David R. Ellis only directed a handful of films himself, but he was involved with considerably more throughout his long, busy career. He's best known in later years for directing Final Destination 2 and Snakes on a Plane, but the bulk of his years in the industry were spent working as a second unit director and stunt coordinator on some truly memorable films. He did stunts for Road House, Warlock, Days of Thunder, Patriot Games and many, many more. And as a second unit director he shot much of the action in movies like Waterworld, Clear and Present Danger, Sphere, The Negotiator and The Matrix sequels.
The man dedicated his entire career to making movies that entertained. He was a popcorn filmmaker, and as far as this writer is concerned, he was a damn good one. As a director he knew how to put together a memorable set piece (the highway crash in Final Destination 2 is the highlight of the entire franchise) and deliver movies that are just plain fun (Snakes on a Plane and Shark Night 3D), which is a quality that's sorely lacking from the majority of Hollywood thrillers these days. But more importantly, he must have had an insane work ethic to have worked his way up from acting to stunts to directing. And even cooler still, Ellis didn't just stop doing the less glorious jobs once he reached the top. He continued to direct second unit on forthcoming high-profile films like R.I.P.D. and 47 Ronin in between his own films-- duties that very few directors will take on once they start making their own movies.
He was on location in Johannesburg, South Africa prepping for the live-action adaptation of the anime Kite (featuring Samuel L. Jackson) when he unexpectedly passed away due to unknown causes at the age of 60.
As a tribute to the man's work, here's the incredible motorcade ambush from Clear and Present Danger:
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