pull me out. It’s Syfy channel, and clearly people who are going to watch that type of film know it’s going to be over-the-top. At first when I read it, I thought this was crazy and so ridiculous, but you know what, this is perfect. This is Sharknado. This is icing on the cake that somehow Fin winds up in the same shark that Nova’s in, chain-saws them both out of it!
THR: What sort of direction were you given by Anthony?
Scerbo: Underneath that little shark that you see, we had heaters because I was dying. I think they were getting nervous that I was going into shock, no joke. I was so cold. My character was unconscious, so I didn’t have much to do. So for that specific scene, it was toward the end of shooting, Anthony was like “You know what guys, this is the finale, so just go for it.” Not necessarily to me but to Ian. “Come out of that thing just screaming,” and Ian did! If you were really coming out of a shark, you would be coming out screaming, gasping for air. I was annoyed that I didn’t end up with Fin. I was like [gasps] “What?! She has to get CPR by his son?” and winds up with his son. I was like, “What?! What’s going on here?” I have to give kudos to Anthony because he shot a film that, for what it was — with the amount of CGI and insane shots of blood, guts that there was — the budget was so low for that type of movie. I can’t believe he pulled it together and with the amount of time we had; we shot it in not even a month.
THR: When Fin is going into the shark with the chain saw, how did he not miss Nova’s head?
Scerbo: Hey, it’s Syfy channel, it’s just that sci-fi magic. I just happened in that time to be leaning toward the other side of the shark, and when [Fin] went in, it just missed my head by like a centimeter. [Laughs]
THR: There are already talks about possibly doing a sequel. If they came to you, would you want to do it?
Scerbo: I would definitely do it. I have a good sense of humor with this type of stuff, and I take it for what it is, and I’m there to enjoy the ride, have fun. I would definitely do a sequel. I really like the fact that I get to play a bad-ass character; this is my Lara Croft moment, as nerdy as it sounds. Maybe this will open [people’s] eyes [for me] to be doing some more action stuff. I would love to do that again for a second film.
Syfy will re-air Sharknado on July 18 at 7 p.m.
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