George A. Romero never set out to become a Hollywood figure; however, by all indications, he was very successful. The director of the groundbreaking "Dead" pentalogy was born February 4, 1940, in New York City. He grew up there until attending the renowned Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
After graduation, he began shooting mostly short films and commercials. He and his friends formed "Image Ten Productions" in the late 1960s and they all chipped in roughly US$10,000 a piece to produce what became one of the most celebrated American horror films of all time: Night of the Living Dead (1968). Shot in black-and-white on a budget of just over US$100,000, Romero's vision, combined with a solid script written by him and his "Image" co-founder John A. Russo (along with what was then considered an excess of gore) enabled the film to earn back far more than what it cost, became a cult classic by the early 1970s and was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress of the United States in 1999. Romero's next films were a little more low-key and less seen including There's Always Vanilla (1971), The Crazies (1973), Hungry Wives (1972) (where he met his future wife Christine Forrest) and Martin (1976). Though not as acclaimed as Night of the Living Dead (1968), or some of his later work, these films had his signature social commentary while dealing with issues, usually horror-related, at the microscopic level. Like almost all of his films, they were shot in, or around, Romero's favorite city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In 1978, Romero returned to the zombie genre with the one film of his that would top the success of Night of the Living Dead (1968): Dawn of the Dead (1978). He managed to divorce the franchise from Image Ten, which screwed up the copyright on the original and allowed the film to enter into public domain, with the result that Romero and his original investors were not entitled to any profits from the film's video releases. Shooting in the Monroeville, Pennsylvania, Mall during late-night hours, Romero told the tale of four people who escape a zombie outbreak and lock themselves up inside what they think is paradise before the solitude makes them victims of their own, and a biker gang's, greed. Shot on a budget of just $1.5 million, the film earned over US$40 million worldwide and was named one of the top cult films by Entertainment Weekly magazine in 2003. The film also marked Romero's first work with brilliant make-up and effects artist Tom Savini. After 1978, Romero and Savini teamed up many times. Dawn of the Dead (1978)'s success led to bigger budgets and better casts for the filmmaker. First was Knightriders (1981), where he first worked with an up-and-coming Ed Harris. Then came perhaps his most Hollywood-like film, Creepshow (1982), which marked the first, but not the last, time Romero adapted a work by famed horror novelist Stephen King. With many major stars and big-studio distribution, Creepshow (1982) was a moderate success and spawned a sequel, which was also written by Romero.
The decline of Romero's career came in the late 1980s. His last widely-released film was the next "Dead" film, Day of the Dead (1985). Derided by critics, it did not take in much at the box office, either. His latest two efforts were The Dark Half (1993), (another Stephen King adaptation) and Bruiser (2000). Even the Romero-penned, Tom Savini-directed remake of Romero's first film, Night of the Living Dead (1990), was a box-office failure. Pigeon-holed solely as a horror director and his recent films no longer achieving the success of his earlier "Dead" films, Romero has not worked much since, much to the chagrin of his following. In 2005, 19 years after Day of the Dead (1985), with major-studio distribution, he returned to his most famous series and horror sub-genre he created with Land of the Dead (2005), a further exploration of the destruction of modern society by the undead, that received both excellent and indifferent reviews and even topped the United States box-office in its first week of release. He still resides in Pittsburgh.
|Christine Forrest||(1981 - present)|
|Nancy Romero||(1971 - 1978) (divorced)|
Often features radio or television news broadcasts playing in the background.
Zombie films with an underlying social commentary
Films often contain extreme carnage with make-up effects by Tom Savini
Strong minority and female characters
Education: Carnegie-Mellon Institute (art, theatre, design).
Prior to Night of the Living Dead (1968), he was better known as an industrial film-maker, who created TV commercials, promotional featurettes and industrial training films. One of his assignments was to shoot short films that were used in the TV show "MisteRogers' Neighborhood".
Was originally slated to write and direct Resident Evil (2002).
Was slated to direct a theatrical version of Stephen King's novel "The Stand," adapted for the screen by Rospo Pallenberg. The film never materialised. Instead, the novel was adapted into a TV mini-series, "The Stand" (1994).
Frequently casts African-Americans as the heroes of his films, although the parts aren't usually written specifically for any particular race, going against the stereotype of the Black character dying early in horror films.
In 1968, he reinvented the horror genre with his Night of the Living Dead (1968), a cult classic that made its way onto the prestigious National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
The 2002 Sight & Sound Greatest Films Poll (2002) listed his Top Ten films as The Brothers Karamazov (1958), Casablanca (1942), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), High Noon (1952), King Solomon's Mines (1950), North by Northwest (1959), The Quiet Man (1952), Repulsion (1965), Touch of Evil (1958), and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951).
Began making movies at the age of 14 with an 8mm camera.
Is good friends with stuntman/special-effects artist/actor/director Tom Savini. The two have worked together on many films.
He has two children, a son and a daughter (who will be attending Tisch, NYU in the Fall 2006 to study film-making).
Became a Canadian citizen in 2009 and resides in Toronto, Ontario.
When discussing his influences, he has that the Universal horror classic made a strong impression on him and his favorite horror film as a child was The Thing from Another World (1951). However, the film he said made him want to be a director was The Red Shoes (1948). While discussing the directors who made a strong impression on him, he said that Orson Welles and Howard Hawks were his favorites, surpassing Alfred Hitchcock.
Was originally attached to write and direct Resident Evil (2002), but left the project in 1999 due to creative differences over the script.
Of Cuban and Lithuanian descent.
A big fan of The Archers' (aka the British team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) movie The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), based on Jacques Offenbach's operetta. He is interviewed at length about his love for the film and especially its artistic direction, use of color, and use of fantasy/horror themes in a special feature included on the Criterion Collection's 2005 DVD release of the film. Before video tape and DVD versions of the film were available, Romero would frequently rent a 16-millimeter film copy--as would Martin Scorsese, he subsequently learned, from the very same New York City rental company. Alas, Romero reported that the two fans have not yet become aware of each other.
The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) inspired Romero to become a director.
At age 19, he worked briefly as a page-boy on the set of North by Northwest (1959). He later said he was unimpressed by Alfred Hitchcock's directing style while there, saying that it seemed mechanical and passionless.
His favorite of his own films, saying its closest to the vision he had for it, is Martin (1976). He spent much of the time since his smash directorial debut, Night of the Living Dead (1968), trying to distance himself from the horror genre but has said the satisfying experience of creating 'Martin' energized him to make Dawn of the Dead (1978), which would become his greatest financial and critical success.
He is known for his affability and remaining good friends with former collaborators with whom he has ceased collaboration due to creative or financial reasons.
According to Romero's former producing partner Richard P. Rubinstein on the DVD commentary of Dawn of the Dead (1978) (The Extended Cut Version), that he had offered Romero to make his fourth zombie in the early 90's. Rubinstein offered Romero $3 million and he can go make the film however he wanted it. However, Romero was at the time developing the scripts for The Mummy for Universal and the ghost story "Before I Wake" for MGM. Romero decided that he wanted to pursue those projects instead of his fourth zombie film. In the end however, "Before I Wake" ended up in development hell and Universal decided to scrap his version and went with Stephen Sommers' version. However, Romero finally made his fourth zombie film, Land of the Dead (2005).
Among the scripts that Romero was developing in the 90's that went into development hell was a ghost story called "Before I Wake" for MGM. At the same time, he was also developing the script for The Mummy for Universal before they eventually went with Stephen Sommers' version of The Mummy (1999).
If I fail, they [the film industry] write me off as another statistic. If I succeed, they pay me a million bucks to fly out to Hollywood and fart.
[on his fourth installment of the "Living Dead" series, Land of the Dead (2005)]: The idea of living with terrorism - I've tried to make it more applicable to the concerns Americans are going through now.
If one horror film hits, everyone says, "Let's go make a horror film!" It's the genre that never dies.
If you have 60 people dress like zombies and you show them something that you like, you get 60 people doing the exact same thing. My opinion of a good zombie walk is to loll your head as if it's a little too heavy and the muscles have begun to atrophy.
I'm like my zombies. I won't stay dead!
My zombie films have been so far apart that I've been able to reflect the socio-political climates of the different decades. I have this conceit that they're a little bit of a chronicle, a cinematic diary of what's going on.
I'll never live long enough to arrive at some sort of peaceful co-existence of some kind. That's probably the only way you could end it on a note of promise, which would mean the zombies would learn how to eat Spam or chicken livers, instead of your liver. But I'll never get to that point.
Yeah, I'm seen by the studios as a genre guy. I've made several non-genre films, but nobody went to see them. I guess I'll never be a member of that club.
I'll never get sick of zombies. I just get sick of producers.
Just because I'm showing somebody being disemboweled doesn't mean I have to get heavy and put a message round it.
I don't try to answer any questions or preach. My personality and my opinions come through in the satire of the films, but I think of them as a snapshot of the time. I have this device, or conceit, where something happens in the world and I can say, 'Ooo, I'll talk about that, and I can throw zombies in it! And get it made!' You know, it's kind of my ticket to ride.
I guess in my pictures you're either doomed or you've got yourself a hell of a job.
I don't think you need to spend $40 million to be creepy. The best horror films are the ones that are much less endowed.
I always thought of the zombies as being about revolution, one generation consuming the next.
[on Night of the Living Dead (1968)] At first I didn't think of them as zombies, I thought of them as flesh-eaters or ghouls and never called them zombies in the first film. Then people started to write about them, calling them zombies, and all of a sudden that's what they were: the new zombies. I guess I invented a few rules, like kill the brain and you kill the ghoul, and eventually I surrendered to the idea and called them zombies in Dawn of the Dead (1978), but it was never that important to me what they were. Just that they existed.
(On The Tales of Hoffman) It was the filmmaking, the fantasy, the fact that it was a fantasy and it had a few frightening, sort of bizarre things in it. It was everything. It was really a movie for me, and it gave me an early appreciation for the power of visual media-the fact that you could experiment with it. He was doing all his tricks in-camera, and they were sort of obvious. That made me feel that, gee, maybe I could figure this medium out. It was transparent, but it worked.
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