Exclusive: Matt Birman Talks George Romero and Road of the Dead at Frontières - Dread Central
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Exclusive: Matt Birman Talks George Romero and Road of the Dead at Frontières

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The Frontières Market is taking place at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival right now, and we were onsite to catch up with Matt Birman, co-writer and director of Road of the Dead, the next film in the Dead series from George A. Romero, who co-wrote the script. Birman updated us on the influences that inspired the film, when it takes place in the chronology of the series, and what kind of tone it will take.

While not totally at odds with Romero’s previous statements, Birman definitely has a very clear vision of what the film will be like, and I think that vision is going to appeal to everyone interested in what will come next from the Dead series!

Dread Central: How are things going for you at Frontières?
Matt Birman: It’s going great. There’s a tremendous amount of interest and a lot of love for an amazing guy. It’s bittersweet because it’s everything that George and I wanted on one level, but man, does the timing ever suck!

DC: Can you tell me a bit about your relationship with George and how everything led to this moment?
MB: That’s a biggie. We met on Land of the Dead. We hit it off as friends and not just workmates, shared a lot of the same mentalities about movies, life, actors, for the last 13 to 14 years. This idea for Road [of the Dead] was born out of what happens next in Land of the Dead; when the truck is heading to Canada and Big Daddy roars at it, I sort of cracked a joke, “Hey look! They’re using guns; they’ve figured out how to swim and use guns, and they’re practically talking! What’s the next thing they’re going to remember how to do?”

And [George] thought that was hysterical and then, for the next seven years, we couldn’t figure how, what, or why they would be driving. We ended up getting together in Mexico in February of 2012, we were at a restaurant and we went, “Ben Hur!” That’s why they’re driving! They’re in a chariot race and they’re being FORCED to drive. There are a lot of misconceptions that would be great for the fans to know that it’s not Fast and the Furious or Mad Max. Those are movies that George knew that meant “cars.” This is more of a Heart of Darkness feeling. It’s Apocalypse Now meets Ben Hur, which is an absurd combination, I know, but the driving is just… it’s a part of it. It’s more of an attempt to get back to what Dawn and Day were and what happens next after Land. Chronologically, it’s about a year after Land.

But that’s how it all came about and he was very, very excited… Neither of us were sure it was decent enough, that it was a good idea, and we got more and more excited about it. We had three other projects and we kept coming back, saying, “We gotta do Road! We gotta do Road!” So, we thought Road would lead to the others.

So, I’m excited. I’m heartbroken. It’s an unfillable loss and it’s also very daunting for me as a filmmaker that’s nowhere near the legacy or the brilliance that he had so I’m a little intimidated being the guy that he said, “Here. You do this.” It was fabulous and exciting when he was with me and now that he’s not… I feel like I’m getting a lot of support and a lot of love and that the community that I want to be a part of… the entire gore and zombie community… it’s something that I can be embraced. I’ve said it before; it’s not just for him, it’s with him. As will the other three [projects], I’m not going to stop. I won’t lie, it’s really difficult.

DC: The benefit that you have is that the horror community will recognize that you have a history with George, that you have been a friend and co-worker for many years. That’s far better than some random person coming in and trying to take over what he spent years building.
MB: That’s not the daunting or scary part. It’s the responsibility to the legacy. I don’t want anyone to think for one second that I’m taking over. It’s more that I want to continue to be a conduit because I know how the guy thinks and I know what he would’ve wanted. I’m going to say “No” to a lot of the stuff he would’ve said “No” to just to protect the integrity of both the artist and the man. So, I’m looking forward and I’m feeling the energy and love, but it’s a great responsibility. I shouldn’t say fear but responsibility.

But as for Road, it’s gonna be terrific. It’s gonna be awesome.

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