You probably never knew it, but long time Hollywood stuntman David R. Ellis appeared in or coordinated many of the wildest scenes in some of your favorite movies from the 1990s. From “Patriot Games” to “Days of Thunder,” “The Addams Family” and “Misery,” Ellis made things go bang and bodies fly through the air for more than 35 years in Hollywood.
But it wasn’t until he got behind the camera in 2006 to direct the famously schlocky Samuel L. Jackson drama “Snakes on a Plane” that the world really got to know the veteran risk-taker. Ellis died on Monday in Johannesburg, South Africa, of unknown causes at the age of 60, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Ellis died in the midst of pre-production on a new film starring Jackson, “Kite,” a remake of the 1988 Japanese anime film.
Born in Hollywood on September 8, 1952, former surfer Ellis broke into the movie business as a teen in a number of small roles, making his debut in 1975 on the Kurt Russell movie “The Strongest Man in the World.” He spent the next decade working as a stuntman and stunt coordinator on movies ranging from “Smokey and the Bandit” to “Scarface,” “Fatal Attraction” and “The Beastmaster,” graduating to second unit directing on such major movies as “Waterworld,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Matrix Reloaded.” Ellis made his directorial debut in 1996 with “Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco.”
He continued working behind the scenes, not taking the director’s chair again until 2003’s “Final Destination 2,” which got him wider attention for his directing skills. The Chris Evans-starring “Cellular” was next in 2004, though it was the high/low-concept “Snakes” that really made his name. The infamously viral film, whose legend got kick-started online thanks to the ridiculousness of its title, was, according to the Hollywood Reporter, a classic example of Ellis’ moviemaking style, “simple, fun entertainment with a wink or two.”
On Monday, Jackson paid homage to the director on Twitter, writing, “So sad to hear of David R Ellis passing! So talented, so kind, such a Good Friend. He’ll be missed. Gone too soon!”