Whirlwind career turnaround

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 10:39 17/09/2013

What happens when a tornado whips up hundreds of sharks and hurls them at Los Angeles?

Ian Zierling
IN THE IAN OF FIRE: Ian Ziering takes aim at one of his oceanic co-stars in Sharknado.

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The script was horrible, the reliance on visual effects disturbing and Ian Ziering thought it was a project that would never see the light of day.

''I was reading Dark Skies, as it was called then, and halfway through I said to my wife (Erin) - 'honey there are movies that can make a guy's career and there a movies that can tank a guy's career','' the 49-year-old actor says on the phone from California where he is out walking his two dogs with his older daughter Mia.

''And with a baby in one arm and another in her belly, she said 'look you need to go to work'.''

So after swallowing his pride and seeing that the script called for him to rappel off a bridge and chainsaw his way out of a shark, Ziering decided to turn his initial frown upside down and sign up to play former surf champion and seaside bar owner Fin, whose livelihood and estranged family are threatened by the combination of wild weather and soaring selachii.

But then a week into filming came another bombshell, the project's name was being changed to Sharknado.

''The first break we had we all called our agents. I felt that was the nail in the acting coffin for me.''

However, Ziering hadn't counted on the power of social media which turned Sharknado into ''a Sharknado'' of buzz about the TV movie.

''Sci-fi fans are the greatest - they take fan all the way to fanatic. I thought this would never be viewed, but when it first aired here in July I was working with the Chippendales in Las Vegas and I watched my phone battery die in an hour from the beeps, buzzes, blerps and text message alerts. I thought my phone was possessed.''

As a fan of 1970s disaster movies like Earthquake and The Towering Inferno, Ziering knew that the key to making the high concept of  ''flying sharks'' work was ''committing'' to the material.

''If you wink at the camera then no one is going to buy into it, but if you can help someone suspend belief and just stay in character and deliver lines the way they were written it can be successful.''

Still, he was extremely worried about the visual effects. ''For all I knew it was going to be claymation - I hoped it wasn't. But I didn't know what the effects people were capable of or the technology they were using, especially given those things cost money and this was a low budget film.''

Surprised and satisfied with what they did come up with, Ziering has been delighted that his wife's ''insistence'' has resulted in doors opening rather than closing for him. ''I've had a lot of activity, a lot of meetings and a lot of irons in the fire as a result of Sharknado. Seriously, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.''

Even luckier than when he was Steve Sanders - the son of a soap star he essayed on teen drama Beverly Hills 90210 for a decade back in the 90s?

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''That was a great time in my life,'' he reflects. ''For 10 years I got to do things I would never do in my own personal life and every script was like a jungle gym.''

Describing the original 90210 cast as like a family, he says he still regularly speaks to Luke Perry, Jason Priestley and the ''girls''.

But while Jennie Garth returned to reprise her role on the first two seasons of the rebooted 90210 in 2008 and 2009, Ziering resisted the temptation to come back.

''They did call, but the storyline wasn't what Steve was all about. They just wanted me to be there to aggrandise their project - now, if they'd had him come to return the legacy key or something ...''

But for now Ziering is only future focused, enjoying his time back in the spotlight, which has included a starring role on Discovery Channel's Shark Week and a small part in upcoming drag racing biopic Snake and Mongoose.

Then there's the much-talked and yes, tweeted, about Sharknado sequel.

''The producers don't have a script yet but we don't want to mess with the formula that worked so well the first time.''

Scheduled to be filmed in New York, Sharknado is expected to feature some ''celebrity eatings'' .

''(David) Hasslehoff - we'll have him eaten in the first scene,'' Ziering says gleefully, before sending out a less than chilling warning to anyone looking to steal his Sharknad limelight.

''I know Matt Damon wants my role and I will cut him if he steps up to the plate.''

Sharknado 8.30pm, Tuesday, Prime

- Stuff

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