US filmmaker George A. Romero, whose 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead” spawned the zombie movie genre, was posthumously honored Wednesday with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Filmmaker Edgar Wright, actor Malcolm McDowell and special effects guru Greg Nicotero paid tribute to the director, who died in July at the age of 77, at the ceremony in front of a quartet of actors made up as zombies. “I’m not sure I would be working in Hollywood right now if it wasn’t for George,” said Wright, 43, whose 2004 zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead” went on to be a cultural touchstone of its own.
“A lot of people owe George a huge debt of gratitude for his inspiration. I’m just one of many.” Shot in black-and-white on a budget of just over $100,000, Romero’s debut feature “Night of the Living Dead” daringly featured black actor Duane Jones as its lead. Some film scholars later suggested the movie was a subversive critique of US society during the 1960s, while its gory realism was reminiscent of footage from the Vietnam war airing on American TV at the time.
The film went on to gross over $30 million worldwide, and led to five sequels including “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) and “Day of the Dead” (1985) — inspiring an entire genre that remains a Hollywood staple to this day and earning the nickname Knight of the Living Dead. Nicotero, a veteran special effects make-up artist and executive producer and regular director on AMC zombie drama “The Walking Dead,” recalled becoming friends with the filmmaker and quitting pre-med to manage the make-up effects department on “Day of the Dead”.
“If George hadn’t come around I’d probably be removing real kidneys from people as opposed to the fake kidneys I remove on a daily basis,” said Nicotero, who grew up in Romero’s home town, Pittsburgh. “He was a man that loved movies passionately. His inspirations allowed him to change the rules to suit his style of filmmaking as he matured as a storyteller.” After the original trilogy, Nicotero penned and made a further three films, starting with “Land of the Dead” (2005), a commercial and critical hit which features Wright and “Shaun of the Dead” star Simon Pegg as zombie extras.
Romero’s other notable works include 1981’s “Knightriders,” about a traveling medieval reenactment troupe that jousts on motorcycles, and 1982’s horror anthology “Creepshow” written by Stephen King. Much of his work was shot in or around Pittsburgh, where he had attended Carnegie-Mellon University after moving away from New York, where he was born in 1940 to a Cuban father and a Lithuanian-American mother. Romero began making his own short films as a teenager and was arrested at 14 for throwing a flaming dummy off the roof of a building while making “Man from the Meteor” in 1954. The director’s widow, Suzanne Desrocher-Romero, accepted the iconic Walk of Fame’s 2,621st star on behalf of her husband, describing him as a “life force (whose) light will never be dimmed.”–AFP