The Man Behind the ‘Sharknado’: Writer Thunder Levin on the Cult Phenomenon

We had the chance to conduct a Sharknado interview with the film’s writer Thunder Levin, so naturally we couldn’t pass up the chance to hear the scoop behind Sharknado. Read the story below.

Thunder Levin moved to Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in film and starry-eyed dreams of being the next Steven Spielberg or James Cameron.

Flash forward some 20 years later, and he’s writing the sequel to the low-budget horror comedy called Sharknado.

“My rise to fame has been somewhat delayed over the last 20 years,” Levin says. “But I’m still working on it.”

As is the case for many aspiring writer-directors, he spent years working as a grunt on various productions while trying to get his own films made. While many came close, they never quite panned out. Then, after a stint directing commercial videos, a gig he describes as “lucrative but soul-sucking,” he directed an independent passion project: the brilliantly- titled Mutant Vampire Zombies from the Hood. Notorious B-movie studio The Asylum loved it and recruited Levin to write for them. It was this partnership that would eventually lead to everyone’s favorite movie about shark-related weather disasters.

Sharknado originated from a throwaway line in another Asylum film called Leprechaun’s Revenge.

“There was a line like ‘yeah, that town hasn’t been the same since the Sharknado hit,’” Levin laughs. “I don’t know what drugs they were on when they wrote that.”

For whatever reason, the team at Asylum latched onto the idea of a sharknado and approached Levin with a vague outline of the idea.

“It was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard of. And I said ‘If I can do it that way, then I’m in,’” Levin says. “Fortunately, they realized with a movie called Sharknado, it would have to be ridiculous.”

Funnily enough, Levin based the ridiculous Sharknado on real-life science. As he’ll tell you, there are documented cases of fish being sucked out of the water by storms and deposited dozens, even hundreds, of miles away.

“I just took it to the next logical step. Not many people realize it was a documentary about global warming that just got a bit out of hand,” he jokes. “The sharks aren’t the bad guys. Here they are, minding their own business, and suddenly they’re sucked up out of their watery realm and tossed on land from high in the sky. I’d be pretty annoyed, too. I think the shark’s actions are perfectly understandable.”

Unlike the studio system, The Asylum works on a low-budget, truncated schedule, and Levin hammered out the script in a month. He opted out of directing the film in favor of directing another of his scripts, called AE — “Time will tell if that was the greatest career blunder of my life,” he notes — which brought Sharknado’s origin story full circle. Anthony Ferrante, who wrote and directed Leprechaun’s Revenge, ended up directing the movie that was spawned from a throwaway line of dialogue he’d once written.

“No one could have anticipated what would happen,” Levin reflects. “It was a perfect Twitter storm, if you will.”

Tthe movie was completed in little more than five months, and to the creators, it was just another B-movie produced for the SyFy network. But thanks to social media the movie blew up, and Levin says the whole next week was a surreal blur. Suddenly, he was on Good Morning America and the Today show in Australia.That explosion of the first week all but sealed the deal on the inevitable sequel, officially titled Sharknado 2: The Second One. Levin jumped at the chance to write it, but things were more complicated this time around. Everyone involved felt they had something to live up to when creating the second Sharknado.

“It was a much longer process this time around. Everybody was very concerned about making sure it was the best it could be.”

The sequel was shot in New York during one of the worst winters in recent memory; in one day, the crew might have to contend with bright sunlight, heavy snow, and hurricane-force winds. But despite the turbulent weather, Levin couldn’t be happier with the finished product.

“It’s just more fun than a barrel of monkeys,” he says. “The people who like the first one are going to like this one even more. Even the people who hated the first one will have to admit this one is very entertaining.”

Despite his minor celebrity, Levin has no illusions about the kinds of movies he’s making. Still, he can’t help but have a humble sense of pride in making something that’s affected so many. He’s even been approached by fans asking him to sign a poster in tribute to a deceased friend, who also loved the film.

“Suddenly, you realize that this thing you put out into the world for the fun of it has actually affected people’s lives in some way. That’s very humbling.”

It’s also opened up numerous professional opportunities for Levin, who hopes to move beyond B-movies and into the field of television and independent film in ways that might have audiences “looking at the writer of Sharknado differently.

But, he admits, it might be hard to one-up the monster hit that Sharknado became, let alone the lasting cult sensation he theorizes it might become.

“The epitaph on my tombstone will probably be ‘the writer of Sharknado.’”