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Int: George Romero

Jun. 8, 2005by: The Arrow

JoBlo.com/AITH interviews George Romero

If I need to introduce George Romero to you, then you're surfing the wrong site "compadre". The Godfather of Zombies was our very last interview. We didn't get him for as long as we would've wished (the man kinda had a movie to shoot) but we got enough time with the chain smoking lad (He smokes more than I do...its nuts!) to get a good and clear idea as to his intentions with this latest entry in the beloved undead series. Ladies and germs! I give you GEORGE ROMERO! Nough said...

What took you so long George?

You know, I was never in a big hurry. I had this conceit that the other movies were so far apart, I sort of liked the idea of them reflecting certain decades and I missed the 90s. Actually what happened to us in the 90s was that my partner and I got in development hell, doing deals for movies that never happened. So I finally got fed up and did Bruiser; I took off and did a little movie that I wanted to do. I didnt really have a script for this developed yet and after Bruiser which was a commercial disappointment but I really loved it, I loved doing it and am happy to have it there, I said all right, Ill try to come back for the idea for this.

I had the idea brewing in my mind of people held up in a city somewhere. Its not really the idea from the old Day of the Dead script, its very different. So I never got it together, so after Bruiser I actually started writing the screenplay, finished it, and started sending it out which was around the time of 911. Everybody said Oh we want to make soft and fuzzy movies now, go home. So I did and then a post 911 mentality crept into it so I said well that might be even better.

Its even more appropriate now!

Yeah thats what I felt so I made some adjustments to it and then we were in negotiations with FOX forever and it just sort of kept dragging and dragging. One day, it was pure serendipity; a producer was having lunch with my Agent and said whats George doing? And he said, hes trying to get this thing going! And the producer said, hey man, Ill do it. So all of a sudden after a year long of negotiation, this deal came together in a couple of weeks.

Weve heard a lot about the possible metaphorical and social commentaries about this film, how much of it is in the picture?

I tried to relate it to a sort of Post 911 head in America, its like living with terrorism and the idea of it being a real threat. Its not exactly what this story is though, because within this story the whole world knows that the dead have come back to life. This particular group have tried to set up a society that ignores the problem and so you can sort of call the people in the city Bush America, living around the problem, almost profiting from it.

Do you feel any pressure from the fans to deliver a solid horror film?

Im happy with the stuff! When Day of the Dead first came out, everybody was kind of disappointed; they though it didnt pay off enough. I loved it; its become almost my favorite of the three. Man, you make a movie you just have no idea; you have to take a couple of years away from it just to watch it and say this works or this doesnt work. Its so hard specially when youre right in the middle of doing it, its very hard to see it and I havent had any time in the editing room yet. The editors have started on it, assembling scenes, showing me sort of a rough cut but I dont have any idea how the whole thing is holding together. Its like instrument flying. Right now the editor is assembling on his own the stuff that we do and then Ill go in there and say thats not what I meant, do this, do that.

So youre allowed creative freedom on this movie?

Oh yes, absolutely, I always stay involved completely, sound mix and all, Ill be here till May!

Do you think youre redefining the zombie genre with this movie?

I dont think so.

But you are doing stuff thats never been done in a zombie movie before.

Right.

Like Zombies in water.

I dont think its redefining, theyve been evolving, these guys are just a little bit smarter than Bub (from Day of the Dead), they havent gotten to the Gym yet so theyre not running but theyre brains are evolving.

Whats the rationale then? In Day of the Dead; it felt like Bub was more domesticated as opposed to evolving. Youre taking it in a very different direction then?

They were trying to train Bub but I didnt think it was the training. Even at the end of Dawn you see the one guy who trades in one gun for the other nicer gun. Its a brief glimpse, a little moment showing that they are evolving.

Are there any particular scenes that you are proud of in this movie?

I love the stuff with the hero zombies, its my favorite stuff, Im always more empathetic towards those characters as opposed to the human characters. In this case though, the principal cast of humans is also wonderful.

How did you approach the casting? What were you looking for?

Its funny, I always though of Asia since Ive known here since I did Two Evil Eyes with Dario where he brought her to Pittsburg. So Ive known her since she was a little kid. So the moment we started to work on this, I said, yeah shed be great. And Dennis, I never wouldve thought that he wouldve said yes. It was one of those situations where he was perfect for it. And I feel kind of a connection with him because of the 60s; I want to play Steppenwolf every time he comes on set. And Robert Joy Ive known for years; he was in Dark Half, so he was great. And Simon I just met; theres a Pittsburg connection with Simon though; because he did a series there named the Guardian.

And John?

I cant believe I havent mentioned John; hes another guy that like Dennis where I said forget about it. When I wrote Cholo, I said, it would be great if we could get somebody like Leguizamo; sort of sayingwish list.and John said yes; I feel incredibly gratified that all these guys said yes.

You once said; we could make a Zombie for each decade, sort of a commentary on the decade.

Well initially I had this conceit before between the first and the second one, there was so much time that passed before Dario called. Now this movie is set 2 or 3 years after the phenomenon has started, but the movies themselves are very far apart. I like the idea that this a is a continuing saga but the cars are not period cars, its not set in the 60s and I like the idea of taking it and trying to reflect a little bit about the decade. Thats why I wanted to set it in the 90s because I missed them.

How will the Zombies reflect our society now?

Its not about the Zombies, the zombies are just sort walking through all of this man, its really the humans, their attitudes, the same theme of people not communicating, things falling apart internally, not dealing with things. Everybody is still working their own agendas not willing to give up life as it was. Thats sort of the theme that runs all the way through it. And this has more of that; the idea of trying to build a society on glass, and not caring about whats going on, like a blind wearing blinders to the problem.

In terms of handling zombies, when are they easier to handle? When you do the movies or when you do a comic book like Toe Tags? Whats more satisfying for you?

Thats really hard to say; when I did the comic book; the cool thing about that was that you can always make the shots. It doesnt cost 200 grand a day to sit with an artist and take the shot; its tremendously free.

Have you considered doing other comics then?

Well nobodys ask me to do another one. But sure Id love to do it. I had a great time with it. They were very welcoming and it was a lot of fun. And the art was amazing!

Land of the Dead wise, this is a lot of money more than you ever had in the past, its also under a Studio, how is that changing your process as a filmmaker?

Its not.

At all?

No man, when you make a movie, you have 5 bucks or 5 hundred thousands, its the same process. You figure out what this and that is going to cost and do what you can with it.

The Studio hasnt been interfering?

Theyve been wonderful; the producers are great and Ive been working with my partner who keeps me from saying angry things to people when I shouldnt.

So well get a George Romero movie.

Yeah man, I think so, so far.

No Monkey Shines experience on this one.

Mmm you never know; actually I did that one with Peter too and we didnt have any problem with that until the end. It was just one of those things where the previews changed the ending.

When you started the Dead films in the 60s did you envision how far it would go; was the whole storyline always in your head?

What happened when I first started it; I wrote a short story, the first part of it was basically what became Night of the Living Dead. The second part was a paragraph and the third part was a sentence where the Zombies rule the earth. I ripped off Richard Mathesons I Am Legend but instead of vampires it was ghouls. And I had this sort of simplistic view of what the end of it all would be; the zombies rule the earth. And what came to me later; with the second film and in particular through the third film is that they dont have to rule the earth so quickly; it would be nice to see what happens along the way and how people deal with it.

Its become a forum for me. Most of the time; youre working off somebodys novel, or somebodys idea and you dont get a chance to say who you are, have a little fun, tell a joke, express some of your opinions. And this has become a format that I can keep going back to as a way to say Hey, you know, heres an idea, heres a spin on this, heres the way Im thinking and sort of just a little wink; Im with you guys, Im still a democrat.

Wow...I got to meet Dennis Hooper and George Romero on "one" set visit. I'm f*cking spoiled! Its days like this that make all the slaving I do behind my wretched computer worthwhile. Thank you George, thank you cutie Publicists, thank you everybody for the fine set visit. I can't wait to walk THE LAND OF THE DEAD! YEEEHAWWWW!

RETURN TO
PART 1
PART 2
PART 3

OF MY LAND OF THE DEAD SET VISIT

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