Stunt coordinator and film director David R. Ellis died on 7 January 2013 at the age of 60. The cause of death is not yet known, but foul play was not suspected.
David R. Ellis was born in Hollywood, California on 8 September 1952. He made his film debut as an actor in 1975 in The Strongest Man in the World. As an actor he would appear in such films as Boardwalk (1979) , Rocky III (1982), Anna (1987), and The Bounty Hunter (1990). As an actor he guest starred on such shows as Wonder Woman, Flying High, and Paradise. His first stunt work was in Baby Blue Marine in 1976. In the late Seventies he performed stunts for such movies as Smokey and the Bandit (1977), The Game of Death (1978), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and Carny (1980).
In the Eighties Mr. Ellis performed stunts for such films as Taps (1981), Sharky's Machine (1981), Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), The Beastmaster (1982), Scarface (1983), To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), A Fine Mess (1986), Lethal Weapon (1987), Fatal Attraction (1987), Road House (1989), Warlock (1989), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), Days of Thunder (1990), and Misery (1990). It was in the Eighties that he started work as a second unit or assistant director. He served in such capacity on such films in the Eighties as Fatal Attraction (1987) and Warlock (1989), as well as on the TV show Baywatch.
In the Nineties Mr. Ellis did stunts for such films as The Addams Family (1991), Patriot Games (1992), Body of Evidence (1993), Warlock: The Armageddon (1993), The Jungle Book (1994), and Harriet the Spy (1996). He served as a second unit or assistant director on such films as Thunderheart (1992), Patriot Games (1992), Body of Evidence (1993), Beethoven's 2nd (1993), My Father the Hero (1994), Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Jungle Book (1994), Waterworld (1995), The Negotiator (1998), Ride with the Devil (1999), and The Perfect Storm (2000). It was in the Nineties that he made his directorial debut, with the film Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco (1996)
From the Naughts into the Teens Mr. Ellis directed such films as Cellular (2004), Snakes on a Plane (2006), Asylum (2008), The Final Destination (2009), and Shark Night 3D (2011). He served as an assistant director or second unit director on such films as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001),The Matrix Reloaded (2003), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) and Cop Out (2010).
There can be little doubt that David R. Ellis was one of the best stunt coordinators in the business. After all, his resume was filled with action films such as Scarface and Lethal Weapon. He was also a very good second unit director, responsible for directing action scenes in such films as The Matrix Reloaded, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. As a director it can be said that he showed promise. While Snakes on a Plane has received its share of abuse over the years, I personally thought it was a very good film. Indeed, it was one of the best parodies of Seventies disaster films in years, not to mention a very good example of intentional camp. As a stunt coordinator and a second unit director Mr. Ellis definitely possessed talent, and I suspect he could have become a very good director with a few more films under his belt.