WASHINGTON - When actor Robbie Rist — that's right, Cousin Oliver from "The Brady Bunch" — first heard the title "Sharknado," he loved it already.
"In three syllables, the title tells you everything that you need to know about the movie," said Rist, who appears as a bus driver in the made-for-television disaster film about a tornado that lifts sharks out of the ocean and dumps them on cities.
While the chances of the movie winning any legitimate film awards is as unlikely as the movie's premise, the Twitter and other social media buzz for the film's July 11 debut on SyFy was huge.
"I knew it was going to do OK because it's so B-movie, out of control wackiness, but I didn't know it was going to hit the whole Zeitgeist the way it did, and that whole Twitter thing is crazy," Rist said.
Approximately 1.4 million viewers watched the program, according to Nielsen. But more impressive than the ratings was the number of people talking about "Sharknado."
SyFy claims the film generated almost 400,000 online comments during the original airing, with almost 5,000 tweets per minute toward the end of the two-hour movie, according to the New York Times.
"It became one huge tribe of people watching this movie at the same time going 'noooo wayyyyy,'" said Rist, who describes himself as the cast member most excited about being in the film.
"Sharknado" stars Tara Reid, Ian Ziering, John Heard, Cassie Scerbo and Jaason Simmons.
Rist co-wrote, recorded and produced several original songs for the film with "Sharknado" director Anthony Ferrante, which are available on iTunes.
Rist — who is in his second year portraying the voice of Stuffy The Dragon in the Disney Junior hit "Doc McStuffins" — says most of the movie's scenes of devastation were created by computer special effects.
"If you make 'Sharknado,' 90 percent of the time you're reacting to a tennis ball on a stick," Rist said.
Rist's said filming his main scene was not like it appeared in the movie because "there was no water around that bus, there were no sharks there. It was dry land."
"It's amazing the water in so many of those scenes looks as real as it does, because I was there — the streets were bone dry," he said.
Getting the movie made was an accomplishment, said Rist.
"It's a SyFy original movie, which means it's going to be high-concept and very low budget," Rist said. "If you make this movie with a big-budget director, it's an over $200 million movie. They made this thing for around a million dollars."
The entire film was shot in 18 days, Rist said.
"The digital revolution has created an environment where it's become easier and easier to lie," Rist said. "You can let the computer do a lot of the work for you."
Rist credits Ferrante for completing the film that several directors had turned down, claiming it couldn't be made on such a small budget.
"You always have to stay a storyteller. You still have to get it in the can. You still have to get performances. You still have to get people acting. As much as things have changed, they've also stayed the same."
"Sharknado" airs again on SyFy Thursday, July 18 at 7 p.m. and Aug. 22, before being released on DVD and Blu-ray in September, according to Rist.
Actor Robbie Rist discusses his role in the SyFy original movie, "Sharknado."
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