George A. Romero interview
With Diary of the Dead, George Romero has returned to the zombie subgenre of horror films and heís getting his best reviews in years. The 68-year-old director has unleashed his latest ďÖof the DeadĒ films, which has included the legendary Night of the Living Dead and its sequels of sorts, Dawn Of The Dead and Day Of The Dead, as well as the 2005 installment, Land Of The Dead. Romeroís zombie films have always had social commentary with the zombies of course being the lifeless people who shift listlessly through the world and heís always lead subtle attacks on modern cultureís petty ideas and trends.
Romero will be in Dallas to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Night Of The Living Dead with the surviving cast and crew with a special screening presented by AFI Dallas at the Inwood Theater on the 21st. Romero is no stranger to conventions and actually prefers them to most of the things heís rather do in association to promoting a film. He says, ďItís actually great fun. I mean, I donít really have fun doing any of the promotion stuff Ė Iíd rather be home playing with the cats. I like the convention stuff because I get to meet the fans because I have 16-year-old fans and 70-year-old fans. I feel like because theyíve been around long enough my stuff has had a shelf life and itís very gratifying. Theyíre friends [the fans] and usually we get a chance to go to the tavern at the end of the day so I love going to conventions, actually.Ē
The revered director kindly agreed to an interview with Paul Salfen:
Because of the style of the film thereís no doubt youíll get comparisons to Cloverfield. They kept the idea secret so thereís no way you could have known, but when you heard about it were you upset?
No. We had no idea that it existed. When we started doing this film, there was no Cloverfield or Redacted so people were saying, ďOh, itís like Blair Witch.Ē We kept saying, "No, no, no. Itís not like Blair Witch at all." Thatís not about emerging new media at all. Itís just about people out there shooting their own stuff. Itís a different kind of animal. We wanted to be the first to come out of the emergence of the new media in the hands of the people. Weíre not the first Ė Redacted beat us, Cloverfield beat us, but so what? So I guess what we have to say now is, ďOK, so weíre not the first but at least weíre part of a trend.Ē [Laughs]
Youíve always had social commentary in your zombie films except it seems a lot more obvious in this one. Was that intentional?
Yeah, we were trying to reinforce the idea and make this white noise of media Ė thereís even at atom bomb in there thatís subliminal Ė you hardly see it. We wound up buying all of these images from news services and basically wanted to create a wall of white noise and purposely wanted to turn it into noise. Most of the newscastersí voices you hear are laid on top of each other Ė the sound and sound bytes. It was something we were consciously trying to do. Thematically, to that extent I think itís certainly more obvious. Day Of The Dead is probably the subtlest. This one is in your face a little bit, but so was Dawn, man.
You arenít a guy that strikes me as a guy that would sit on MySpace or YouTube, yet youíve rationally worked them into the film. Have you been really following all of the new media and is it what inspired you?
Oh yeah. Itís really about whatís happening out in the world Ė all five of them are. I donít sit around and think about making a zombie movie for the sake of making a zombie movie. For forty years itís been zombie, zombie, zombie like a curse, but itís my shtick in a way. I first look for a reason for the film to exist, then figure out a story. This story is about humans and how they respond or fail to respond. You can create any number of characters or scenarios. I always initially look for something Iíd like to address.
You films have been packaged and repackaged and youíve seen VHS, Beta and other formats come and go and now theyíre available on DVD, Blu-Ray, HD DVD and soon, download. Is it nice to see that your films are some of the first to be available through all of the changes?
Itís very cool. I have to tell you something and itís a bit disheartening: films that I love Ė great films arenít out in any format and my films are on Blu-Ray. I donít get it. Iíd rather be able to go to the store and find Close Encounters or Lawrence Of Arabia or something. Itís nice that Iím still out there but it seems a bit unfair. [Laughs]
There have been big gaps between making most of your films, particularly zombie films. I guess you get asked to do a lot more of these films than you actually do?
I do get asked. Theyíll say, ďCímon, letís make a zombie movieĒ and Iíll say, ďNo, I donít have an ideaĒ. Then I knew people that were developing a shopping mall and that gave me the idea (for Dawn Of The Dead. I wanted after Land Of The Dead to sort of go back to the roots. Land Of The Dead Ė Universal really let us make the film we wanted to make and I was happy with it but in the end I looked at it and I thought it was getting a little too Thunderdome Ė ďWhere do you go from here?Ē. I didnít want to go into Planet Of The Apes-land. Before we started shooting Land I had this idea for Diary and I was really ready to go and do it under the radar Ė get kids from a film school from some Master Class and say, ďOK, letís make this movie, guys.Ē I wanted to see if I had the stamina and the chops to go back and make a guerilla film. This is really what I wanted to do and everything fell into place. We were able to maintain control, keep the budget as low as possible, we didnít take fees Ė we wanted to take control and that was the trade-off.
Last time I talked to you I was surprised to hear youíre not a horror fan and donít watch hardly any of them. Do you not find anything interesting in the genre outside of what you make?
No, not particularly. Itís not what I collect and I donít rush out to see them when they first come out. I almost donít care. I guess thereís a part of it is not wanting it to influence but partially I donít care. If I think itís a cool thing, Iíll go check it out but the cynical side of me sits there and I say, ďOh man, I know exactly what thatís going to beĒ. Unless somebody recommends it, I donít go out there.