If Beale Street Could Talk
Jenkins’ decision to let the original storyteller live and breathe throughout If Beale Street Can Talk is a wise one.
Amid all the summer superheroes and blockbuster sequels, no movie has captured the 2013 movie zeitgeist as a low-budget movie for the Syfy channel. Of course, I am speaking of "Sharknado." And yes, it is about a shark-filled tornado. Its tagline is simple, but effective: "Enough said."
It was a pleasure to speak with "Sharknado"'s screenwriter, Thunder Levin, who is amused, delighted, and perhaps a little bit dazed by the reception for the film. He told me what a scientist had to say about this idea, what the movie has in common with "Snakes on a Plane," and the famous fans he was most excited to hear from.
What was your goal when you began to write the script?
To have as much fun as we could. The script I turned in should have cost $100 million to make. And they had $1 million. My vision would have been even bigger. I had flaming sharks at one point falling from the sky. And the whole thing was about LA being hit by a hurricane and flooded with water. We were shooting on sunny days, so it was limited how big it could finally be. The main thing was to have fun with it and not believe it could ever be too over the top. The big moment at the end with the chainsaw and anything, there was some concern expressed that maybe it was going to far. My response was, "It's called 'Sharknado.' We can't go too far."
Yes, I think that should be the tagline for the sequel. Were you presented with the title?
They came to me with the title. I had made another movie with the production company, Asylum, last year. Everybody was pretty happy with it and we were talking about what to do next. They were talking about a movie to be called "Shark Storm." I said, "Is this a straight movie with sharks attacking during a storm or is this going to be some crazy storm of sharks?" They said, "sharks attacking during a storm," and that didn't really interest me. Apparently, about the same time, SyFy had decided they wanted to make a movie called "Sharknado." And so somehow the guys from Syfy were talking to the guys from Asylum and they discovered they both wanted to make a sharks in a storm movie. So they basically combined the projects and kept the better title. They said, "We want you to write a movie called 'Sharknado,'" and I said, "What do sharks have to do with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization? Are they invading Europe?" I was thinking of NATO!
That's a different species of sharks. So you have the title, and then what?
They had about half a page of notes, the stuff they'd like to see. I started from a fairly—I hesitate to use this word—realistic place about what would happen if LA was hit by a hurricane. We're in the desert and our streets flood if there is five minutes of rain. If there's a big rainstorm that's the news all day, like two feet of snow in DC or New York. The city is not equipped to deal with it. It's called the LA basin for a reason. It's basically a shallow basin. So, if a hurricane hit Los Angeles, that much rain and a storm surge, the city would basically become like a lake. How would you get around and all of those problems. So I started with that premise, and then I added sharks! And tornadoes! And just kept going. If the ocean is washing into the city, why couldn't there be sharks in the water? And if a hurricane spun off a tornado, which often occurs and creates a water spout, why couldn't sharks be sucked up? There are verified cases of smaller fish being sucked up into water spouts and being deposited miles inland and so I took that to the next perfectly logical extreme. I don't know why anyone wouldn't find that believable!
Have you heard from any marine biologists or meteorologists about this idea?
Not directly, but I've read stuff online. Just a few days ago there was a quote from a JPL scientist who said that said it is incredibly unlikely but it is theoretically possible that sharks could be sucked into a tornado. It would have to be an F5 tornado and and there would have to be sharks there, but I felt vindicated!
What has been the best moment for you in the reactions to the movie?
The most amazing thing was trading tweets with Damon Lindeloff during the first broadcast. He tweeted that he would have a sequel written before the movie was done airing. I tweeted back that it should be a prequel, and he tweeted "touché" and we tweeted back and forth. To think that the guy behind "Lost" and "Prometheus" is trading tweets with me, about this ridiculous movie on Syfy, incredible. And Mia Farrow and Philip Roth tweeted about it! That's just bizarre and surreal and amazing.
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