The GENRE ONLINE.NET Interview – Writer and Director George A. Romero
By Mark A. Rivera
In memory of Filmmaker George A. Romero, I am reposting this interview I had with him regarding the home video release of Land of the Dead and more from 2005.
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 Dead.”
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 it went:
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 screenplay.
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 Dead.”
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 you do.
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 Harrison?
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.
Big 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.
All Rights Reserved.