R.I.P. David R. Ellis

David R. Ellis, former stuntman and director of Snakes on a Plane and The Final Destination, has died suddenly in South Africa while prepping his next feature. He was 60 years old.

David R. Ellis

Ellis’ manager tells E! News, “We don’t have any more information at this time and no further comment.”

Before he became one of the most in-demand stunt coordinators and second-unit directors in the business, he tried his hand at acting, scoring bit parts in The Strongest Man in the World and Rocky III. 

Ellis would go on to work behind the scenes on ScarfaceLethal Weapon, Days of ThunderClear and Present Danger, Waterworld, Deep Blue Sea, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Matrix Reloaded, and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, among many other movies. 

He made his directorial debut with Homeward Bound 2 in 1996, which would prove to be an anomaly in his Corman-esque career. What followed were modestly budgeted schlockfests such as Final Destination 2 and Asylum.

In 2006, his Snakes on a Plane became an internet phenomenon ahead of its release on account of its no-bull name (it was actually a working title that star Samuel L. Jackson apocryphally demanded remain). Though the film was far from a smash hit, it has developed a cult following and an ongoing legacy; albeit, as a cautionary tale of online buzz failing to translate to box office receipts.

Ellis’ biggest hit would come in 2009, when he returned to the Final Destination franchise for its fourth instalment. It grossed $186 million worldwide.

His last flick was 2011’s Shark Night 3D; a picture he hilariously fought to call Untitled 3D Shark Thrilleras per the self-aware Snakes on a Plane.

Though production had not yet commenced on Kite, the anime adaptation he was in South Africa preparing for, his second-unit work will be seen in upcoming films R.I.P.D. and 47 Ronin.


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