SAN FERNANDO, California — Only in Southern California could you find a place like Air Hollywood, an enormous warehouse that contains reconstructed airplanes, fake terminals and even luggage-screening conveyor belts.
Only in a Hollywood-dependent suburb like this could you find four young lead singers, tongues firmly in cheeks, sneaking around the phony airport while a recording of Samuel L. Jackson screams, “Mother—-er!” repeatedly at no one in particular.
Buckle your seat belts and stow away all overhead luggage, because only on this bizarre day, in this bizarre place, could such disparate talents come together to celebrate a song about “Snakes on a Plane.”
“I think this is going to be the equivalent to ’I’m Rick James, bitch!’ for this year,” Gym Class Heroes frontman Travis McCoy said in the early hours of the morning. “At first it’s gonna be awesome, then you’re gonna get sick of it. Then it might get awesome again for a couple of days, and then it’s gonna be on T-shirts and key chains.”
McCoy is referring to the phrase “I have had it with these mother—-ing snakes on my mother—-ing plane,” a statement coined by Internet-savvy “Snakes” fans (see “The Secret Weapon Behind ’Superman,’ ’X-Men’? Die-Hard Fans” ) and currently kicking off the song that plays on repeat over the phony airport’s very real intercom system.
The name of the tune — which will eventually play over the film’s end credits — is “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It),” and the idea behind the shoot is as deliriously off-kilter as the movie that inspired it.
“The concept for the video is that we are the ones bringing the snakes on the plane,” said Gabe Saporta, the Midtown singer who heads up the Cobra Starship side project behind “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)” (see “Cobra Starship And ’Snakes On A Plane': A Match Made In Reptilian Heaven” ).
“I actually distract all of the security so we can get the snakes through,” added Maja Ivarsson, lead vocalist for Swedish rock band the Sounds. “We hustle the snakes through [the baggage X-rays].”
“We all have the snakes in our bags,” said William Beckett of the Academy Is … , looking over at Ivarsson. “But she distracts the guards with her beauty.”
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Blond waif Ivarsson, lanky frontman Saporta, hip-hop spiffy McCoy and tight-jeaned rock-and-roller Beckett — unlikely travel companions to say the least — walk through the enormous Air Hollywood soundstage, checking luggage and getting their tickets torn for a ride aboard doomed Pacific Air Flight 121. Guarding their carry-ons suspiciously, they shift their eyes around the room, stealing glances of generically dressed extras while pretending to wait for the boarding call. In real life, however, these four young movie buffs are waiting for something so exciting that it’s got them blurting out some four-letter words of their own.
“Here’s the thing,” McCoy said like a giddy schoolkid. “Samuel L. Jackson is going to be here in a little bit, and I’m starting to sweat.”
His eyes glazing over, Saporta asked meekly, “Do you guys think we’ll be able to talk to him?”
“I hope,” Beckett said. “I’m just trying to gather myself and compose myself.”
“I’ll hook you guys up,” Ivarsson grinned.
“Obviously, he’ll talk to Maja,” Saporta laughed. “Of course.”
The four can’t wait to meet the superstar, and since they all list “Pulp Fiction” as their favorite Jackson performance, they also share an eagerness to get him to use the profane language that has become his calling card.
“He’ll probably be coming into the shoot in character,” Beckett speculated. “Because he’s so amazing with staying in character.”
Inspired by the thought, McCoy launches into a dead-on Jackson impersonation: “Who are all these mother—-ers on this mother—-ing shoot?”
With that, the four are summoned back to the set, where busy-bee director Lex Halaby oversees footage of them. The shoot moves along quickly, as rumors of Jackson’s arrival continue to build. Supposedly, the on-set staffers whisper to one another, the star will be showing up to sit among the lounge crowd of extras and read the newspaper. Appearing in character as under-siege FBI agent Nelville Flynn, Jackson will eyeball the musicians while they sneak the snakes onto the plane.
“Hey, Lex Luthor, was that good?” Beckett asked after a take.
“Great,” the director responded before yelling, “OK, guys, we’re doing it. Everybody to [their first position]. Go, go, go!”
The crew rushes around setting up the next shot, and Jackson’s soon-to-be trademark line begins blaring through the speakers again, followed by the infectious tune that features Ivarsson’s distinctive voice cooing, “Oh, I’m ready for it/ Come on, bring it!”
“Dude, this song is gonna be all over outer space and inner space as well,” said Saporta, quoting his favorite lyric: ” ’We’ve got a free upgrade/ For snakes on a plane.’
“We didn’t want to make it too literal about ’Snakes on a Plane,’ so we kinda used the metaphor of snakes being shady dudes,” he continued.
“Like in the industry,” Beckett added. “You know, like snakes in suits in the back of a plane.”
“It’s a nice metaphor,” Saporta said. “That way, it’s not just a joke.”
The four would-be reptile terrorists return to Halaby and take turns walking through a metal detector, with the diminutive Ivarsson standing on boxes to keep her at the same height as the others. Every time they begin to show signs of fatigue, one of the four expresses the hope that Jackson will come walking through the door at any moment, and the anticipation is like the equivalent of chugging three Red Bulls.
Suddenly, the stage door pops open and in walks … Pete Wentz. The charismatic Fall Out Boy bassist is friends with the members of the Cobra Starship coalition and, like the others, can’t get enough of Jackson and the “SoaP” phenomenon.
“I just think the whole concept and the Internet hype are hilarious,” said Wentz, who is also filming a cameo for the video. “I saw it reported on some site, and I was like, ’There’s no way that movie is being made.’ I thought it was a joke. Then I was like, ’Oh my God, this has to be the funniest thing around.’ ”
Wentz quickly joins the ranks of his fellow musicians, chatting as they all keep one eye on Halaby and the other on the stage door.
“I’m nervous,” Wentz said. “I’ve probably watched about a thousand movies that he’s been in. I’ll want to go up to him and get him to say a Samuel L. Jackson-type line, like maybe what [Dave] Chappelle says all the time: ’Yes, they deserved to die, and I hope they burn in hell!’ ”
As the group cracks up, the man himself finally comes swaggering in.
Dressed in black, Samuel L. Jackson parts the crowd like the Red Sea, shaking hands and introducing himself to his supporting actors for the day.
“I’m Gabe, and this is William,” Saporta said enthusiastically, shaking Jackson’s hand tightly.
“All right, man,” Jackson answered smoothly.
“Hello,” said Ivarsson, walking over in a revealing white top with half the buttons undone.
“She was hiding,” Jackson said, shaking her hand enthusiastically as the singer curtsied.
Looking over at the four, Jackson asked, “So has it been a long day, guys?”
Moments later the voyage will be over, the passengers will disperse, and all seatbacks will be returned to their upright positions. Only in this part of the world, on this day, could such a long day seem so painfully brief.
The movie and soundtrack drop August 18.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Snakes on a Plane.”
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