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George Romero Talks About "Land of the Dead"

Interview with George Romero at the Los Angeles Premiere of "Land of the Dead"

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George Romero Talks About

George Romero at the LA Premiere of "Land of the Dead"

© Rebecca Murray
George Romero and "Land of the Dead:" Romero returns to the genre he's credited with creating with "Land of the Dead," his latest venture into the world of zombies. It's been 20 years since Romero stepped behind the camera to direct a zombie movie and fans are eagerly anticipating this new film, which may or may not be his last zombie movie (depending on who you talk to and on what day of the week you speak to them).

In "Land of the Dead," the last humans on earth live inside a fortified city. On the other side of the city's walls, the walking dead roam around looking for a way in. As the social structure inside the city begins to crumble, the zombies outside have started to evolve into an army of flesh-eating killers.

George Romero on the 20 Year Break Between Zombie Movies: "Well, it hasn’t taken me so long. It’s taken the world too long to say, 'Hey, let’s do another one.' I did the first one of these in the 60s and then I did one in the 70s and one in the 80s. I missed the 90s because we were tied up in development deals and, you know, I just basically missed it.

Then I wrote the first draft of this film right before 9/11. Literally I sent it out to studios three days before 9/11. That’s a true story. Everybody then wanted to make friendly little lollipop movies, so I had to stick it on the shelf for a while. Then after the invasion, I took it off the shelf and I said, 'Gee, this is even more interesting now!' To make it sort of address this new normal… So I was a little fast and loose with some of the referencing, you know the 9/11 / post-911 stuff in it. But I think it makes it a little stronger.

It’s about walking that line. You have to do the surface, which is the ride, and then underneath you try to lay in some of your observations. Not necessarily criticisms… I mean, I took some jabs at the administration here which are clearly criticisms. But most of it is more an observation. I have this conceit that the films reflect the times when they were made, stylistically as well as the social commentary."

On Creating Zombie Movies That Stand the Test of Time: "Well, I hope so. You know they stand up because they’re fun rides on the top, I hope. So that’s what I’m trying to do with these."

George Romero on Our Fascination With Zombies: "Boy, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s anything in particular. Zombies have become – not only because of movies but because of video games like Resident Evil and so forth - it’s become sort of the pop culture. It’s an easily identifiable monster. You say 'vampire,' you know what to expect. You say 'zombie,' you know what to expect. You dont' have to have a scientist in the story explaining, 'Well, here’s what’s happening...' I think it’s just become idiomatic."

Romero's Zombies Evolve in "Land of the Dead:" "If you look at my other films, it begins at the end of 'Dawn.' The zombie drags a gun around for the whole movie and then at the very end grabs the hero’s gun and decides that’s better. He doesn’t even know it’s a gun. Then in 'Day of the Dead' there’s a zombie named Bub who actually shots the villain in the end. He’s this very sympathetic guy. It’s sort of following the same track. Now in this film when Big Daddy does it, there’s other zombies that come around and imitate the behavior. So all of a sudden, ooops, there’s a bunch of them out there."

On Losing the Rights to "Night of the Living Dead:" "Night of the Living Dead" is now in the public domain and Romero's not happy about that. "Our title was 'Night of the Flesh Eaters.' We were just a bunch of young guys who made the movie and stuck it in the trunk of our car and drove it to New York to see if anybody wanted to show it. And we put the copyright right on the title card, so when the distributor changed the title to 'Night of the Living Dead,' they just never thought about it. So when the copyright thing came off, it became a public film."

Because of One Little Thing Romero Lost the Rights to "Night of the Living Dead: "Yes, basically. We’re still fighting it and there’s a chance we’ll get it back. A silly thing like that so… My advice to young filmmakers: Get a lawyer!"

Romero on Why After "Night of the Living Dead" ‘Living’ Was Dropped from the Titles: "I know. It’s not me, no. I don’t know. There was no reason for that. It just happened that way."

Romero on Creating "Night of the Living Dead: Romero admits attending premieres for "Land of the Dead" is a totally different experience from his other zombie movies. "Land of the Dead" is the first of his zombie films to have a major studio - and all the publicity and hoopla associated with a big studio - backing its theatrical release. Romero recalls, "When we were making 'Night of the Living Dead' we thought it was going to be playing in a few drive-in theaters and maybe return our investment. And maybe if it did that, we’d be able to make something else. That’s really as far as it went."

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