Exclusive George Romero InterviewSerena
Since I was a little girl, I have been a huge fan of George A. Romero. I remember the first time I watched Night of the Living Dead and from that moment on I was completely immersed into the timeless, zombie-filled world. I have been able to meet many horror legends, but I have always been too nervous to talk to “The Madonna of Horror Directors.” (I call him that because he is constantly able to successfully re-invent the zombie genre with every entry in his Dead franchise.)
Recently, I got the chance to talk to Romero on behalf of horror-movies.ca to discuss the upcoming DVD release of his latest film, Diary of the Dead. I was happy to discover that George was as charismatic and as funny as he appears at the conventions I’ve seen him at, and it made for a very entertaining interview. So read on to find out what George has to say about Diary of the Dead, the status of the much rumored sequel, and his opinion on the mixed reviews and the remakes of his work.
In the Unrated Cut for Land of the Dead, you added more gore, more scares, and a couple of memorable kills that weren’t in the theatrical version. Can your fans expect the same for the upcoming DVD release of Diary of the Dead?
George Romero: This was a modestly budgeted film, and it’s done in real time. There was nothing we could cut away for another sequence. So, no there’s nothing like that in this film. The original cut that was in theatres is the cut on the DVD. However, the extras on the disc are amazing! We have a wonderful documentary. This film was much more of a family environment. The documentary depicts that. There are great interviews with everybody. We actually got all the actors to do a testimony in character. There’s a load of stuff you can watch on the DVD.
You actually held a short film contest for the DVD and one of our readers, Paul De Vecchio actually won the grand prize for his short, The Final Day.
GR: Hey! That’s right!
What made you pick his over the others?
GR: I don’t know! (laughs) I just liked it! I just thought Paul’s short was well executed. I mean, I didn’t like No Country for Old Men. Why didn’t I like it, I couldn’t exactly tell you. (laughs)
Wow! You are actually the only other person I know besides myself that didn’t like it either. Now I don’t feel so bad. (laughs)
GR: (laughs)There was a really weird story about that actually. I didn’t even know the deadline for the contest was coming up and I was in Moscow promoting the release of Diary over there, and they told me, “You need to see these movies! We need a winner!” So they sent them to me, and I watched them all on my computer. I know my buddy Teller, from Penn &Teller was one of the finalists. I hope that some of the amateurs or so-called amateurs don’t get too pissed off by that. (laughs) But seriously, Paul made a very nice little film.
Well, you have received a lot of critical praise for Diary of the Dead. However, there are also a lot of people and critics that didn’t enjoy it either. What was your initial reaction to all the mixed reviews?
GR: Listen, when I get mixed reviews I feel like a President candidate. (laughs) I’m used to getting trashed. I used to get nothing BUT lousy reviews! It wasn’t until Land of the Dead actually that the critics started to notice more from my work, for which I got terrific reviews for. Like I said, I’m used to the slams, because that’s all I’ve gotten for most of my career! (laughs)
Do you ever feel pressured by the public or your fans that use your original Dead trilogy as the basis of comparison for your newer films?
GR: Nope. Most of my fans just want me to remake Dawn of the Dead. The gore fans and people I meet at conventions just want me to do Dawn all over again. They didn’t like Day of the Dead, because it wasn’t like Dawn.
That’s something I like about your films. You’re always able to re-invent the zombie genre numerous times, which is something I and most of your fans really admire. But what really interests me is how the undead evolve in your films. You first touched upon this with Bub in Day of the Dead. Then in Land of the Dead, you had the Big Daddy zombie teach the undead to fight back, and then in Diary, you still have them evolving. Do you think you will ever do a Dead movie where the zombies are eventually smarter and stronger than the human race?
GR: I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to do a ‘Planet of the Apes’ with zombies if you know what I mean. I don’t think I want to know what happens in that world. I didn’t want [the series] to get to that point, which is partly the reason why I was so willing to do [Diary of the Dead] so quickly after Land. I wanted to do something about American media, and I felt I needed to do this after Land, but I didn’t realize that there were other people that were thinking the same way.
It’s funny how you bring that up because Diary of the Dead is constantly being compared to movies like Rec or Cloverfield, and it is fairly different than those movies. How do you feel about Diary being compared to the new standard hand held horror genre?
GR: You know what? I’m an Independent guy. I do my own stuff. I can honestly say I don’t particularly care. (laughs) Everybody always asks Stephen King, “How do you feel about Hollywood ruining your books?” He says, “They’re not ruined. They’re right here on my shelf right behind me.” That’s how I feel about my films. My stuff is my stuff. Take it or leave it. I mean they’re not making a splash or making as much money as the other films, but it’s there. The same could be said about the remakes of my films.
Studios are constantly remaking your films. I heard they’re remaking The Crazies?
GR: Well they’re still talking about remaking The Crazies. I don’t know if it’s going to happen. But look, look at Creepshow 3….dreadful. Day of the Dead 2:Contagium…dreadful. They like remaking them, but they don’t exactly put as much thought into them. (laughs)
Like I said before, I don’t care! (laughs) I’m not getting anything out of it. They’re[remakes] aren’t apart of my life. I don’t particularly care for them. (laughs)
There was actually a character in Diary that I loved and that was Samuel, the deaf Amish killing machine.
GR: Yeah. (chuckles)
Where did you get the idea for that character?
GR: I don’t know actually. I lived in Pennsylvania for forty years, and I would always drive and would see people who would look like Samuel. I was actually very reluctant to do that scene. We had it written, we were ready to shoot, and we had the cast, but I kept saying to my partner, “This is so slapstick!”
Well it stood out in the good way with the audience I saw it with. It got the most laughs and applause.
GR: I know, and that’s why I’m so glad we did it! (laughs) And it works!
Here’s a question that all your fans want to know. What’s the deal with Diary of the Dead 2? There’s been rumors going around that the project has been greenlit. There’s even a teaser poster for it, and there is talk going around that you’re not attached to it. Would you be able to address any of the much-talked about rumors?
GR: Yeah, I’m definitely attached to it. If the producers want to make the sequel, I will make it. But who knows, I could be written out of it. As far as the project being greenlit, the answer is no. I haven’t gotten a check yet. (laughs)
This would be your first direct sequel. Would you want to do that or would you prefer doing another Dead entry with separate characters like you’ve done with the previous five films?
GR: I don’t really have anything to talk about, unless within the next week someone decides to bomb Washington. (laughs) If I have to do another entry, it would probably be a continuation with some of the characters from Diary. I actually have a script ready, actually it’s more a draft. I’m basically doing it on spec because it’s not greenlit. I don’t know when it will be. But, my partner has the draft now and he’s coming up here this week to discuss it. When they’re ready, I’ll be ready. If not, then I will do something else.
Well your fans definitely want a sequel. But right now, I actually have some questions from your fans. We put an article up on the site yesterday, and obviously I can’t ask them all, but you can always check the rest of them on your spare time on the site.
GR: That’s great! I’ll definitely check it out!
The first question is from Mirthquake. Mr. Romero, there was recently a little upswing in recognition of a project you were attached to called Diamond Dead. We heard rumblings that it might still be a go. Anything you can tell us?
GR: It’s a project that I really loved, but nobody got it. I know there is a script that I didn’t write and I know there is a renewed interest in it, but I’m not at the moment involved.
The next question is from….The Fecal Kid.
GR: What was that? Fecal? (laughs)
GR: Okay…shoot! (laughs)
Fec…umm..HE asks, “You’ve said before that we shouldn’t attach a year/decade/time to your films. For example, Night of the Living Dead and Diary of the Dead took place during the same evening, but were filmed almost 40 years apart. Do you think you’ll ever make a zombie movie that is set in a specific time or will you keep giving us your humorous and twisted take on our current social dilemma?
GR: (laughs) That’s apart of my gimmick if you know what I mean. I’m able to play with time in that way. The first reference to a timeframe was in Land of the Dead, when John Leguizamo says its been three years since the outbreak. However, it was really thirty-six! The cars aren’t the same and everything has changed. So, I’m playing with time in that way.
I think a lot of people read too much into it.
GR: Yeah, I know. It doesn’t really matter though. My major interest is making these movies about society in its time. If I would put a year on it, it would be detrimental.
I actually have a question from Paul, the short film winner.
GR: Hey! Cool!
He asks, “Your films have social commentary. Do you feel that it’s irresponsible to make hack, slash, gory films that are purely for entertainment with no commentary or no “something” to think about? Or do you feel that since filmmakers have the power, they should take the responsibility to make us think about our current state, how we treat ourselves and others, etc?”
GR: I think that that always creeps into your work. No, I don’t think it’s irresponsible. I like gore! (laughs) I mean look at Broadway musicals. Many of those are fluffy, have nothing to do with anything, and yet are somehow entertaining. Then there are movies like West Side Story. It’s really all up to the filmmaker. But, I wouldn’t say it’s irresponsible…just a different opinion.
The5thDroog asks, “Do you think your film Bruiser ever gets overlooked at times? I really enjoyed that one!”
GR: I don’t think it gets overlooked at times. I think it’s BEEN overlooked FOREVER! (laughs) Please tell him I am delighted that he brings it up, because it’s one of my favorites. Nobody ever got it! I’m amazed that people know it. I like it a lot and it was a major disappointment when no one really saw it.
But like you said in Diary, ‘there’s always an audience for horror.’ I think the same can be said about all your films, horror or not.
GR: Thank you. (laughs)
I have one last question and it’s just from me. If you had the chance right now to do another entry into the Dead franchise, or take on another equally compelling project outside of the horror genre, what would you choose?
GR: (pause) Well I haven’t even thought of that!
GR: That’s…that’s tough. It would depend. If I got a script that somebody had written and it was a really terrific script outside of the horror genre, I would probably say yes. However, when I want to write a motion picture, it’s much easier for me to hide the salami in the sandwich so to speak and put it in the context of a horror movie. The world I’ve created with these movies are already established. It’s much easier saying what it is I want to say in my movies. (laughs)
Well George, I think we ran out of time, but I just wanted to say that it was really great talking to you! I’ve been a fan of yours for a very long time.
GR: Thanks Serena!
Again, I would just like to thank George and the readers of the site for providing a few questions, and please make sure to go rent or buy ‘Diary of the Dead’ on DVD this May 20th, 2008.