David R. Ellis | 'Snakes' director, 60

In this 2006 photo, actor Samuel L. Jackson, left, poses with director David R. Ellis at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
In this 2006 photo, actor Samuel L. Jackson, left, poses with director David R. Ellis at Comic-Con International in San Diego. (CHRIS PARK / Associated Press, file)
Posted: January 09, 2013

David R. Ellis, 60, the director of Snakes on a Plane, the 2006 movie that veered between humor and horror and became an Internet sensation even before its release, was found dead Monday in the bathroom of his hotel room in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"Nothing was found to be missing from his room, and no foul play is being suspected at this stage," said Lt. Col. Lungelo Dlamini, a police spokesman. Autopsy results were awaited.

Mr. Ellis was in Johannesburg working on Kite, a remake of the 1998 Japanese anime film.

His directing credits include Shark Night 3D. He also worked on such films as Misery, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and Waterworld. He began his career as an actor in the 1970s before moving into stunts and directing.

Snakes on a Plane was a raucous ride that alternately delighted or appalled critics. Samuel L. Jackson played a law enforcement agent whose job is to protect a murder witness, and the criminals who would rather he didn't testify try to take him out by releasing a batch of poisonous snakes on a long-haul flight over the ocean.

Mr. Ellis later 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," he said. "That would be kind of cool."

He is survived by his wife and three children. - AP

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