David R. Ellis, director of “Snakes on a Plane” and “Shark Night 3D” has died. He was 60. Deadline Hollywood reports that Ellis died of as-of-yet unknown causes in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was prepping his next movie, “KITE.” “Snakes on a Plane” star Samuel L. Jackson is set to star in the live action adaptation of the anime property.
Ellis was born on September 10, 1952 in Los Angeles. He started his film career as a child actor in Disney films starring Kurt Russell in the seventies. He was also a successful junior pro surfer, a vocation which ultimately parlayed itself to stunt work. He did stunts in the Burt Reynolds movie “Hooper,” which was about stuntmen, and Reynolds’ signature movies, “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Smokey and the Bandit II,” as well as “Sharky’s Machine,” which Reynolds also directed. He also did stunts for Philip Kaufman’s remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and some of the biggest action movies of the eighties, including Brian DePalma’s remake of “Scarface,” “To Live and Die in L.A.,” “Lethal Weapon,” “The Presidio” and “Road House.”
He was soon working as a stunt coordinator as well as a stunt performer, and by the nineties was a busy second unit director. He directed second units on “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger,” as well as “Waterworld,” “The Perfect Storm,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “The Matrix Reloaded” and Ang Lee’s “Ride With the Devil.”
Ellis’ directorial debut was on 1996’s “Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco,” but that was the last time he directed anything that could be considered a family film. Most of Ellis’ directorial outings were on unabashed exploitation movies, including “Final Destination 2,” “Snakes on a Plane,” “Asylum,” “The Final Destination” and “Shark Night 3D.”
In addition to “KITE,” Ellis had several movies in pre-production, including “Paris I’ll Kill You” and “Zombie Blondes.” He had also directed second units on some high profile productions still in post-production, including the Ryan Reynolds/Jeff Bridges supernatural comedy “R.I.P.D.,” “47 Ronin” starring Keanu Reeves and “Winter’s Tale,” starring Russell Crowe and Will Smith, based on Mark Helprin’s novel. There is no word at present on how Ellis’ passing may affect those productions.