Yesterday we brought you Part One of our George A. Romero panel coverage from the recent Flashback Weekend in Chicago, and today we’ve got more with the iconic filmmaker, who discussed everything from Dawn of the Dead to his latest writing project with Marvel!
Check out the second part of Romero’s always lively discussion below and look for more panel coverage from Flashback Weekend in the coming days, including the Pet Sematary, Dawn of the Dead and The Lords of Salem reunions.
Question: It seems like by the time Land of the Dead came around, the zombies themselves were becoming protagonists. Was there a reason for the switch?
George A. Romero: Well, there’s actually a story to how that happened. Universal did influence that aspect because they didn’t want an African-American lead so they influenced the casting. And so they said, “We have to sell Europe and Europe doesn’t buy African-American leads unless it’s Denzel (Washington). So when I wrote Big Daddy, he was a white guy and Riley Denbo was the black guy. I just flipped them. I was like, “You won’t let me make Riley black? Well, then Big Daddy’s going to be black and he’s going to KICK ASS (laughs).
Question: Can you talk about what inspired what I think is the greatest zombie of all time- Bub?
George A. Romero: I think he’s great too; Howard Sherman did a fantastic job. But I just loved the guy, loved the character. It was a character I had originally written as part of a longer script that I never had the chance to make. But so Bub the character was in that script and he was always sympathetic and always came in at the end and killed Rhodes. I just loved the guy. But really, Howard’s performance to me was just as good as any from Karloff. He’s just brilliant; that character would not be that vivid or memorable had it not been for Howard.
Question: How much fun did you have working with Dario Argento on Dawn of the Dead?
George A. Romero: Oh yes; Dario said,”George-a, you make your movie!” So I really was able to do whatever I wanted to do with it. He reserved the right to cut it for Europe. He thought Europeans wouldn’t understand the humor but then finally– (laughs). So I just said fine and it all worked out great; he did all the Goblin stuff and I wasn’t obligated to use it. I think I used about five or six pieces in the end. But I was able to make the movie that I wanted to.
Question: Martin was great; would you ever consider redoing it?
George A. Romero: No; I know my ex-partner has the rights and he’s talking about wanting to do it but I would never want to do it. I mean, this is the guy who authorized the last two Dead remakes. I love Martin; I wouldn’t want to touch it and I hope no one remakes it.
Question: I was just wondering if you would chat about Knightriders because it’s one of my favorite films and it doesn’t get talked about a lot.
George A. Romero: I think Knightriders is my second favorite film that I’ve done; it’s definitely the most personal movie for me. I really connected with it thematically. It was about the idea of sticking to your guns which is something I think that anyone who considers themselves an artist can relate to. It’s about staying true to yourself and your ideals. And I just came to love it.
But again, I was sort of backed into doing the movie differently than I had originally envisioned; when I first started working on the script, there was this Renaissance Faire group so that’s where my idea came from for the story to use horseback. So then I pitched it over at Avco and they told me, “Ah, put it on motorcycles” which I hated. But then I thought about it a little more and realized maybe there was something to that (laughs). And that was the evolution of Knightriders.
Question: What would you consider the greatest achievement of your career so far?
George A. Romero: You know, I’m just happy to be here doing what I do. Every time I get involved with a film, even the ones that don’t get made, I get very involved with it. I’ve written most of my stuff except for the two things Stephen King wrote and one very early movie I did called The Affair. I just feel happy and privileged to be able to be doing it. I still really get passionate and I think that’s really what it is. I still feel a little bit of a charge so I don’t ever want to take it for granted. But asking that is like asking which one of your kids is your favorite (laughs).
Question: Have you read any of Joe Hill’s stuff at all?
George A. Romero: Oh I have, it’s wonderful. I’m not sure why he doesn’t go by Joe King; I think it’s great though that he’s out doing it on his own terms. I don’t know if anybody knows this but the kid on the poster and the kid in the movie is Joe King.
Question: Can you talk more about why Day of the Dead is your favorite zombie movie that you’ve done?
George A. Romero: I just think it has a good personality to it; I think of it almost like a comic book. The characters are all so arched and so broad. You know, sometimes you confuse the making of a film with the film itself and I don’t necessarily think it’s my best work but the overall experience of making it- working with everyone in the cast and the crew especially- and it was just amazing.
And again, I was able to make the kind of movie that I wanted to make; it wasn’t the bigger script I had initially written but as far as I was concerned, there was nothing missing. There was nothing in that bigger script that added to the punch of the storyline at all. It was just a bunch of above-ground action sequences that would have been really expensive to do and probably wouldn’t have added much at all.
Question: I had heard about a project you were involved with called “Marvel of the Dead” and I was wondering if you could give us an update on that?
George A. Romero: It’s not “Marvel of the Dead,” I’m just writing a comic book series for Marvel. I’m sort of sworn to secrecy as far as the story goes but it’s no secret that I’m doing it because they’ve put out the announcement already, at San Diego Comic-Con I believe. So yeah, I’m writing 15 books for them.
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