* SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE. 9 p.m. tomorrow, Syfy.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Directing the "Sharknado" movies is like fighting off airborne sharks: It helps to be able to think on one's feet.
That's been the experience of Anthony C. Ferrante, whose rematch with the "Jaws" of weather systems, "Sharknado 2: The Second One," makes its Syfy debut tomorrow night with many more famous humans than the first. And at least as many sharks. (Keep your eyes peeled for the one from ABC's "Shark Tank.")
Ian Ziering is back as Fin, who last summer saved Los Angeles from storm-tossed sharks. Tara Reid returns as his estranged wife, April, now a published author.
They're joined for the New York-based sequel by Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath and a long string of guest stars, some of whom should remain a surprise.
"Every cameo, at a certain point it became, 'Hey, we've got this person in this movie, write something for them,' " Ferrante said earlier this month, after the movie was screened poolside for reporters at the Television Critics Association's summer meetings (an event that Ferrante covered as a journalist until the first "Sharknado" put him on the other side of the interviews).
For a scene involving the mayor of New York, "we wanted [Rudy] Giuliani, we wanted [Michael] Bloomberg, we were talking Donald Trump at some point, and the night before, they said, 'We got Robert Klein to play the mayor of New York.' And it was only like one line. We can't have Robert Klein in the movie and give him one line, so it was like, 'Say this, say this. Do this. Do some more stuff!' And he was game for it," he said.
The casting of Fox also sent Ferrante and screenwriter Thunder Levin scrambling.
"Originally, it was written as a 30-year-old groupie that was obsessed with Fin, and then we got a call [shortly before filming] and they go, 'Yeah, we cast Vivica Fox in this role.' It's like that entire role has to be rewritten."
They decided to return to an earlier idea of Fin encountering his high school sweetheart.
"Vivica and Ian are the perfect age and I wanted to tell that love story and have an obstacle. . . . We actually told an interesting interracial love story" about two characters who originally got together at a time when their relationship might have been less accepted.
"It's not heavy-handed, it's just matter-of-fact."
Nothing about "Sharknado 2" is heavy-handed. But neither is it subtle. Sharks fall from the sky. People get eaten. Famous people pop up - everyone from "Today Show" stars Matt Lauer and Al Roker to Kelly Osbourne - like ducks in a shooting gallery, and a certain sandwich chain achieves a clever bit of product placement.
If the sequel, whose budget, Ferrante insisted, was only a little bit larger than the original's, feels bigger, blame the actual weather in New York this past February.
"The first movie, we had to shoot down, because if we shot up, it was sunny skies. . . . We had to be very strategic, otherwise it would add more to the effects budget. On this movie, we had s----- weather, which is what we wanted," he said.
"My daughter and wife came out for a week [from L.A.] and my daughter [was] . . . throwing snowballs at my head and, you know, she's just having a blast and all the New Yorkers are looking at us like, 'What's wrong with those people?'"
Syfy, which wanted the movie set in the summer, told Ferrante to make winter weather part of the story - " 'It's the worst summer ever in New York' " - which he called "liberation."
A long sequence at Citi Field “was shot in one day. So all the weather conditions that we had out there, from sunny, to rainy, to snow, happened in the same day that we shot it in. So if anyone goes, ‘Oh, that’s impossible,’ that happened to us. We just used it.”