UK & World News
Snakes On A Plane Director's Death A Mystery
Police are investigating the death in South Africa of David R Ellis, the director of Snakes On A Plane, the 2006 movie starring Samuel L Jackson.
The body of 60-year-old Ellis, who had worked as an actor and stuntman earlier in his career, was discovered in the bathroom of his hotel room in upmarket Sandton in Johannesburg.
He had last been seen by a friend in a restaurant last Saturday.
"Nothing was found to be missing from his room and no foul play is being suspected at this stage," said police spokesman Lt Col Lungelo Dlamini.
He added: "The US Embassy has been informed and are believed to be making necessary arrangements for the body to be taken to his own country."
A post mortem examination has been carried out but the cause of death is unknown.
Snakes On A Plane veered between humour and horror and became an internet sensation even before its release.
Ellis was in Johannesburg working on Kite, a remake of the 1998 Japanese anime film that was also to have starred Jackson, who tweeted his condolences after hearing of the director's death.
Jackson said: "So sad to hear of David R Ellis passing! So talented, so kind, such a Good Friend. He'll be missed. Gone too soon!"
Ellis' directing credits include Shark Night 3D, The Final Destination, Cellular and Final Destination 2.
He also worked on such films as Misery, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Waterworld.
He began his Hollywood career as an actor in the 1970s, before moving into stunts and directing.
Snakes On A Plane alternately delighted and appalled critics.
Jackson played a law enforcement agent whose job it is to protect a murder witness - and the criminals who would rather the man didn't testify try to take him out by releasing poisonous snakes on a long-haul flight over the ocean.
Associated Press film critic Christy Lemire called the movie, "intense and suspenseful, scary and gory, darkly funny and sometimes giddily hysterical".
It helped that bloggers created an Internet buzz that heightened anticipation before the film's release in a case study of how social media could spotlight what many might have dismissed as campy, B-grade, forgettable movie fare.
In the years since its release, occasional discoveries of smuggled or concealed snakes in airports or aboard airplanes around the world invariably draw comparisons to Ellis's thriller.
Jackson has had memorable roles in numerous movies, but not all of them contain dialogue with the same kind of expletive-laden punch as his standout line in Ellis' snake movie: "I have had it with these ... snakes on this ... plane."
In 2006, Ellis offered advice for nervous fliers while talking to Brian Finkelstein, whose "Snakes on a Blog" blog helped publicise the movie.
"First of all, you shouldn't even fly unless you go with Sam Jackson, anymore, anywhere," he said. "You never know what could happen. If you have Sam, you're going to be cool."
Ellis mused on whether the stuck-with-snakes theme would work in other movies.
"'Titanic' would be good with a ton of snakes, and at the same time, the boat's going down. That would be kind of cool," Ellis said. "Or Cannonball Run, with snakes in every car.
"Or, you know, there's a lot you could do. Top Gun with snakes in their planes."
He is survived by his wife and three children.