The Chicago Syndicate: "Snakes on a Plane" Influenced by Mafia
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Saturday, August 12, 2006

"Snakes on a Plane" Influenced by Mafia

Snakes on a PlaneRumors abound about "Snakes on a Plane."

Even though the movie doesn't open until late Thursday night, the blog-based buzz has turned it into a pop-culture phenomenon.

Here's some of the data echoing through the rumor mill:

-Blog pressure swayed filmmakers.
-Blogs sparked a Samuel L. Jackson catch-phrase.
-The director was a second choice.
-Scenes were added late to bump the PG-13 rating to an R.
-"Snakes" is a dog, so no early screenings.

The truth is: yes, yes, yes, yes, and no.

To guide you through the mythology, this "Snakes on a Plane" primer begins with the film's premise: Two FBI agents escort a former minor Mafia member from Hawaii to California.

To silence him permanently, a time-release crate filled with hundreds of deadly snakes opens during the flight.

Panic ensues.

Jackson stars as one of the agents. He signed on because he liked the title as well as the mix of action, horror and monsters on the loose. Hong Kong action whiz Ronny Yu joined as director, then quit over budget problems and the familiar "creative differences," whatever that means.

David R. Ellis, director of "Final Destination 2," took over.

Although nothing was broken, the studio decided to fix it.

New Line bigwigs changed the title to the milquetoast "Pacific Air 121."

Reportedly, execs felt the original lacked "class" and, thus, no one would take it seriously.

Of course, that's the point — two basic fears, flying and snakes, tapped into by one title.

Jackson got it. He struck. The actor kept telling the media he was at work on "Snakes on a Plane."

By this time, "Snakes" blogs were listed among the top Web sites in hits. Dazzled by the cheesy first title — "cheesy" meaning "a fun time" — they joined the fray.

The good guys won.

A second gaffe was also the studio's.

"When I signed on it was an R-rated film," director Ellis says in a phone interview. "During the course of developing the script, New Line decided they wanted a PG-13."

Jackson and Ellis recoiled.

"Sam (Jackson) and I did not like that. We loved the film, but we had to cut away from the snake attacks," Ellis says.

Common sense, pressure and tepid scenes showed the studio the error of its ways. New Line OK'd a change back to an R and green-lighted the filmmakers to do whatever they wanted to put "Snakes" back on track.

During five days of reshoots, they added "more violence, and gore and snake deaths," Ellis says. "We included nudity. We increased the (profane) language with Sam.

"We were aware of everything they wanted on the Internet so we were able to incorporate everything."

That included the blog-inspired Jackson catch-phrase: "I've had it with these motherf.... snakes on this motherf.... plane!"

The problem now for the media: no advance screenings.

That usually signals a bottom-barrel picture that studios want to protect from early bad reviews. Not in this case, Ellis says.

"It's not the same because we didn't even test the movie," he says. "When I showed it to New Line and all the executives, my kids and some of their friends, people were very open with me about what they like and don't like, I knew it would really, really work.

"I knew there was no way to improve the benefit from the buzz, only lose from it."

Fans should judge "Snakes on a Plane" before anyone else, Ellis says, "especially since it's not the kind of film most critics like. (I pointed out there are exceptions. It went nowhere.)

Ellis says he just wants people to "laugh, get scared, jump out of their seats, have fun and escape everything else going on in the world, and go back and see it again."

Thanks to Barry Caine

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