"Hey, baby...What do you say? My snake, your plane?"
At this year's Comic-Con, I was able to set down with crew members from the highly anticipated Summer "funcore" flick Snakes on a Plane. Here's what David Ellis whispered in my ear before thwaking me on the ankle with a stick...
Snakes on a "MF" Plane has become an Internet phenomenon. So much so that director David Ellis has critic proofed any and all screenings, claiming that the film is strictly for the fans. I asked him about this, and he told me that it was his decision. The studio totally backed him up on this notion. I then went on to ask if he'd let Roger Ebert view it before hand, since he's in the hospital and this is exactly the type of film that he'd love, especially since he was in favor of Ellis' last two films Final Destination 2 and Cellular, "I'm sorry that Roger is in the hospital, but the only way any critic should see this film is at 10 o'clock at night with the fans. I guess he'll have to wait."
"You're not worried about the film being forever associated with the wagging finger of shame?"
David Ellis loves "fun" movies. He doesn't consider this in the same league as something like Pirates. And that allows him to stick a little closer to the "Funcore" esthetic. "I'm just living the dream." He's extremely happy with the film in every reguard and thinks that the fans will be too, "It's fucking awesome. When I took this picture, I had no idea that it would get such a huge response. I told my wife what I was considering making, and she was very skeptical, "Oh, that sounds just great." And I considered passing, but there was this huge pile of bills sitting in the corner. And this was the third film in a row that New Line had asked me to work on. The only other director they've offered that to was Peter Jackson. After I read the script, I actually thought it was pretty cool. But I never thought it would turn into a phenomenon."
Ellis is almost more excited about the film than most of the fans who have posted enthusiastic statements on the many Snakes blogs plauqing the Internet. "I can't wait till people see it, because it rocks. It's really entertaining. I just hope it lives up to the hype. I don't think we're going to have too many complaints. There are two types of fans. Those that are waiting to watch Sam kick ass on this plane. And then those that skeptical and want to see it just to see if it sucks as bad as they think it might."
When asked about the reshoot, Ellis seems quite optimistic about it. He was relived that they asked him to go back, "When I came on, it was an R rate film. And that was the film I wanted to make. But then New Line thought we'd reach a broader audience with a PG-13 rated film. I fought that. I mean, in a PG-13 rated film Sam Jackson can only say "Fuck!" once. Then I showed New Line the finished picture, and they decided that it definitely had to be R. We had to show those bites. In PG-13, we would have to cut away from them. This is a Snake movie. People don't want the watered down version."
About renaming the film, Ellis told me that, "We were never going to rename the film. But we'd go to certain locations and actors and show them the script, and they weren't taking it seriously. So we changed the name to get people to look at it seriously. And it worked in our favor because the Internet fans started bugging out about it. It was the buzz."
I asked if Lynn Shay was his institution, "Yeah, she has got to be in all of my movies. Forever. I love her. I would have killed her in Final Destination 2, but I didn;t know her that well when I was making that feature."
What about the actors, did they ever freak out on set? Ellis told me that, "A lot of people freaked out. But it was so cool. I loved it. I'd keep this little baby rattler in my pocket and then hit someone with a stick at the ankles from behind. It was a lot of fun watching them jump in the air."
Was there anything else David could tell us about the film? "Well, there are plenty of surprises throughout the film. It's crazy. The designs of the snakes needed to look real. They couldn't look like CGI'd snakes. We worked really hard on that. In the beginning, I was worried that it might not work. But then they'd bring me video of six real snakes and 1 CGI snake and ask me to pick out the digital one. Once I couldn't pick it out of the group, I knew we were on the right track. I knew the film was going to be great."
His final words to me were, "I'm just trying to make the film good. And make it beyond peoples expectations. I think I succeeded in doing that."
Thank you, Mr. Ellis.