On July 31st, Syfy will unleash Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, picking up five years after we last saw Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) battling the titular forces of nature, and with the story heading to Las Vegas this time around, rest assured that all bets are off.

Daily Dead recently caught up with Sharknado 4 director Anthony Ferrante and scream queen Caroline Williams, who has a role in the latest sequel, to hear more about what fans can expect from The 4th Awakens and how Ferrante was able to pay homage to several of his favorite horror movies in this latest installment, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, of course.

Anthony, you’ve been with Sharknado since the beginning and here you are, back for a fourth film. Can you start off by talking about what’s new for The 4th Awakens?

Anthony Ferrante: Each one of these movies, we've been able to do something a little different, which is probably why I like coming back to Sharknado. We get to play with different genres. The first one's the first one that exists. For the second one, we got to do a big New York movie, where we got to go to all the landmarks and that was a completely different experience. That was awesome. In the third one, we crammed three movies into one. We had White House Down with sharks, we got to do this thriller terrorist movie, and we got to do an amusement park disaster movie, too. We even got to go to space, which we never told anybody about the space stuff in the last one. That was a surprise. We didn't just do ten minutes—we made it a big deal where we went to the Kennedy Space Center.

In this one, we had a bunch of cities we had touched on, but we also did a mini-pirate movie, too. One thing that happened a lot after the first movie was that everybody kept saying sharks can't exist in tornadoes. They're not sharks, they're not tornadoes, it's a Sharknado. The rules are whatever we make them to be. When we went into the second movie, it was like, look if we decide that sharks get to take down an airplane, they can. Once you accept that, you could do whatever and you don't have to explain things, then you're free to do whatever you want. You can mess with everything you’d want to.

Even in this movie, Tommy Davidson plays a tech guy that figured out how to stop tornadoes, but nature always finds a way. It's like, we always tease something, but we never give in to it. In terms of the crazy stuff, I always keep thinking that there isn't anything left to say, but we always find a way. We always have crazy ideas left over.

Caroline Williams: It’s like what you did with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. It was its 30th anniversary, I had been Facebooking him and bothering him for a couple years. Finally, he thought, “What the hell, why not?” So what can you fight a Sharknado with? Chainsaws. Who's the best person to sell Fin the saws? Stretch and her wacky family, and they did the most amazing job with the art direction. They really recreated that world in those moments and we got to have some wonderful scenes. It's almost like a Western with Stretch and her family drawing down on the Sharknado. It's amazing to be a part of this because it has such a rabid following. Even my sons are Sharknado fans.

We’ve seen that fandom spill over into the casting of the Sharknado films before, which really adds to the fun of these movies. Will we see more of that in the fourth one, Anthony?

Anthony Ferrante: We have twins playing Fin's five-year-old in the movie and apparently they watched the third one and when they saw the baby being born, they went, "We want to play Fin's son." We found that out from the parents, and so we cast them, and I thought being able to pay that fandom forward was neat.

Caroline Williams: I have to say, virtually the entire roster of stars are fans of Sharknado and are beyond excited to participate. The guy that's handling my signing opportunity in the sale room with Anthony today is a fan of Sharknado. He goes, "Can you get me in the movie?" The guy running the elevator last night wants to be in the movie. Everybody wants to be in Sharknado [laughs].

You guys turn these around so fast. How much of that schedule dictates what you do with each Sharknado?

Anthony Ferrante: There are always things that come. Some days sets are not there or props are not there, either. We don't go, "All right, let's stop and come back to this on Day 70." We go, "Okay, we don't have this, so this is what we're doing instead." In the moment, you're creating a sequence or creating something with what you have because you only have 15 days and you have to deliver an 85-minute movie at the end of making the film one way or another.

One of the examples of going with the flow: I have this obsession with this 1930s car that I wanted in the movie that was playing with a gag later on, and all we needed was to have David Hasselhoff and Ryan Newman run to the vehicle and then have them digitally get sucked up into the storm.

We found out from the owners that had it, it actually functions and works. I asked them, "Well, can we have them drive around?" And they said we could, so I shoved the Hoff and Ryan Newman in the vehicle, we got our camera guy, and we drove around while I just yelled random lines for them to say from the backseat. It made that moment something more and it's those organic things that you just have to go with. I sometimes say Sharknados are made from this unknown energy, and for us, that is the energy of desperation, and in that desperation you can get the magic.

Caroline Williams: As an actor I have to tell you, it is so contemporaneous working on a film like this. It's so spontaneous and it is very in the moment. Having things thrown at you and being able to come up with your own idea, it was thrilling. I love it. It's reminded me of the old days of guerrilla filmmaking. It really felt like that to me.

Anthony Ferrante: Another organic thing was when we were in Vegas shooting and we had the Chippendales there. We weren't able to have them do too much because people of all ages watch these movies. But we were there and we have Chippendales, so we asked the main guy, "How do you feel about crotch-rocketing a shark? Doing a move on the shark?" He was like, "Yeah! I'm in!" We did it and in my head I'm going, “There's no way in hell Syfy or Standards and Practices will allow this to be in there, but we're going to shoot it anyway.”

We shot it, we did the visual effects for the scene, and what does Syfy do? It's in the first teaser trailer and it becomes a meme. I thought it would never make it into the film, but it’s in there. That was not scripted, it was never planned, but we couldn’t let an opportunity like that pass us by.

You’ve talked about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 homages, but will we see any other nods in Sharknado 4?

Anthony Ferrante: This one more so than the others because we really haven't had the opportunity to do horror movie stuff before. There’s the Texas Chainsaw thing and we also have the car from Christine, so she makes a cameo, too. We have no money in our movie, so I had to give up a few things to be able to have Christine in the movie.

No one understood why I wanted Christine, but I just knew that Fin needed to be driving Christine, so it had to happen one way or another. I had specific rules about how we used her, too—we had to make her look great, she had to kill a shark and she had to have old music coming out of her, too.

Caroline Williams: The ideas that Anthony's been able to come up with for each film, he ups the ante with every single movie and that’s exciting to me. Also, you can get some great action. I like movement, I like doing stuff, and Anthony had a fun action sequence for me where I get to do that chainsaw dance-y thing. Anthony took a really satirical tone with it, but at the same time, you can tell he loves what he’s doing. It was the perfect way to present those iconic Chainsaw characters and have them be a part of the Sharknado story. It was a perfect celebration to me.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.