Follow Us on Twitter

Obituary: David R Ellis

Obituary by Jack Foley

DAVID R Ellis, the director of hit movies such as Cellular and Snakes on a Plane, has died in South Africa at the age of 60.

The news was confirmed on Monday (January 7, 2013) by the filmmaker’s manager, although no cause of death has been released.

Ellis was found in a hotel room in Johannesburg, where he had been working on his new film Kite. He was reportedly three weeks away from starting work on the remake, which would have reunited him with Samuel L Jackson.

A former actor and stuntman, Ellis became best known as a director, first making a name for himself with Final Destination 2 in 2003 before going on to amass box office hits such as Snakes On A Plane and, most recently, Shark Night.

Born in Hollywood, California on September 8, 1952, Ellis first made his way into movies in his early 20s as an actor, first appearing alongside Kurt Russell in the 1975 film, The Strongest Man in the World.

But within a year he decided to switch to performing stunts and got his break on the film Baby Blue Marine, which changed his career direction.

By 1981, he had started to work as a stunt co-ordinator and, after spending five years in that position, he progressed to working as an assistant director or second assistant director in charge of action sequences on films including The Matrix Revolutions and Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone.

This inevitably paved the way for him to direct his own film one day, which he did in 1996 with the Disney live-action film Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco.

Final Destination 2 followed and Ellis seldom looked back, enjoying considerable success (and acclaim) with his next movie, Cellular (starring Kim Basinger and William H Macy) and then securing notoriety for helming Snakes on a Plane with Samuel L Jackson… a film that was largely put together using feedback from online fans of the premise (which contributed to five days of re-shoots).

Most recently, he worked on the Keanu Reeves film 47 Ronin and the Ryan Reynolds release R.I.P.D as second unit director, both of which are awaiting release, and has several films listed as being in various stages of development as director.

Outside of work, he also loved to surf and play volleyball.

He is survived by his wife and three children.

Tributes have already started to come from friends and colleagues, including Samuel L Jackson who Tweeted: “So sad to hear of David R Ellis passing. So talented, so kind, such a good friend.”