George Romero's Yahoo Chat Session (Held October 1998)
TCM_Moderator: Tonight we're chatting with Zombie King and independent filmmaker, George Romero at 9 p.m.Eastern. Romero has directed the classic horror trilogy beginning with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as well as CREEPSHOW with Steven King. No one knows horror like George Romero! He's also written, directed, photographed, edited and produced his films.
TCM_Moderator: You seem to have been fascinated by horror and films from an early age. What were some films that you really remember loving and being influenced by?
TCM_George_Romero: Well, there's a movie that is very unlike horror that was my favorite, as a kid I saw it repeatedly, it is THE TALES OF HOFFMANN. It is an opera and ballet, and fantasy, and it blew me away. I thought it was very scary, it was legitimate if you will. Aside from that, I remember the reissue of the original FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA. The one that got me the most at the time was the original version of THE THING. It struck me as very realistic and well made. That elevated it to me and THE DAY TEH EARTH STOOD STILL. Those are the ones that influenced me in the genre, but it was really comic books that got me into it.
TCM_Moderator: So CREEPSHOW was really a return to what you loved as a kid?
TCM_George_Romero: Steve [King] and I got together on that, he was a big E.C. fan, and we got to chewing the fat about it and within days we were working on it. So, it was great.
Syxx_Pack99 asks: Where did you get the idea to write NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD?
TCM_George_Romero: I stole it, from Richard Mattison; he wrote, I am Legend. I didn't steal it literally, but the idea of an new society taking over.
TCM_Moderator: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had a tight budget, but how did you convince investors at all? How did you sell the idea of a Zombie flick?
TCM_George_Romero: Image Ten was a collaboration of guys, and I had a production company doing commercials, etc, and some friends of ours, had an audio company, and we all kicked in $600 and started to shoot. And once we could show it to people with sound, it got easier to get investors. We shot it on and off through 1967.
TCM_Moderator: When the film was shot and edited, Columbia Pictures denied the film's release. What happened?
TCM_George_Romero: We showed it to them, finished it and threw it in the back of the car. Columbia was interested in it but thought it was too rough and wanted it softened up a bit. And none of us wanted to do that. We couldn't imagine a happy ending. One of my biggest complaints is in the horror industry, you use it to show the world being turned upside down. That is what horror and fantasy is all about - and to me it is ridiculous to try to restore everything in the end. Everyone wants a Hollywood ending, but we stuck to our guns.
CalawayCzC asks: How did you get in the business and can you give me, a film student and writer, any advice?
TCM_George_Romero: My advice is to try to make a film. Now days with the video equipment, you can shoot inexpensively. Back when I started everything was on film, you had to go to film laboratories, even the news was on film. That is how I learned to use it. It was much harder then - now days with video you can shoot a film and show off your talents very inexpensively. Do what you can to show you are talented and have creative abilities. There are so many people out there that want to make movies that it is hard to crack in, unless you go to a college and meet people. Otherwise, my best advice is to just make it.
TCM_Moderator: You wrote, directed, were cameraman and editor, did you think of yourself as an extension of the French New Wave, of the New Hollywood of Scorsese, Coppola?
TCM_George_Romero: No, I just loved doing the work. I can't believe I am a member of the club if you will. We went out to watch the film at a drive in and ate junk food to check it out. I never thought of myself that way, I have a sense about the medium. I wish I could do it all. The minute you have to go through someone else, it is a lot harder. Start up costs are very high, and I wish there was a way we could do it all. So many people are involved. All the independents are gone. For the first five or six films I did we worked with guys like that. Since then it has been a lot more encumbered. It becomes a battle from day one. I also think that it is a good idea for young film makers to learn all aspects of film making. And if you don't then you are at a disadvantage. Learn as much as you can about all the specialties, so many young people don't do that.
EVLLLDEAD asks: How was it to work with Tom Savini? Do you plan on working with him again?
TCM_George_Romero: I would love to work with him. Tom is such a great guy and he has this infectious enthusiasm. He has his sights on directing now, so it is hard to call him up and say "Come do some blood for me". He is very easy to work with and I would love to be able to again.
Corporal_Hicks_USCM asks: Will Tom Savini have either a role or a job on RESIDENT EVIL?
TCM_George_Romero: Tom? I haven't spoken to him yet, and so I don't know. And unfortunately, it will probably be a studio decision. It is the biggest budget I have ever had. Frankly, I think they would like to have Tom, he is a big deal in Japan, and so hopefully there is a shot. I can't promise it, and I can't even talk to Tom about it yet.
Neil_Fawcett asks: How long does it usually take you to write a script on average? Do you find it any harder to write a script on demand? (For example, the RESIDENT EVIL script?) Is there a lot of pressure having to be creative to a schedule?
TCM_George_Romero: RESIDENT EVIL was big fun! I find it easier to adapt things, aside from trepidations, but basically it is a lot easier. So RESIDENT EVIL was done in about 6 weeks. It isn't super fast, but when I am writing my own piece, it takes me a lot longer. I don't start writing real stuff until I have written the whole thing out.
Rhodes_Steel_Rickles asks: Any particular book or story you would like to make into a film?
TCM_George_Romero: I have two passions, but I doubt they will get done. I would love to do TARZAN - a really faithful version. I try to pitch it and people get a big laugh from it. And the other is, there is a period I love, when the US was invaded, and I think the whole thing was a shame, but there is a tremendous story there, so I have been writing about it. I only have about 350 pages so far.
TCM_Moderator: In DAWN OF THE DEAD, our heroes seek safety in a mall, very similar to Howard Hawks' RIO BRAVO where sheriffs Wayne, Dean Martin and Walter Brennan are surrounded in their jail. Were you thinking about the classic scenario?
TCM_George_Romero: No, when was RIO BRAVO? It was actually before - John Carpenter has said that about ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, and it's hard for me to see it that way. I would love to do a western, I am developing one now with Ed Harris. But it is nitty gritty - not a siege at all. He was in CREEPSHOW too.
ScoreLogue_VanceB asks: Of the three cuts of DAWN OF THE DEAD, which one is your favorite?
TCM_George_Romero: Mine! The one that I love is the one that just came out on video. It was a finished version of the film. All the money for that was European, and it was released in a non English version, Goblin did the music, and what happened was, we finished the film and we had US money, but we didn't have a distributor. And we didn't think we could get it out unrated, so we finished a 35mm film and it was the uncut version and it was my favorite and we rented a theater in NYC and we showed it very limitedly. And we invited distributors, and the theater was mobbed and USCA picked it up. When we finally got it, they shortened it. And I don't like the shorter version at all. Took out a lot of the humor and it caused many European censors to come down harder on the film than ours. The British censors threatened to cut another 11 minutes.
Neil_Fawcett asks: I heard a rumor earlier this year that you had been talking to Granada TV (here in the UK) about a television series based on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD? Was this rumor true?
TCM_George_Romero: That is true. In fact, Grenade put it in the trades even though we haven't arrived at a deal. So we are just talking right now. Again, I don't want it to be DAWSON'S CREEK meets the Zombies. I want to do it my way and that is pretty hard. People don't like the end of the world scenario. It is a tough sell. But Grenada still seems interested in it.
Vampirella13 asks: Is it true you will be doing an X-FILES episode commemorating NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD?
TCM_George_Romero: How do these people find this out? Steve King called out of the blue and asked me about it. And I got all excited and talked to Chris Carter, and then Steve had to bail out for other obligations, so we are hoping to get it up for next season. I had no idea anyone knew about that.
Neil_Fawcett asks: Are you aware of the large number of websites on the internet dedicated to your films, especially your dead trilogy? Speaking as the owner of one ("Homepage of the Dead" - plug! plug!) have you visited any of them?
TCM_George_Romero: Yea, I have an assistant, Jason who keeps me aware of all of that stuff. I am not a web browser, I am still - I burn incense to make my computer keep working. I am not one of these guys that hangs out on the web. I have heard about it, I don't know about it exactly, but I am thrilled.
TCM_Moderator: There are many points in the film that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD reminds me of silent films. The zombies, dressed in black are reminiscent of The CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919). Was this conscience?
TCM_George_Romero: Yes, and no. I was thinking of giving it that mood. That grainy realistic quality. Almost semi documentary. I wasn't consciously copying any narrative style, but I love documentary style. Some have mentioned Hitchcock. Consciously or unconsciously imitating anyone's style, I would say Orson Wells would have been it. Look at TOUCH OF EVIL and I thought, Wow I must have been ripping it off. When you love this stuff, your mind gets filled with images, and you become very parasitic, it isn't like you can get out your sketch book and try things. You are out there on the line, and it is very hard. I studied painting and I found myself trying to develop a style, and it was almost a hindrance. And it was just for the sake of having a style. And I think it is a happy circumstance film is so expensive and everything is experimental. I enjoy different situations and styles just trying to tell a story. I find when I look at my films, that there is a real difference in all of them.
Natalie_Eikk asks: What are your top 5 favorite horror films?
TCM_George_Romero: The ones I mentioned I guess. And really it goes back to youth. THE QUIET MAN is a guilty pleasure, movies I loved as a kid. Things I saw repeatedly, the old FLASH GORDON, the music and the score. And all those.
Vampirella13 asks: Were you influenced by Lon Chaney?
TCM_George_Romero: Aside from re-releases, they weren't available. They weren't one TV very often. Really I came to them late, I didn't see them big screen as an adult - so I don't think they had any influence on my work, or my desire to work in the genre. It was really the early stuff - little scary movies like HOUSE OF WAX, those were the things that I would demand to be among the first at the theater. But as far as films I watch all the time, TALES OF HOFFMANN, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I love the old Universal stuff. I just did a panel with Dave, I loved his stuff. He did a doc about James Whale, and shooting of GODS AND MONSTERS.
_MST3K_1 asks: What if your favorite "DEAD" film and why?
TCM_George_Romero: The last one. We had the most fun doing it. I loved the cast, and everything about doing it. I think it was pretty successful - it didn't have the innocence of NIGHT, but as far as the execution of it I think I was more successful. I think allot of people won't agree, but .. and it is hard to figure the reasons, but so much has to do with the process.
EVLLLDEAD asks: Every year I keep hearing rumors that there will be a Living Dead 4.... Any truth to these rumors?
TCM_George_Romero: Well, Richard and I are always talking about it. I would love to do it, and I would love to do one in the 90s and I have an idea, but no one will support the budget. There is a new attitude out there that makes it very hard to do unrated films. I wound up cutting a lot of DAY - except for a couple, no one wants to go with a non rated film. Everyone is afraid to take a chance.
Corporal_Hicks_USCM asks: Hey Mr. Romero, I was just wondering if the rumors are true... is RESIDENT EVIL going to be unrated?
TCM_George_Romero: I doubt it. In the US, I doubt it. We have already talked about making two version. I would imagine in some countries it will be out, but I doubt it will be unrated in the US.
Syxx_Pack99 asks: What do you think of horror movies in the 90's?
TCM_George_Romero: Oiy... I am not a big fan. Wes is a good friend and I have great fun watching his films, but I don't think they are advancing the genre, some of it is just humor, and I don't find much of it at all that is using the genre as metaphor, it is just a thrill ride and not much more. I wish more studio people were into the genre and willing to finance it. And it is tough to do. I don't know, but the genre films that I liked were ED WOOD and MARS ATTACKS, STARSHIP, but none of that was doing anything for the genre. The last one I saw that effected me was CANDYMAN.
TCM_Moderator: Thanks for coming to our chat with George Romero. Thanks and good night!
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