Exclusive: KNB’s Greg Nicotero Talks Evil Dead II, The Walking Dead and More!

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When it comes to creating jaw-dropping special make-up effects in movies, it doesn’t get any better than the work by Greg Nicotero, one of the masters of KNB EFX, who have been responsible for some of the biggest and best effects of the last 25 years in the industry.

With the recent release of the Evil Dead II Blu-ray, Dread Central had the opportunity to briefly sit down and chat with the make-up maestro about his experiences both working on the cult classic as well as revisiting them some 25 years later now. Nicotero also briefly chatted about the last few days of shooting for “The Walking Dead” and so much more.

Dread Central: Greg, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. I can’t even imagine how busy your schedule must be right now with “The Walking Dead” on top of everything else.

Greg Nicotero: “I literally wrapped Friday morning, and right now I couldn’t even tell you what day it is. All I know is that I’m exhausted because the last few days of shooting “The Walking Dead” were pretty hard. We shot all night scenes last week so it was around 23 degrees every night- the complete opposite of the heat we started off in. It was hard to imagine; we even had fake bodies start to freeze while on set, which was definitely a first for me.”

DC: I can’t even begin to imagine that. Now let’s talk a bit about your own home videos being on the Evil Dead II Blu-ray because I think including them is remarkable. It’s not like behind-the-scenes features were all the rage back then so getting that kind of coverage for a cult classic like this is pretty amazing. So thank you for having that kind of foresight to film everything.

Nicotero: “Well, that’s something I have to give Tom Savini a tremendous amount of credit for actually because he always documented everything, and I think a lot of that came from Dick Smith originally because Smith was a big fan of testing make-ups and doing shooting tests. But when I went to work on Day of the Dead, I ended up being the guy who documented everything we did on that movie, and I saw how important it was to get everything on record.”

“So when we started Evil Dead II with Mark (Shostrom), I had my camera on my shoulder and I filmed a bunch of the work we did in the studio. Then, when we went to set, it was all a bunch of young guys living in different houses in Waynesboro, North Carolina, so it had this ‘summer camp’ feel, just minus the whole massacre part. But back then you didn’t have to worry about the internet or media finding your footage so everyone was really open to my filming on Evil Dead II, which was great because I have a lot of lost scenes in my footage. Sam and Bruce were really open to me filming them- they would begin to ham it up or start performing for the camera anytime I pointed the camera in their direction. Because of that I now have thousands of hours of footage of us on different movie sets because I saw how important it really was.”

“What’s so amazing, though, is the amount of filmmakers that love that film and found inspiration in Evil Dead II. I was working on a project with Bill Paxton, and he told me how one morning James Cameron just showed up at his house and told him he had two minutes to get ready because he was taking him to see Evil Dead II. And even back when I was working with Robert Rodriguez on The Faculty, I had him come by my house and he saw the tapes on my shelf. He had no idea I had worked on it, and when he found out I had like six hours of behind-the-scenes footage from it, we had to watch it all that night. It was so much fun because everyone seems to love the ‘down and dirty’ filmmaking approach on it; I think the effects we did on Evil Dead II was a bit of an inspiration behind the kind of gore you saw in Robert’s Grindhouse movie, too. It’s a classic for a reason.”

DC: As a fan of practical effects, what I loved so much about seeing your footage was the fact that Sam and everyone really created some movie magic on Evil Dead II because everything had to be done in-camera. When you go back and look at your early work like that, do you get nostalgic at all for the earlier days of special effects?

Nicotero: “Absolutely. It’s true that they don’t make films like that anymore at all. It’s interesting. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and what it took to make a movie like Evil Dead II back then and the amount of creativity it took to get everything to work. Clearly Sam, as imaginative as he was and still is, used every trick in the book that he could find; he loved stop-motion; we also used rear screen projection, some miniatures, practical effects, some animation and then just some minor visual effects to finish everything.”

“That being said, I think Evil Dead II is literally one of the most fun movies to watch that I’ve ever worked on. It’s definitely a springboard movie for all of us who made it, and I think because of all of our ingenuity on that film, it really took all of us effects guys to an entirely different level. What I think is great is that even after all this time, we still get to work with Sam (and even Bruce) on the new Oz movie and Sam’s still the same guy he was back then. He still has the same passion and love for filmmaking, and I don’t think anyone would have realized his true level of talent had it not been for Evil Dead II.”

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