When I heard that Sharknado 6 was going to be The Last Sharknado, I was inspired to write a Freditorial about how nothing guarantees another sequel like calling the next one “final.” Sharknado franchise director Anthony C. Ferrante knows this too. He was a horror fan and journalist himself and also references the two “final” Friday the 13ths like I did (neither were the last one).
What Ferrante means by The Last Sharknado is that it is the end of this six part saga with the cast. He fully expects Syfy or Asylum to make more, whether it’s a reboot or an offshoot with new characters, or maybe even one day with him again. But after a movie every year, he wanted to give this saga a sendoff with the original cast.
Not that Ian Ziering and Tara Reid have ever objected to returning, but schedules are what they are. If they’re still available and interested to do more, great, but what would suck is if they kept leaving Sharknado open ended, and then suddenly they had to conclude it without the original cast. When you think about it, it’s remarkable for a franchise to hold onto its cast for six movies in a row. The Fast and the Furious didn’t (until they came back). Even Back to the Future had to switch up some actors in Part II.
Franchise Fred approves of this and will actually make an addendum to his final chapter theory. Final doesn’t have to mean “the end of the franchise” to be valuable. It can mark a turning point, a full circle, a closure moment for a group of talent, or their fictional characters. That’s what The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time will be when it premieres Sunday night on Syfy, until the next one! (Come back Monday, I’ve got another spoiler interview with Ferrante after you’ve seen The Last Sharknado.)
Franchise Fred: Thank you for being a good sport about my theory. You’re here trying to make The Last Sharknado and I’m already predicting there’ll be more.
Anthony Ferrante: Look, I lived through two final Friday the 13ths so I know it. I get it. Yeah, there will probably be something else but we end our story here and it’ll be a new beginning at some other point. I think also whereas Friday the 13th, in both instances, The Final Chapter and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, I think when they were making those movies, they were planning to end the movies. At the end of The Final Chapter, Tommy Jarvis kills Jason horribly and mutilates him and then you go, “Oh, well, Tommy Jarvis is going to be the next killer.” When they went into The New Beginning, you kind of saw that because they didn’t know what to do. Then they just said, “Screw it, in the next movie, Jason has to come back.” In Jason Goes to Hell, they completely upended the entire mythology but they wanted to say, “Look, we’re going to end it again.”
I think we had a plan. We knew that it’s The Last Sharknado and it’s ending. We make it clean enough that you can start over without it being some strange thing where it’s Roy the Janitor that’s suddenly saving the world.
FF: I agree, they always mean it at the time they say it’s the final chapter. What I love is once they do it, creativity doesn’t end. Someone starts thinking of new ideas.
AF: Yeah, I just didn’t want to squander the opportunity. Look, if this thing goes through the roof with ratings, they’ll do it again. The issue with this movies is we keep having to top ourselves. We went to space in 3 and still found a way to top ourselves in the subsequent movies. I feel like we topped ourselves with this one. At a certain point it does have to kind of reset. It has to reboot and you have to now find what that new thing is if you’re going to continue this. There’s a lot of little Easter eggs and a lot of call backs and a lot of things I purposely put in there because this movie, we don’t have to worry about anything going into this. All we have to worry about is ending it properly, so we can take risks and we can take chances and we can focus on little tiny things within the history of Sharknado and spend time on it because we don’t have to worry about, “What if they don’t come back next year for #7?” That was the fun part about this.
FF: Do you think after you’ve had a break, maybe in 10 years or so, maybe you could have more Sharknado ideas to get the band back together?
AF: Look, I love Sharknado. I’ve never said I don’t want to do Sharknado. I love the franchise and I will always have an affinity for it. If we have a great story and we want to come back and do, never say never. It’s been a big part of my life for six years. There’s still more stories to tell. There’s still stuff to do. There just needs to be space. We’ve been going full speed ahead for six movies. We’ve done a lot more than bigger gigantic franchises in the same amount of time. It is good to be able to take a break and recharge.
It’s Asylum’s property. They’ll figure out what they want to do at some point. They’re very loyal to everybody. They’ll come back and say, “Hey, are you guys interested? Do you want to do this?” Then we’ll see what happens. I think for me, this is the end of a six movie franchise. This is wrapping it up. There was discussion at one point, should we have a cliffhanger? No, we’ve done cliffhangers. It’s over. Just end it because it’s a clean slate. At some point a character even says, “time for a reboot.” I think that’s kind of what needs to happen. We’ve taken this journey as far as it can go.
FF: When you set up the time travel in Sharknado 5, did you know back then that 6 was probably going to be the last Sharknado?
AF: Yeah, we knew that it would probably be the last movie regardless of the ratings. Again, you’re in your sixth film and in a cool way it’s kind of like two trilogies. We always kind of planted seeds. There was always stuff that I had in the back of my head. In the fourth movie when Cassie [Scerbo] didn’t come back, I had this thing in my head that there was a sharknado sisterhood and that Gemini was part of the sisterhood. That idea was rejected initially at Syfy. They didn’t want us to say there was a sisterhood. I liked the idea that Nova put somebody there to protect Fin.
When we got to the fifth movie, the sisterhood came back and I was able to deliver that yes, Gemini was part of the sisterhood and that created more conflict. As far as I was concerned when I was making it, Gemini was part of the sisterhood in four. We didn’t say it outright, but that was always in the back of my head even though it wasn’t an idea that was completely embraced until we got to the fifth film.
Going into the sixth film, being a fan and genre fan and and journalist, I really hate when things are retconneed to serve the purpose of a story. Like you’re on a fifth season of a TV series and somebody goes, “Oh, here’s my cousin Jed and now he’s part of the team. Bye, I’ve got to go to Missouri for the next 10 years.” It just feels weird because we’ve never seen Jed.
I have a very specific philosophy about what sharknados are and it’s been that way from the beginning. As we progressed, we started veering into like the fourth movie, now they’re being formed through Astro X but it’s still not the initial disaster part of that. That was very conscious that we never said that Astro X is responsible for it. In the fifth movie, we knew we wanted to say that sharknados had been around since prehistoric times.
FF: Is time travel really the last frontier for Sharknado?
AF: I think a long time ago [screenwriter] Thunder [Levin] said aliens but I just don’t think aliens would ever work in Sharknado. Never say never. Once we’ve done time travel, which was a joke I said when we were doing the first movie. I said, “If there’s ever a sequel, there’s a tornado so powerful we send them back to prehistoric times.” That was me joking. That was like they’ll never do that because there’ll never be a sequel. And then there was a sequel and it was New York and five movies later we’re doing prehistoric. So never say never with these movies.
But I also knew, because we were doing the sixth movie and because I wanted to adhere to my rules, I was okay with saying the stuff’s been around forever. But the reason it started is Gil, who got sucked up in the beginning of the fifth movie, goes back in time. If you go back and look at the cave painting, it’s signed by Gil. Everything that happened in the fifth movie was Gil’s first attempt to help his dad save the world. The gear shifts and all the weird stuff in Egyptian was left by Gil. We still had a scene with the snakes eating the tail that there may be a first sharknado, but it was caused because of all the stuff that went through the course of the fifth film.
By the time we get to the end of the movie, we still don’t have a concrete answer. That’s the way I wanted it to be. We also knew going into it he’s going to pick him up and time travel so Gil’s going to pick him up at the end of the movie. So I gave him the staff and I had him carry around Tara’s head in that sack. That was established at the end of five. I knew once we had those pieces, we could use that in the next film. I didn’t know what we would do with it. The fun part about it is Tara’s head becomes a huge component of number six and I don’t think in the history of film, a main character’s head has ever been that significant to a plot of a movie.
That’s the absurdity and beauty of these movies. We have this history. We have a ridiculousness to these movies but the ridiculousness actually works because a lot of it comes from the mythology of these characters and what we’ve established with them. It’s not suddenly we decide Tara’s a robot. She’s kind of been a partial robot since number four. She’s had a robot hand since three. We’ve slowly progressed to a point where we earn the craziness that comes in six.
FF: Traveling through time in The Last Sharknado, did you get to do every other genre you left out in the first five?
AF: Yeah, we kind of had obvious things we wanted to do. We knew old west and prehistoric were no brainers. Then it was sort of mystery meat about the other things. Knights came up. There was actually a draft of the script where the renaissance era was there with Da Vinci but we kind of felt it was a little redundant and it didn’t give us enough to play with. It was also going to be incredibly complicated. So we landed on the Revolutionary War.
There was talk of World War II at some point and Noah’s Ark was in a treatment at one point. It came down to, “Let’s do Noah’s Ark but what is it about? What can we do? It’s going to be all visual effects and can we do anything that’s different than what we do in prehistoric with the dinosaurs.” It’s always balancing that stuff. We liked the idea of the Revolutionary War because it would be fun to play with George Washington and Hamilton and Ben Franklin. Each thing is a mini movie so every two days we were doing a different movie.
You also have Nova who’s unhinged and she has her own agenda and he’s trying to hold it together. It’s a movie where he’s trying to control things he can’t control and then the heart of all of this, the biggest heart and the biggest sacrifice that he has to make in this film is that he has to watch his son grow up through time and he can’t interact or interfere, otherwise everything will get screwed up. If he succeeds, to destroy the sharknado, if he succeeds with whatever he has to do to clean up the stuff in time, there is the chance his son will never exist. That’s heartbreaking.
For a silly movie like Sharknado, that’s a heavy theme. The actors sold it and I think there’s enough of it in there, people that like these characters and the franchise, it’s a really big theme to think about. Like, if I look forward and continue to do this, I will lose one of the things I love the most. That’s a true hero and that’s the sacrifice. That’s the stuff I’m proud of with these movies, that we can make people happy and have a good time but I love these characters as much as anybody that loves the sharknado movies and I want to honor them.
FF: You always do something fun musically with “The Ballad of Sharknado.” How did you come up with the remix for The Last Sharknado?
AF: We always put together animation sequences for the main titles, and this year we hired Timothy Hopkins who did an amazing job. I told him I wanted to create something that looked like a Saturday Morning TV show. When we knew we were doing that, I went to my musical writing partner Robbie Rist and said we need to do a Saturday Morning cartoon version of (The Ballad of) Sharknado. Robbie’s an amazing arranger and figured out how to make it happen. We’ve got some great people on the track including Susie Rose Major contributing vocals and Darnell “Trumpet” Dude Phillips who contributed all the horn layers. Mixing and mastering credit goes to the amazing Joel Valder. It was a really fun, new approach to the song and I love how it all came together and perfectly augmented the animation track. We also wrote a new song “Do the Shark” for the 1950s sequence and our band plays on the beach performing that song. So that was fun as well.
FF: What new things do you want to do next? Of course I know you can do different things, but has the industry typecast you as the Sharknado guy?
AF: It’s opened up a lot of different doors. I love horror films but I also now own that I like making people happy and smile and pop culture fun stuff. I think it’s a balance. I did a thriller two years ago called Forgotten Evil which was completely different than anything I’ve done. I wrote that for Masiela Lusha. If there’s stuff that interests me and stuff that works, I’m there. What is the story and what is the character saying? That’s what happened with Sharknado>. I found the heart in the story and that’s how I could connect with it.
We shot a pilot presentation for a TV show last fall called Farway Canyon. It’s based on a comic book. The comic book itself was what if the atomic age monsters, gigantic spiders and all that stuff, what if they all exist in our present day but no one knew about it? I go, what if there’s a town where it’s the 1950s and yet it’s present day and these monsters exist? Somebody goes into that world and then you have the mystery in the TV show of why this thing exists. Why is it still 1950s there and how do I get out of this? Have I time traveled, have I done this, have I done that? That definitely has that fun tone that I’ve kind of established in the Sharkando movies but there’s a lot going on with it. Masiela Lusha is the star of that.
I have a couple other scrips we’ve been trying to set up for a while so it’s just finding the material. I will always lean on the stuff that gets my attention and makes me want to make it. The industry look at me differently because I did Sharknado. Before, I was this fringe horror guy and now, “Okay, you make silly movies.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making silly movies because that’s what’s happening in the mainstream.
I think there’s just a budget divide between an Ant-Man and a Sharknado. They obviously have more money, more resources, a lot of time but there’s a commonality DNA of we’re just trying to make people have a good time. We’ll see where that leads.
FF: That show sounds cool but they’re not asking you to make everything as broad and silly as Sharknado.
AF: Right. It’s grounded. The character beat is that her grandfather sent her some coordinates and a weird things. She followed it and she ended up going into this world and has to figure it out. She’s also searching for her grandfather. The heart is trying to find that. I’ve always liked strong female characters. There’s a lot of great strong female characters in Sharknado. I love the idea of taking two modern women, putting them into the 1950s mindset and aesthetics and the culture divide and the gender divide. There’s an interesting dynamic there that I think, if we explore over the course of 10 seasons, it’ll be kind of fun. Not politicizing it but just the idea of putting characters that are really strong in a situation where they’re not expected to be strong and defying that expectation is fun. I think it has the potential of being a modern Buffy kind of thing but in a different kind of way.