GENRE ONLINE.NET Interview – Writer and Director George A. Romero
By Mark A. Rivera
I am a big fan of George A.
Romero’s films. In particular I love “The Crazies” and enjoyed his
collaboration with Stephen King on “Creepshow,” but of all of features Mr.
Romero has produced and or directed, my absolute favorite are his “Living
Dead” films, which began in 1968 with “Night Of The Living Dead.” Shot
using documentary techniques and clever editing, this black and white
independent film built one of the strongest reputations in the horror genre and
it set a trend too. In 1979 Romero took his apocalyptic vision and social
commentary to epic proportions with the first sequel “Dawn Of The Dead” and
then followed it with the even darker in tone 1985 feature “Day Of The
The summer of 2005 has been referred
to as the summer of the two Georges because just as “Star Wars” fans eagerly
awaited the culmination of George Lucas’ space opera with the feature film
release of “Revenge Of The Sith,” horror film fans eagerly anticipated
George Romero’s first entry in 20 years in the subgenre he created entitled
“Land Of The Dead.” While the two franchises couldn’t be more different
outside of the fact that the two filmmakers just happened to have the first name
“George,” the fan base for both of these series are fiercely loyal and just
as Lucas set the bar for all space opera to follow with his “Star Wars Saga”
so did Romero prove once again that although he can be imitated, he can never be
equaled. In America critics heralded “Land Of The Dead” as George Romero’s
zombie masterpiece and I’ve heard that abroad the anticipation for this film
may make it an even greater success globally.
I have wanted to interview George
Romero for a long time so when the opportunity finally arrived I was psyched.
Then a few days before the interview was to take place, the structure was
changed from a one on one interview to being one of several journalists in a
roundtable style session where I was told each journalist would take turns
asking Mr. Romero one question each that way everyone would get the chance to
talk to him and collectively given the time allotted, we all would have more or
less each had an equal share of questions related to the film answered. Up until
now every interview I have ever done has always been a one on one interview
between whomever I was speaking with and myself. So I narrowed down my original
list of questions to seven and then narrowed it down even more knowing I would
not get the chance to ask everything.
Now I prefer a more relaxed and
conversational style of interviewing over the more formal kind where a person
answers a question and the interviewee answers and then a new question is asked
because very often new information and more interesting topics of discussion
come out as a result of the free exchange of words. Interviewing Mr. Romero in a
roundtable fashion isn’t the best format to talk to him either because he
gives very detailed answers and as a result the one question at a time rule I
was under the impression would take place quickly became an “ask as much as
you can until you get cut off” type of situation because clearly the first
people who got to speak with Mr. Romero had the advantage of time on their side,
which the others didn’t have. I had prepared a mix of questions to satisfy
those interested in the upcoming Unrated Director’s Cut DVD as well as the
fans. My anticipation rose ever higher as the various journalists asked their
questions ahead of me. One journalist asked Mr. Romero if he spoke Spanish, to
which Mr. Romero answered “no,” which I was thankful for since the last
thing I wanted to do is hear a conversation in a language I don’t personally
understand or speak. At least when another journalist asks a question in
English, everyone present could benefit for both what the journalist is saying
and what the interviewee is replying to, but without some kind of interpretation
I certainly would have felt at a loss as one of the participants in the
roundtable. When my turn finally came much of what I was going to ask had
already been asked and I was anxious to squeeze in as much as I could from my
fanboy point of view as much as my professional point of view. So feeling
somewhat befuddled I decided to break the ice by using the journalist’s
question of whether or not Mr. Romero spoke Spanish to my advantage. Here is how
Rivera: Hi Mr. Romero. My name is
Mark Rivera and I just want to tell you don’t feel bad about not being able to
speak Spanish. I’m half Polish and half Puerto Rican and I can’t speak a
word of either…
Romero: Hey that’s real close to
me man. I’m Lithuanian and Cuban.
Mr. Romero laughs.
Rivera: Absolutely… Okay, I’m
going to try and make this as brief as I can. You’ve answered so many
questions… First off, with regard to this new film how many years does “Land
Of The Dead” take place after the events of “Night Of The Living Dead” and
“Day Of The Dead”?
Romero: How many years? What? Sorry
I didn’t hear…
Rivera: How many years does “Land
Of The Dead” take place after the events that you portrayed in “Night Of The
Living Dead” and “Day Of The Dead”?
Romero: Oh you’re asking me for a
story idea and I don’t know. For the first time in “Land Of The Dead” I
put a time reference in when Leguizamo says to Hopper “How long have been
working for you, three years?” That’s the only reference that I’ve ever
put in that says okay how long did it take for the world to disintegrate to this
point because I have had this curious idea here’s this phenomenon that
happening. “Night Of The Living Dead” is the first night. In “Dawn Of The
Dead” you get the idea that it’s a few months later…
Rivera: It says three weeks in the
Romero: In “Dawn”?
Rivera: Yes. There’s a line in the
film where martial law has been declared within three weeks.
Romero: Well you know more about
this than me.
Rivera: Well I am a fanboy as much
as I am a journalist.
Romero: You know what I can’t even
remember that. What was the line exactly?
Rivera: Well it’s in the beginning
of “Dawn” where basically everybody is having nervous breakdowns and you
have the scientist talking…
Mr. Romero laughs.
Rivera: And the scientist is saying
something that’s just the opposite in the other film. He says nobody can keep
his or her own residence anymore. They all have to go to special National Guard
units. Martial law has been in effect for the last three weeks. So I got the
impression that this is three weeks after the events of “Night Of The Living
Romero: Oh okay. I know what you are
talking about now. I didn’t mean that to be… Well… I guess that does put a
timeframe on it.
Romero: It’s probably been more
than three weeks since martial law. Since they got it together or whatever.
Anyway, I’m sorry. (Jokingly) I don’t remember my movies as well as
Rivera: (With a bit of nervous
laughter) Hey, don’t worry about it… The other question I wanted to ask
is with relation to Big Daddy (Eugene Clark), and I just want to say you did a
great job with making him sympathetic because I noticed he’s the only featured
zombie in the film where you never see Big Daddy taking a chunk out of anybody
ever since if you show him doing that then we lose sympathy for him.
Romero: Yes that would do that.
Rivera: And he is Riley’s (Simon
Baker) so to speak undead doppelganger in terms of the heroes of the film.
Another journalist asked you about the direction where they’re evolving and
becoming more sentient beings like the primitive primate ancestor touching the
Monolith in “2001” and suddenly learning how to use tools. My question is
judging by Riley’s statement and how the film ends, does it seem to you that
ultimately there’s going to be some sort of zombies and humans coexisting in
some sort of a peaceful non-predatorial way towards each other?
Rivera: Okay and just one last
thing. If you were to hand over your franchise. If something were to happen and
you wanted another filmmaker to make another entry in your series personally
because your films stand out from any other imitation and remake, would you
probably hand it over to filmmakers like Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright or John
Romero: Well Johnny is a great old friend of mine so I would certainly consider him, but I loved “Shaun Of The Dead.”
Rivera: That’s an excellent film.
Romero: Man… That’s just a tough
question. I don’t think I would consciously hand it over. It’s not like that
for me.” These things are my things. Stephen King is always asked how do you
feel about filmmakers ruining your books? And Stephen says they’re not ruined.
Look behind me. They’re right on the shelf. Nothing has happened to them and
that’s the way I feel about myself and I’m not really a student about
everything else. I don’t think I would ever hand this over. I mean I don’t
think so. This is my platform. It’s my franchise. Now the other part of that
question as I said before, I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to make
another one of these because…
Rivera: Well you look good. I’ve
seen the film…
Romero: I would rather.
I laughed a bit
Romero: Are you there?
Romero: I would rather wait another
ten years or until something politically changes, which justifies making another
one. So I don’t know if I’m going to live that long. What I did in this one
consciously was left it open. The only way to end this is with some sort of
detent as I’ve said before. So I left it with Riley at least recognizing that.
You know, they’re just looking for a place to go same as us.
With that my part of the roundtable
interview was over. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to interview
Mr. Romero and I strongly urge anyone reading this to seek out using Google or
another search engine other recently published online interviews with Mr. Romero
because as I mentioned above, this was a roundtable interview and so there are
other portions and summaries out there that delve into much of the
behind-the-scenes production as well as the upcoming Unrated Director’s Cut
DVD from Universal Studios Home Entertainment and more. In addition I should
note that Fangoria Entertainment, National Cinemedia, and Universal Studios Home
Entertainment will hold a nationwide premiere of GEORGE
A. ROMERO’S LAND OF THE DEAD Unrated
Director’s Cut, which will be presented in high-definition and
cinema surround sound in markets nationwide including New York, Los Angeles,
Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington DC, Atlanta, Houston,
Seattle, Tampa, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Cleveland, Miami, Denver, and Pittsburgh
among others. Tickets
are available online at www.Fangoria.com
or at participating Regal, United Artists, and Edwards movie theatre box offices
at the standard movie ticket price (prices vary by theater location.) For
a complete list of theatres, please visit the website.
This special premiere event will also feature
an exclusive big screen interview with Director George A. Romero.
thanks to George A. Romero for graciously answering my questions as well as
everyone else’s who participated in the roundtable interview and special
thanks to Tom Chen and Debra Park at mPRm Public Relations and Craig Radow at
Universal Studios Home Entertainment for arranging this roundtable interview for
everyone who participated and for letting me join in too.
Copyright 2005 By Mark A. Rivera For GENRE ONLINE.NET
All Rights Reserved.
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