In which he ponders the meaning of the "zombie walk," why vampires no longer inspire, and other over-analysis.
(For those of you just joining us, I interviewed Romero about his upcoming zombie film, "Survival of the Dead." This is Part 2; click here for Part 1 and Part 3.)
PK: One of the best vampire movies that I've seen, probably
among the top ten, is "Martin" (1977). But
you never made another vampire movie after that. Why's that?
GR: I don't know. I haven't been drawn to it. I'm certainly
not drawn to it as a...even though...you know, it's funny, someone today earlier
said you did the most popular zombie films as this big critical thing about
consumerism and now your zombies have become these consumer items, items that
are being consumed and um, I can't really see it that way. I think video games
and graphic novels and things are way more responsible. There's only been one
blockbuster zombie movie ever: "Zombieland,"
right? I mean, nothing else did more than 60 or 70, I think.
PK: Not "28 Days Later" (2002)?" But
you say that isn't a zombie movie.
GR: Yeah, but I also don't think that those movies did
nearly the box office that "Zombieland." I think that it's video games and all
of that that are really responsible. I guess zombies are perfect targets for a
first-person shooter. But I've never wanted to do vampires just because
vampires are cool and hot now. I've never had sort of another idea about doing
a vampire film. I don't want to do a vampire movie just to do a vampire movie.
And I much prefer this sort of, you know, apocalyptic thing about this. That
it's a real game-changer, this thing that's happening with a zombie outbreak
and I like that situation much more. Richard Matheson used vampires for that
scenario in "I Am Legend" but...
PK: You turned them into zombies. Kind of inspired you ...
GR: It did, yeah, it did...I never called them zombies, though.
I never thought of them as zombies. In "Dawn"
I used the word because everyone was calling them zombies. People started to
write about "Night of the Living Dead" and called them "zombies." I said wow,
maybe they are. To me they were dead neighbors.
PK: There's a theme that seems to recur and it's directly confronted
here which is the conflict between killing the dead and holding onto the corpse
in hopes that they can be restored. Can you talk more about that and why it
came to a head in this movie?
GR: It just seemed like a good thing for them to be arguing
over and it seemed like an interesting philosophical argument. I mean, uh, I
sort of touched on it a little bit in "Day of the Dead" in trying to tame them and
trying to keep them, um,
around, as functioning. But in this film it just
seemed like a really good idea. The guy, the Muldoon character, has a little
bit of the holy roller in him and I
thought that was a perfect starting place for them. Not a starting place, the
argument [between the clans] started over fish and corn way back when but uh, I
thought they would need to have positions on this and it seemed like a good
position for them.
PK: They need to have an argument rather than the argument
itself being important. Is the religious
aspect important to you at all?
GR: It's not super important. I always sort of take a little
jab at it whenever I can. I played a priest in "Martin" just to get back at my
own confessors when I was growing up. I was raised Catholic and sort of learned
early on...well, I didn't learn, I just got turned off really pretty quickly...
PK: You didn't have any aspirations for a priesthood
GR: (laughs) Not at all, no, no. Right when they were
teaching me, right when the nuns were teaching me that you could be a saint all
your life and steal a baseball, get hit by a bus the next moment, you're going
to hell. So my grandmother died and while walking home from the funeral home
with my uncles and my dad and they said, well, she's in heaven now and I went
"not necessarily," and got my ass kicked all over the block.
PK: Are you annoyed when people tend to over-analyze your
movies? Are you into that at all?
GR: I'm certainly not into it. I find, oddly, occasionally
you come across something and you say, gee, maybe I was thinking that or maybe
this does represent that but most of the time I think a lot of its just way
over-analyzed. To me, the message part of it was all pretty obvious and not
underlying. They're almost the theme of the film, zombies are secondary you
know, they're sort of like, annoyances. I think maybe it happens because I at
least try to do that anyway. It's not just a slasher film, I'm at least trying
to put some content in there and the stories are basically people stories.
They're not just monster stories in that
way. So maybe because of that people are trying to dig for more.
PK: How's this for
overanalyzing: the vampire and zombie
genres are now popular because of economic reasons and the zombies are like the
working stiffs and the vampires are like
GR: I think that's a good way of looking at it. I've often
said that zombies are the blue collar monster, but not anymore. Now they can
run. It seems like they all joined health clubs.
PK: It seems that there's no shortage of people who want to
volunteer to be extras in your movies...
GR: Oh, absolutely.
PK: Are there associations of wannabe zombies? Like
GR: I haven't seen that, no. but you know what's stunning to
me is the "zombie walks"
that have popped up everywhere. Man, I mean, I just did a phoner from Budapest or someplace and they had my voice over a
loudspeaker and there were like, 3,000 people dressed up like zombies in Budapest. The one in Toronto last year had
more than 3,000 people. What's that about? I mean, I don't get it. It's sort of
an easy makeup job, I guess, for Halloween, but it doesn't always happen on
Halloween. What is that about?
PK: Does that disturb you?
GR: It doesn't really. I'm just wondering, you just want to
say "get a life." I don't know. I mean, it's great fun. I went to the one in Toronto and it's great
and these people are so dedicated. Some of them I wish I could have them on the
set, they're so creative. Some of the makeup IS great, some of the walks and
stuff that they do is worthy of Lon Chaney. But WHYis that fun? That's like a, some kind
of a new happening. I can't quite identify it.
NEXT: Part 3: The future of the dead.