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Greg Nicotero on "Land of the Dead," George Romero, and Creating Zombies

Interview with Greg Nicotero from the LA Premiere of "Land of the Dead"


Updated February 19, 2014
Greg Nicotero on Makeup Effects in Films: "You know, a lot of people think that with the advent of computer technology, that that’s really going to take a bite out of makeup effects. But there are more films being greenlit with special effects than there ever were before, because all of a sudden we have this new tool. A lot of people don’t think about that. They think, 'Oh, it’s going to bite into everyone’s work.' But the reality is that it doesn’t. It creates more work. The year that we did 'Men in Black,' 'Spawn,' 'Dust ‘Till Dawn,' it was like all of a sudden all these films are being made that are big visual effects movies, but then they also need make-up effects."

On the Misconception CGI Takes Away from Makeup Effects: "Everyone goes, 'Ohhh, it’s all computers – it’s all computers.' It’s like, 'Yeah, but even the movies that have the most CGI and the biggest visual effects, they still need makeup effects.' All Robert Rodriguez movies – we did all the 'Spy Kids' movies and even 'Sin City.' You know, 'Sin City’s' a big visual effects extravaganza. People don’t go, 'Wait a minute. Mickey Rourke’s in a makeup. Bruce Willis is in a makeup. Nick Stahl’s in a makeup.' You don’t think about it because you’re so busy watching the film. To me, that’s a compliment because I don’t want people pulled out of the film. I want them to be absorbed into it.

For this movie the real challenge was I wanted people every single shot to be looking at, 'Oh, that zombie looks different than that one. And that zombie looks different from that one,' so that they always feel like they’re looking at something different. So we never repeated the same makeup."

Creating Unique Zombies for "Land of the Dead:" "It’s challenging. It’s really challenging because there were even a few times when they were actually sending the same actors to us over and over again, so we had to make them look different. It’s like the same guy that we saw five nights in a row – or the stunt guy – I’d have to do different makeup. We’d put on a ball cap and we’d like rip his ear off or bite his eye out, or give him real stringy long hair. And you’d never know it was the same guy you saw the day before or the day after that or the day after that…"

Having Zombies on the Brain: "You know when we were shooting this movie I dreamed about it every night. I’ve known George Romero for almost 30 years. He’s been a family friend, a dear friend. To me, it was about doing a great job for George. That’s all I cared about. And the pressure was on. It was like for me, it was a lot of weight on my shoulders."

Nicotero's Opinion on Whether "Land of the Dead" Will Be Romero's Last Zombie Movie: "I’ll tell you if this movie opens and it’s big, I would be surprised. George, after 20 years, has a lot to say. He’s said a lot."

On the 20 Year Gap Between Romero's Zombie Movies: "Well you know, George has been doing a lot of writing, and the climate changed. All of a sudden it was about young filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. And a lot of people forget that all these guys came out of the movie theaters watching George’s movies.

Tomorrow I’m going to Pittsburgh because we’re premiering the movie there, and I’m taking Quentin Tarantino with me. I’m taking Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg from 'Shaun of the Dead' and we’re all going to celebrate George. To me that’s really what it’s about. It’s about a bunch of filmmakers that not only were influenced by him but were inspired by him when they were younger. And now they’re out making movies. Robert Rodriguez used to cut his own trailers for 'Dawn of the Dead' and send them to me because he’s an editor. It’s amazing."

On the Ongoing Fascination With Zombies: "You know what? There’s a primal fear of being eaten alive. That’s why a movie like 'Jaws' is always going to be huge. There’s just something about it that when you suddenly realize that there are things out there that could overpower you and consume you alive… And the fact that it’s somebody that you love. It’s like your best friend. One minute you’re standing there talking to your best friend and a second later it turns."

The Scoop on "Sin City 2:" Nicotero will be reuniting with Rodriguez for the sequel to "Sin City" but wasn't positive exactly what he'd have to create makeup-wise. "I don’t know how much stuff we’re doing yet. All I know is I got a phone call from Mickey Rourke saying, 'Hey you ready to do this again?' I said, 'Mick, absolutely.' I loved him. I loved Mickey. He was so great. We’re great friends now. He’s not a big fan of sitting in the makeup chair so I had to sort of coerce him the first few times. Like, ‘Mick, come on, we’ve got to do touch-ups.’ 'Can’t you just do it out here?' 'No, sit down. Come on.'"

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