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David R. Ellis
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Ellis at the premiere of Snakes on a Plane in 2006
David Richard Ellis

(1952-09-08)September 8, 1952
Died January 7, 2013(2013-01-07) (aged 60)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Occupation Film director, second unit director, stuntman
Years active 1975–2013

David Richard Ellis (September 8, 1952 – January 7, 2013) was an American film director and stunt performer born in Santa Monica, California in 1952. His credits included dozens of films and television series including National Lampoon's Vacation, Baywatch, Lethal Weapon, and Patriot Games.

He also served as second unit director on blockbuster action films like Waterworld, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, The Matrix Reloaded, and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. His feature directorial credits included the action thriller Snakes on a Plane and two entries in the Final Destination series.


Following a successful career as a junior pro surfer, David Richard Ellis began his career in the film industry as a supporting actor in juvenile roles making his big screen debut in 1975 in the Kurt Russell film The Strongest Man in the World. In 1978, he received a promotion to stunt coordinator on The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. After several successful years in this position, he worked from 1986 onwards as a second unit director before making his debut as a director in the Disney live-action film Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco. He is best known for directing two of the Final Destination films and the 2006 film Snakes on a Plane, which became an Internet phenomenon.

As a stunt man he was best known for his work in the movie Scarface. Other notable works as a stunt man include Fatal Attraction, Lethal Weapon, the television series Baywatch, and Patriot Games. As a second unit director he worked on a number of well-known movies that include Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, The Matrix Reloaded, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and Cop Out. At the time of his death, two works involving Ellis were still in post-production: 47 Ronin and R.I.P.D.; another, Winter's Tale, was still being filmed. R.I.P.D. was released in July 2013; 47 Ronin was released in December 2013, while Winter's Tale was released in February 2014.

He was perhaps best known as a director with seven titles under his belt. Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, Final Destination 2, Cellular, Snakes on a Plane, Asylum, The Final Destination, and Shark Night. At the time of his death, he was in pre-production for a live-action version of the violent anime Kite. Ralph Ziman became the film's director.

Ellis was nominated for the Taurus Award along with Glenn Boswell and R. A. Rondell in 2003 for his stunt coordination work on The Matrix Reloaded. Ellis was a member and served as vice president for an elite stunt performance organization known as Stunts Unlimited located in Sherman Oaks, California.

Personal life

David R. Ellis was the father of producer Tawny, photographer Cheyenne Ellis, and UC Irvine English Instructor, Tagert Ellis. He was the son of Richard and Andrea Ellis, the grandfather to Kodiak and Ridge Ellis, as well as the brother of Annie, Lori, and Chenoa Ellis. He is survived by his wife Cindy.

When Ellis was once about to be carjacked, trapped between two other cars, he used his stunt-driving prowess to whip his car out of the tiny gap and face the carjackers, revving his engine, scaring them enough to get back into their cars and drive away.


On January 7, 2013, Ellis's body was found in the bathroom of his hotel room in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was preparing to direct Kite at the time. No cause of death has been released; police say no foul play was suspected.



Year Film Budget Worldwide gross
1996 Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco $32,772,492 (USA)
2003 Final Destination 2 $26,000,000 $90,426,405
2004 Cellular $25,000,000 $56,422,687
2006 Snakes on a Plane $33,000,000 $62,022,014
2008 Asylum $11,000,000 Direct-to-video
2009 The Final Destination $40,000,000 $186,167,139
2011 Shark Night $28,000,000 $40,136,479

Second unit director

Year Film Episode Assistant Director
1986 Condor as David Ellis
1987 Fatal Attraction uncredited
1989 Warlock
  • "Rookie School"
  • "The Reunion"
as David Ellis
  • "We Need a Vacation"
  • "Muddy Waters"
The Last of the Finest
1991 Life Stinks uncredited
1992 Kuffs as David Ellis
Thunderheart as David Richard Ellis
Patriot Games
Whispers in the Dark
Forever Young
1993 Body of Evidence
Made in America
Beethoven's 2nd
1994 Iron Will
My Father the Hero as David Ellis
Blank Check
Clear and Present Danger
The Jungle Book
1995 Waterworld
1997 The Devil's Own Dublin - as David Ellis
1998 Desperate Measures
Sphere as David Ellis
The Negotiator Los Angeles - as David Ellis
Holy Man
Soldier as David Ellis
1999 Deep Blue Sea
Ride with the Devil
Blue Streak
2000 The Kid
The Perfect Storm
2001 Exit Wounds as David Ellis
Just Visiting
Rock Star
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
2003 The Matrix Reloaded USA - as David Ellis
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
2010 Cop Out
2013 R.I.P.D.
47 Ronin
2014 Winter's Tale as David Ellis


Year Film Role Notes
1975 The Strongest Man in the World David (Student)
1977 Heroes Bar Patron #1
1978 Wonder Woman Ludwig TV Series
Flying High Quarterback TV Series
1979 Boardwalk Bath attendant
1982 Rocky III Opponent #7
1987 Anna Daniel's Father
1988 Guns of Paradise Lester Bradley TV Series
1989 The Mighty Quinn Jersey
Blind Fury Ski Lodge Killer #3
1990 The Bounty Hunter Townsperson (final film role)


Year Film Episode Role
1976 Baby Blue Marine uncredited
Bound for Glory as David Ellis
1977 Smokey and the Bandit uncredited
1978 Game of Death motorcycle stunts - as David Ellis
Hot Lead and Cold Feet as David Ellis
Invasion of the Body Snatchers Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
1979 Fast Charlie... the Moonbeam Rider motorcycle stunts - as David Ellis
1980 Carny Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
Smokey and the Bandit II as David Ellis
1981 Back Roads Stunt Coordinator
King of the Mountain
Take This Job and Shove It as David Ellis
Nice Dreams Stunt Double for Chong - as David Ellis
S.O.B. as David Ellis
Return of the Rebels Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
Taps as David Ellis
Sharky's Machine
1982 Megaforce
The Beastmaster
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Lookin' to Get Out
Airplane II: The Sequel Stunt Coordinator
1983 Second Thoughts Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
Private School
National Lampoon's Vacation as David Ellis
Gorky Park Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
1984 V: The Final Battle
  • Part One
  • Part Two
  • Part Three
Fooling Around
1985 To Live and Die in L.A.
1986 Out of Bounds
A Fine Mess as David Ellis
The Wraith
1987 Critical Condition Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
Lethal Weapon as David Ellis
Burglar Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
Fatal Attraction
Real Men as David Ellis
1988 The Presidio
Remo Williams: The Prophecy Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
1989 Gleaming the Cube as David Ellis
Dead Bang
She's Out of Control
Warlock Stunt Coordinator
Road House as David Ellis
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier as David Richard Ellis
Tennessee Waltz Fight Coordinator - as David Richard Ellis
Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge as David Ellis
1989 Baywatch
  • In Deep
  • Heat Wave
  • Second Wave
  • Message in a Bottle
  • The Sky Is Falling
  • The Drowning Pool
  • Rookie School
  • Cruise Ship
  • The Cretin of the Shallows
  • Shelter Me
  • The Reunion
Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
  • Armored Car
  • Home Cort
  • We Need a Vacation
  • Muddy Waters
Everybody Wins
The Last of the Finest
Impulse Stunt Coordinator
Days of Thunder as David Ellis
Ghost Dad
The Freshman Stunt Coordinator
Misery Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
1991 Life Stinks Stunt Coordinator - as David Richard Ellis
Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken Stunt Coordinator
The Addams Family Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
1992 Kuffs
Patriot Games Stunt Coordinator
Forever Young Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
1993 Body of Evidence
Made in America Stunt Coordinator
The Man Without a Face Stunt Coordinator - as David Ellis
Warlock: The Armageddon as David Ellis
1994 The Jungle Book Stunt Coordinator: USA - as David Ellis
1996 Harriet the Spy as Dave Ellis
2009 Hotel for Dogs as David Richard Ellis

See also

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