David R. Ellis, 60; directed ‘Snakes on a Plane’

David Ellis (right), with Samuel L. Jackson, the star of his “Snakes on a Plane.”
2006 ap file
David Ellis (right), with Samuel L. Jackson, the star of his “Snakes on a Plane.”

JOHANNESBURG — David R. Ellis, the director of ‘‘Snakes on a Plane,’’ the 2006 movie starring Samuel L. Jackson that veered between humor and horror and became an Internet sensation before its release, was once asked if he had any practical advice for someone stuck on a plane full of snakes.

‘‘Get off,’’ Mr. Ellis said.

The 60-year-old, a chameleon of the entertainment industry who worked as an actor and stuntman earlier in his career, was found dead in his hotel room in Johannesburg.


He was last seen Saturday in a restaurant, the South African Press Association reported. An autopsy was conducted, but the cause of death was still unknown. Police said they did not suspect foul play.

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Mr. Ellis was in Johannesburg working on ‘‘Kite,’’ a remake of the 1998 Japanese anime film that was to have starred Jackson.

Mr. Ellis’s directing credits include ‘‘Shark Night 3D,’’ “The Final Destination,’’ and “Cellular.’’ 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. Jackson played a law enforcement agent whose job is to protect a murder witness, and the criminals who would rather he did not testify try to take him out by releasing a batch of poisonous snakes on an overseas flight.