Tuesday, January 8, 2013

David R. Ellis, 1952-2013

The death was announced yesterday of director David R. Ellis, who was found dead in his hotel room in South Africa where he was working on a remake of a Japanese anime movie. He was 60. Ellis was one of those names that I have to admit I didn't recognize at first. That's because he worked his way up to becoming a director, and didn't have the directing duties on that many movies. Of the ones he did, they weren't my type. And besides, as a classic movie blogger I generally watch movies made before I was born. That having been said, Ellis directed one movie I think we'd all recognize, that being Snakes on a Plane.

Before Ellis got to direct on his own, he started off as a stuntman and then stunt coordinator, which is one of those important parts of filmmaking that doesn't get quite the attention it deserves. Ellis did the stunts on quite a few recognizable movies from the 1980s, actually going back a few years before that with 1976's Bound For Glory being one of his first. In the 1980s there's National Lampoon's Vacation, Lethal Weapon, and Fatal Attraction, although I don't remember Fatal Attraction having stunts per se, unless you're going to count having to use doubles in the bathtub scene. Then again, it's been quite some time since I've seen Fatal Attraction.

Ellis should also be remembered as an assistant director or second unit director, which like stunts is a part of the moviemaking business that is important and doesn't get recognition. In fact, it might get less attention than the stunts. Ellis served as a second unit director on some well-known movies in the 1990s and early 200s, from Clear and Present Danger to one of the Matrix sequels, a Harry Poter sequel, and Master and Commander. It's a bit sad to think that Eliis would have gotten even less mention in death than he did if he hadn't directed Snakes on a Plane, since he clearly did quite a bit of quality work.

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