Before Robert Kirkman ever imagined the world of "The Walking Dead," the undead were brought to life by visionary director George A. Romero in "Night of the Living Dead." The classic horror film would launch an entire genre and inspire countless filmmakers to create their own zombie epics.
Now the man who has given entire generations chills is coming to Chicago for a rare convention appearance. George A. Romero will be a special guest at FLASHBACK WEEKEND where he will be re-uniting with cast members of his "Night of the Living Dead" sequel "Dawn of the Dead."
Calling from his home in Toronto, Romero spoke with me via telephone. We discussed strange autograph requests; figuring out trends in horror; the challenges of film finance; and I even pitch him a movie idea!:
Geek To Me: It is rare for you to attend conventions, so what is it about Flashback Weekend that made you say “I want to go to this show” and what are you expecting from it?
George Romero: Well, I’m not necessarily expecting anything different at the show. I’ve been there - I think - twice (laughs). I’ve been there before and I really liked it. They do a great job with it. Several of my colleagues and friends are going to be there, so it’s just a good one to do.
I haven’t done any in a couple of years. I’ve been holed up, sort of writing and staying off that circuit for a while. I’ve done a couple of appearances, but not signings. This is the first time I’m going to be out there at a table. It’s always fun. I like meeting the fans. It’s great.
G2M: Do you have any previous experiences that were peculiar or chuckle-worthy that you’d like to share?
George Romero: Well (laughs) I’ve had a couple of strange requests for me to sign. Somebody’s ass (laughs)-
George Romero: -somebody’s breast. And so I sort of make it a rule now. I tell people I won’t sign body parts. But they go and get it tattooed, you know? And I don’t want to be responsible for that. (laughs) When they grow up and decide they don’t really want that tattoo anymore. So I just don’t do body parts anymore.
G2M: Have you ever had an interaction affect the type of story you wanted to tell?
George Romero: No, not really. I mean, I mostly tell stories about zombies. I did write a script once about one of these conventions. And it never got off the ground. I was never able to sell it. I think the studios thought it was to “elite” - no - too specialized. That the general public wouldn’t appreciate it, or get it. So I did do that once, but that was specifically to write about one of these conventions.
G2M: You’re known for the horror genre, zombies specifically, but have you ever had the itch to dabble in another genre? Have you ever thought “I wanna do a romantic comedy.”
George Romero: Well, you know I think some of my zombie films are comedies. (laughs) Truly. I go for the throat sometimes with the laughs. The last one I did, “Survival of the Dead”, had some real Chuck Jones slapstick humor in it. I love that. But I’ve never wanted to do a flat out spoof. I do have - again - a script that is a complete comedy. It’s zombies but it’s just silly all the way. It doesn’t deal with the apocalypse, anything like that. It’s sort of like the Coyote and the Road Runner. So that script I have out there. I’ve shown it to a couple of people and once again nobody wants to do that broad a comedy with zombies. Despite “Zombieland” which was pretty hilarious.
G2M: You’ve been in the business a very long time. You’re a respected name in the business. Personally I find it astonishing that your name can’t get a particular project launched. What do you think is the reasoning behind that?
George Romero: I think basically I’ve always been this little sort of maverick off in the woods somewhere. I think I’m like John Waters or one of those guys. I don’t think anyone particularly trusts me. I’ve only had two budgets that were close to twenty (million). One was “The Dark Half” and one was actually “Land of the Dead.” That was because I had Steve King on board with “The Dark Half” and that made the sale, basically. And the other one was I had a strong producer named Mark Canton who was able to get it financed through Universal. So I always have sort of a partnership there. I’m not particularly interested in doing bigger budget stuff either. The last two films I made were hovering between 2 and 3 million. I prefer it, you know? All the executives go away (laughs) and I can’t pretty much do what I want. And I’m very content doing this. I always have been.