David R. Ellis, who directed 2006’s Snakes on a Plane, has died. He was 60 years old.
His body was found in his hotel room in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was in pre-production on Kite, a remake of a 1998 Japanese anime that was to have starred Snakes topliner Samuel L. Jackson. The cause of death is unknown.
Ellis began his film career doing stunts in movies such as 1978’s Smokey and the Bandit, notching up action credits with Sharkey’s Machine, V, The Beastmaster and Patriot Games.
He moved to second unit directing (Waterworld, Soldier and The Matrix Reloaded were among his credits) and made his directorial debut with 1996’s Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco.
His big break occurred when he directed 2003’s Final Destination 2, upping the Grand Guignol nature of the horror series to new heights. Cellular, starring a young Chris Evans, followed then by the infamous Snakes. The latter gained an online following largely due to its title and was an example of Ellis’ moviemaking style: simple fun entertainment with a wink or two.
Other directing credits included The Final Destination and Shark Night 3D. He has three movies to be released later this year on which he acted as second unit director: R.I.P.D., 47 Ronin and Winter’s Tale.
He leaves behind a wife and three kids.