After first speaking with director and special effects legend Greg Nicotero on the set of Predators back in 2009 in Texas, it was a little peculiar to touch base once again during a global pandemic. Greg has been staying busy, writing constantly and going through stacks of old negatives and other archival materials from his illustrious career. (He’s also been playing guitar to Lynyrd Skynyrd on a beautiful Allen Collins Gibson Explorer).
Hopefully, all of his organizing during the global pause will result in a massive volume of horror memorabilia featuring the incredible work he and KNB EFX Group have done over the years. Having worked on classics like Day of the Dead, Creepshow 2, Misery, Scream, From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill and The Walking Dead, Nicotero seems most excited to usher in a new era of Creepshow for television. The first season premiered on Shudder but is now airing on AMC as well. The packed Blu-ray will be available on Tuesday, June 2 featuring behind-the-scenes featurettes and episode commentaries.
In the below interview, Nicotero reflects on his career, the legacy of Creepshow and where Season 2 is headed. They were all set to shoot Season 2 just before the shut down happened, so everything is pretty much ready to go once production can finally resume. We also get a tease of one of the episodes featuring a giant spider that Nicotero himself is deathly afraid of.
Dread Central: How are you spending time in Quarantine? Where are you right now?
Greg Nicotero: I’m in Los Angeles. We were 24 hours away from beginning production on Season 2 of Creepshow. The good news is I re-wrote a couple scripts and I actually wrote one other draft of a script for Creepshow. So, I’ve been staying busy and to be really honest, I spent the last ten years back-and-forth away from my wife and my kids while I was doing Walking Dead. So, I’m taking advantage of this time to catch up on some lost time.
DC: I’m glad you’re staying productive. It looked like you were digitizing a lot of things during the planet pause like going through old Evil Dead 2 slides. Are you reflecting more or getting inspired looking at old production stills and props while you’re at home?
GN: It’s interesting because you forget moments. I have a very specific memory of my career and then I’ll look at a picture and it will instantly flash me to that day. I’ll think, ‘Wow. I didn’t remember that that guy was there.’ Or I didn’t remember doing it that way, so it’s kind of been really fun to go back and look through all these old Creepshow 2 negatives and stuff. There’s so much of my history that I spent a lot of time documenting and it makes me really happy that I have a little bit of time to get it organized…the legacy of KNB and the five billion years I’ve been doing this it seems like.
DC: Are you just going through whatever you come across? Do you have any strategy of how you want to organize it?
GN: Well, you know, I did an interview for Deepstar Six of all movies. Michael Felcher who does a lot of special features that said, ‘Hey, do you have any behind the scenes video?’ I have so much. You gotta kind of credit Dick Smith because, initially, Dick Smith was the guy who documented everything and then shared all this information with Rick Baker and Tom Savini and all these guys. So, when I started working for Tom in 1984, Tom had sort of followed suit by always having a camera and a video camera with him, so I sort of took that torch with me. When I did this interview with Michael about three weeks ago, he had said do you mind looking for that footage. I went into the closet and found all these old Beta tapes from The Borrower and Deepstar Six and Phantasm II and all of my negatives. I have it all organized but I haven’t looked at it in a long time.
I started pulling out these photos and there’s the creature from Deepstar Six before we painted it. There was pictures of covering actress Jeremy Green with black ultra-slime from Creepshow 2. I sent her one of the photos and she was like, ‘God, that was a billion years ago.’ So, I’m kind of happy that it gives me a little bit of time to take stock of my legacy and the work that I’ve done and the people that I’ve done it with.
DC: That’s fantastic. I’d love to see something like that in a huge archive or coffee table book at some point. What’s the first effects gag you remember pulling off and being really proud of? Obviously, studying anatomy in med school gave you a leg up. But maybe even before Day of the Dead, like one of the first things you remember as a kid. Does anything come to mind?
GN: Well, I shot a zombie movie with my best friend in high school called Dead Meat. We shot it in my backyard and I remember doing a zombie bite on my arm out of mortician’s wax and I was so excited about it. Even before that, when I was probably fourteen years old I made a Jaws movie and I remember going to the hardware store and buying sand and red Testors paint. And I buried my friend John…I buried his arm in the sand and then poured blood all over where the sand covered his forearm to make it look like a severed arm. That was pretty great. I was being ingenious at thirteen.
DC: No live insects though I guess, unfortunately.
GN: No, I stayed away from the bugs.
DC: I know you’re kind of afraid of spiders. I don’t know how much you can tease about Season 2 of Creepshow but I did see the giant spider on your Instagram. Can you talk about that episode at all or that story?
GN: Yeah, there’s an episode that it is sort of my version of Food of the Gods. The movie is terrible. The best thing about Food of the Gods is the Drew Struzan poster painting. But I remember looking at the Burman’s [makeup artists on Food of the Gods] work like the giant wasp and the giant rat. I remember thinking how cool it was back in the day to have giant bugs and how truly terrifying they are. So we came up with a story, it was written by a friend of mine, and we have been building some sort of giant insects that would have been eradicated by an exterminator. And they kind of come back and get their comeuppance.
DC: That sounds great. That’s one of the easiest ways to make a monster, just make something bigger.
GN: I’m telling you, I was thinking about it. I never really remember seeing a spider puppet that looked real, that looked really one hundred percent authentic. So what I wanted to do, I wanted to actually duplicate a tarantula at four feet across. I said listen, ‘I’m afraid of spiders so it’s gotta freak me out and if it doesn’t than it’s not authentic.’ The more I would see it, the more it would creep me out. I was really, really proud of how it looks. It looks even better now, I can’t get within five feet of it.
DC: Are you guys going to do one episode per show for Season 2? It sounds like doing the 2-in-1 was pretty grueling for the first season.
GN: It was, but that’s what Creepshow needs to be. It needs to be the experience of going from one story to the other and the page turns and everything. I don’t think it would be quite the same. As a matter of fact, we have one episode that I wrote that is a two-parter. We’ll do the first half at the end of one segment and then the second half at the beginning of the next episode. Because I feel like you need to preserve that idea of getting those bite-size morsels. I think if you had one story per episode, I don’t think it really quite captures the spirit that we want.
DC: There are so many great easter eggs for fans in Season 1 and they can go back and try to catch all of them again on the Blu-ray. Can you talk about the infamous ashtray and if it will be making an appearance in Season 2?
GN: That whole thing came out as a joke. If I remember correctly, Nick Mastandrea who was the key grip on Creepshow, they made this joke about putting the ashtray in every episode. A friend of mine had acquired the original ashtray and I begged them to let us use it. If I’m not mistaken, it was used in every episode of Season 1 but you might not see it. I know it was on the set. I know in Season 2, we’re making a concerted effort to make sure that the ashtray gets it’s starring role.
DC: Can you tease any actors in Season 2?
GN: We had started casting, we had a lot of great actors. As soon as we halted production…I’m hoping when we get rolling again, we can get the same actors. It’s gonna be a new world. I think the business is going to change a lot. The not knowing is the greatest challenge for so many of us.
DC: Are there any commentaries and extras on the Blu-ray that you oversaw? Also, on a personal note, I forced my wife and her parents to drive us to Monroeville Mall just after George’s passing and the 40th anniversary [Dawn of the Dead] and I was emotional riding the escalator and seeing the statue of him. I was just wondering if you’d visited the mall recently.
GN: Well, in terms of your first question, yeah, there are loads of special features. I did commentary on a bunch of the episodes. I had asked the writers and some of the actors and the directors to do isolated commentary tracks if I couldn’t be with them. There’s some making of stuff and a lot of stuff about easter eggs and there’s a lot of stuff about creating a comic book look. There’s a lot of great special features on the DVD that I’m pretty proud of.
In terms of the Monroeville Mall, not last June but two years ago, they have a convention that they do twice a year called Weekend of the Dead. They invited me to go to the Monroeville Mall and the entire cast was there, a lot of the crew was there. Most of the same people were on Day of the Dead and Monkey Shines. So, I got a chance to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a long time. It’s emotional and it’s strange. You feel George’s presence all over the place everywhere you look. It’s not a shopping mall, it’s a movie location. You can’t help but become moved by it. For me, being able to be a part of that and being a part of so many of George’s great projects and to continue the legacy, it really is a great honor. And shooting Creepshow one, it was rough, man. I felt the responsibility of continuing his legacy and I’m tremendously grateful to everybody, the fans and the people that supported the show.
Creepshow Season 1 will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, June 2.