1. Romero’s zombies don’t eat brains. “I’ve never had a zombie eat a brain! I don’t know where that comes from,” he told Vanity Fair. “Who says zombies eat brains?”
2. Romero didn’t even call his undead characters zombies in his first movie. “When I did Night of the Living Dead,” he told About.com, “I called them ghouls, flesh-eaters. I didn’t think they were. Back then zombies were still those boys in the Caribbean doing the wet work for Lugosi. So I never thought of them as zombies. I thought they were just back from the dead.”
3. Romero doesn’t watch The Walking Dead. “I love the books,” he said to io9.com. “I haven’t seen any of the episodes.”
4. Romero has had it with people asking him about zombies. When asked by eatsleeplkivefilm.com if he is tired of zombie queries he said, “Yes. But you know what are you going to do?”
5. Romero wears his famous thick-rimmed black glasses mostly for show these days. “I don’t need them anymore. I mean I don’t need them to read, I mean these are bifocals. I used to need them for reading and for middle-distance. Now I’m a little fuzzy on the long-distance, but I guess that all turned around with old age, so I don’t need for these reading but I’m thinking of just taking the lenses out, because I’ve got to wear them for photographs; everybody says, ‘Where’s your glasses?’“
6. Romero wears Goliath brand glasses. From barimavox.blogspot.ca: “The Goliath is favoured by famed horror filmmaker and Grandfather of the Zombie, George A. Romero and worn by Elliot Gould in the Ocean’s 11 trilogy and Robert De Niro in Casino, as well as by the late flamboyant actor and game show host Charles Nelson Reilly.”
7. Quentin Tarantino says the “A” in George A. Romero stands for “A fucking genius,” when actually it stands for Andrew.
8. Romero calls the 1951 Michael Powell film The Tales of Hoffman, “the movie that made me want to make movies. I was dragged kicking and screaming by an aunt and uncle. I wanted to go see the new Tarzan; the new Lex Barker movie to see how he stacked up against Weissmuller and they said, ‘No! We’re going to see this,’ and I fell in love with it. It’s just beautiful. Completley captivating. It’s all sung. It’s all opera. It’s not like The Red Shoes where there is a story running through it and then Léonide Massine does a ballet at the end. I just fell in love with it from the pop.”
9. Romero is of Cuban and Lithuanian descent. His father was Cuban-born of Castilian Spanish parentage, his mother Lithuanian-American.
10. At age 19 he worked as a gofer on the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest but was unimpressed with the director’s mechanical and passionless directorial style. He was there for the train station scene shot in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. Also among the onlookers was future It’s Alive director Larry Cohen.
Zombies are the most recent and most unlikely pop culture heroes.
On TV the recent Walking Dead finale drew almost 13 million viewers. At the movies the zom com Warm Bodies made still hearts beat again and outdoor recreation retailer REI even bandwagon jumped with their “13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak” campaign.
This weekend Brad Pitt battles the undead in World War Z, an action thriller set against the backdrop of a worldwide zombie apocalypse. The movie has the highest ratio of zombies to humans of any film this year, but don’t ask its star why these cannibalistic cadavers are so trendy.
“As for why zombies are so popular,” said Pitt, “I really have no idea.”
Pitt may not be able to out his finger on it, but academics suggest a variety of reasons. Audiences are interested in zombies in times of crisis, when we feel disempowered, says one, while another writer proposes that they offer something more primal—that the zombies represent an example of control over death.
Whatever the reason, filmmakers have been capitalizing on these cool corpses for years. Some, like Night of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead are classics, others, like the stranger-than-usual Zombie Honeymoon, aren’t.
The grand-ghoul of all weird zombie movies is 1968’s Astro Zombies. Starring horror legend John Carradine and cult star Tura Satana, the story of superhuman monsters on a killing spree has inspired two sequels and a song of the same name by the Misfits.
The mockumentary American Zombie’s tagline is, “We’re Here. We’re Dead. Get Used to It!” Documenting the everyday “lives” of a community of zombies in California, it’s a fake undead propaganda film that echoes the struggles of many minorities who have had to fight for human rights.
Fido, a Canadian film starring Billy Connolly and Carrie-Anne Moss, is set in a world where humans won the zombie war and, as victors, have made the undead their domestic servants. Funny rather than scary, this one is worth a look to see the usually motor mouthed Connolly in a fun, shambling and wordless performance.
Strangest of all the non-mainstream zombie movies? Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, a movie musical about a fast food chain called American Chicken Bunker whose meals turn diners into chicken zombies. Gross, gory and gratuitous, badmovienight.com called it “one of the sickest, most depraved, movies I’ve ever seen.”