George A. Romero
The reigning champion of zombie films, George A. Romero was born on February 4, 1940, in New York City. He started out making commercials and short films before moving on to feature films. In his movies, including Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead, he combines horror with social commentary and satire.
The son of a commercial artist, George Andrew Romero loved watching movies growing up. The Tales of Hoffman (1951), a film adaptation of an opera, proved to be an early influence. He borrowed the film numerous times as a teen, watching it using a projector at home. Romero once said that only one other person took this movie out as much as he did. The other fan turned out to be Martin Scorsese.
At Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Romero studied the arts. He was interested in art, theater and design, as well as film. At the beginning of his career, Romero made short films and commercials. One of his early breaks was making educational shorts for the PBS children's series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
With 1968's Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero established himself as the king of all zombie movies. In this pivotal black-and-white horror film, a group of people seek refuge inside an old farmhouse to escape the clutches of flesh-eating zombies. The recently deceased had been brought back to life by some type of radiation. Eventually becoming a cult classic, the film made waves with its graphic violence. Others saw the movie as commentary about the modern family and society.
Romero once said that the zombies "don't particularly represent anything except a new society threatening to take over, and in this case devouring, literally, the old." And in the late 1960s, it was traditional American society trying to battle against the counterculture movement. It became part of his trademark style to mix horror, satire, and social commentary into his films.
Romero tried to branch out beyond zombies, but his efforts met with little success. There's Always Vanilla (1972), Hungry Wives (1973), and The Crazies (1973) proved to be disappointments. In 1978, Romero returned to the familiar conflict of humans versus zombies in Dawn of the Dead. This time around, the zombies pursue a group of people into a shopping mall. Romero uses the movie as a way to deliver a critique of the voracious consumerism of the day. For many critics, this is the best film in the series.
The 1980s and 1990s
Romero's career continued on an uneven path, experiencing some successes and some disappointments. His biker film Knightriders (1981), with a young Ed Harris in a featured role, proved to be a flop. Romero fared better with he teamed up with author Stephen King for the film Creepshow (1982) modeled after the horror comics of the 1950s. The film scared audiences with five different segments. While not critically acclaimed, it did well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel, 1987's Creepshow 2. Romero also worked in television, serving as the host and a producer on Tales from the Darkside.
Never abandoning the zombies for long, Romero released his third film in the series, Day of the Dead, in 1985. In it, he dialed down some of the violent content to focus on character development. The film looks at scientific research and the military as the few remaining humans look for ways to retrain or enslave the zombie majority. One scientist tries to reprogram a zombie named Bub not to eat human flesh.
Romero seemed to slow down during the 1990s with only one major film to his credit. Again working on material by Stephen King, he directed the film adaptation of The Dark Half (1993). Timothy Hutton starred a writer who ends up battling his own fictional alter-ego.
As he had in the past, Romero returned to his zombie films as a means of making social satire and commentary. He has made three more installments in the series. With 2005's Land of the Dead, Romero explores political power and revolution in one of the remaining human cities. John Leguizamo, Simon Baker, and Asia Argento starred in what Variety called "a tour de force of . . . independent filmmaking . . . [and] independent thinking." He then took on the media and journalism with 2007's Diary of the Dead. And in 2009's Survival of the Dead, fighting breaks out among the residents of a New England island over how to handle their zombies. Romero has said that the film is about tribalism.
In addition to making new films, Romero has participated in the remakes of some of his classic works. He was an executive producer on the 2010 version of The Crazies starring Timothy Olyphant. Romero also served as an executive producer on the 2012 documentary Into the Dark: Exploring the Horror Film. Outside of film, Romero has contributed to several video games, including Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Twice married, Romero has two adult children, son G. Cameron and daughter Tina. Both of them have followed him into the film industry. He lives in Toronto, Canada.
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