Tuesday, February 4, 2014

George Romero: An Interview To Celebrate King Of The Dead's Birthday

Sagers with Romero
BY AARON SAGERS

Today is George A. Romero’s 74th birthday, which means I’m not going to attempt any journalistic subjectivity when I talk about him because Romero is a friggin’ genius – and an underrated one at that.

Most people know that he directed 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead,” (along with other “Of the Dead” films, “Land…” “Diary…” and “Survival…”) and many are aware he also helmed “Dawn of the Dead,” “Day of the Dead” and “Land of the Dead.” If you are paying attention, you also know about his films “The Crazies,” “Martin,” “Monkey Shines” and his collaboration with Stephen King, “Creepshow.” And as much of a list as this is, it doesn’t even completely cover all of his work, such as the recent Marvel Comics book “Empire of the Dead.”

But here’s where Romero doesn’t get the credit he deserves: Without him, there is no modern zombie. Haitian voodoo zombies would stick around, but in a parallel universe where George A. Romero never became a horror filmmaker – presumably a universe where he never worked on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood -- every single one of the 13 million viewers who tune in to the “The Walking Dead” every Sunday night would have to occupy their time rallying around a show with swords, crossbows and lots of blood. So, I guess “Game of Thrones?"

Robert Kirkman might disagree somewhat with that point. However “The Walking Dead” effects maestro (and Romero collaborator and “Day of the Dead” victim) Greg Nicotero told me, “As far as I’m concerned, 'The Walking Dead' wouldn’t exist without George Romero … Robert Kirkman’s comic book is really a love letter to George Romero.”

Which reminds me: without Romero, there is no Daryl Dixon. Not to mention, the careers of Max Brooks, Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright -- and a whole host of other creators whom I respect -- would be radically different. Moreover, I don’t think those guys would hesitate in agreeing with me.

As much as “Night of the Living Dead” was the source of childhood trauma after I saw it at way-too-young an age, I will not be subjective about George Romero. Along with with Stan Lee, Ray Bradbury and a few others, he has a very secure spot in my personal pantheon of pop culture icons.

So basically, if you haven’t seen his work but love zombies, it’s time to do some homework.
And this is a hell of an intro. A few months ago, I was able to sit and chat for a few moments with Romero. It wasn’t the first, or even second time I met him. But it was still a moment of pure joy as a devotee got to talk with a hero.

Do you feel like you feel like you get enough credit and attention with the current craze surrounding zombies?

No! (laughs) But I don’t care. You know what, man, my stuff is my stuff. I don’t particularly like the direction it’s going. I’ve always used these things for political satire, and nobody’s really doing that. So, in that sense, it hasn’t been touched. I just haven’t been able to sell anything right now because there’s just too much going on. Although I finished an adaptation of [Steve Schlozman’s] “Zombie Autopsies.” Steve approved it and we sent it to our agents to see if we could get the money for it.

Will the title be changed to “Autopsies of the Dead”?

No. It’s Steve’s. It’s not to be considered one of my series of films. It is strictly “Zombie Autopsies.”

But you want to see more commentary in zombie movies?

I figure I’ve always used them for sort of political satire, and I think, why make a horror film if it’s not going to refer to something. That’s just me.

Did you get enough of the vampire genre since you did that with “Martin”?

I haven’t actually because I don’t think Martin was a vampire! I haven’t done a vampire movie.

Ok, but since “Night of the Living Dead” was your take on Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend,” would you want to do another take on vampires?

Ahhh … I don’t think I can speak about that right now! (laughs)
[Head to Daily Dead to shed more light on Romero’s comment]

That’s a great teaser! On another note, I know you’re friends with Max Brooks, so did you see the “World War Z” film?

I did. You know, I didn’t think it was so great then a week after we went to see “Man of Steel.” All of a sudden, we liked “World War Z” a lot better! (laughs)

Supposedly they’re going to do another remake of “Day of the Dead”…

That I know. They’ve done two remakes already. They originally contacted me because they said they wanted to do the original script, the long script I never shot. But the rights were all muddied up and they couldn’t figure out who owned it. They just decided to do something else, and I didn’t want to be involved in that at all. So I’m not involved at all. I know they’re planning on doing it.

I have a soft spot for Bub [the marquee zombie in “Day…” played by Sherman Howard]…

Me too!

It started the zombies with personalities (ZWPs) trend. Does Bub get enough love in the era of “Warm Bodies”?

Yeah… Well, they’ve [ZWPs] been around for a while. What was the one Billy Connolly did? “Fido.” That was warm and fuzzy. There’s been a few.

There’s a lot of love out there for you. You have impacted the careers and lives of a lot of people like Max, Schlozman, Edgar Wright, even mine …

That’s great, thank you. We did a thing with Max and Steve called “Zombie Townhall Meetings.” We sold it to Paramount. They used it on “World War Z” as an extra [on the version sold at Walmart]. It’s great, it’s almost an hour and half. And it’s just us guys bullshitting!

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