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George Romero on Survival of the Dead

Published May 24, 2010 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Magnet Releasing
George Romero has another zombie movie coming out. Survival of the Dead follows where Diary of the Dead left off. Well, not left off, but somewhere in the middle. The soldiers who harassed Diary’s survivors take their own shelter on an island. The Irish families of O’Flynn and Muldoon have turned the zombie apocalypse into an extension of their age old feud.

George A Romero's Survival of the Dead

“I mean, there’s not too much of a zombie storyline,” Romero said. “The stories are really people stories. They’ve all been about the humans, as I say, and how they respond or fail to respond or respond stupidly. I don’t have a problem with that either. I can leave the zombies in the closet until I’m ready for them. I have the storyline and I go, ‘Okay, boys. Let’s go.’ So that part’s not a problem either. Thematically it’s hard if I do these. If we do two more, I think I’ll just stick with the same [theme], make it one like a one piece about the same things: enmity and the fact that people can’t pull together and stick with that and just try to find other ways to make it interesting and explore new rules and figure out interesting ways to cross the storylines.”

For 40 years, Romero was making one zombie film a decade, even skipping the ‘90s entirely. Each one had its own look and feel, so Romero continue that with Survival.

“I remembered the old William Wyler western, The Big Country, and I sat down with the DP, the production designer and everybody, and we just watched The Big Country and said, ‘Let’s just make that our motto.’ That just made it that much more fun for us. It’s just sort of a layering, a stylistic layer that gave us something else to shoot for and be interested in.”

Survival of the Dead Poster Survival of the Dead

The Big Country was also a story of feuding families in the tradition of the Hatfields and McCoys. “It’s definitely there. I wanted this feud, I wanted a little microcosm of what war is or these disagreements that can’t be resolved. You think of it as Ireland or the Middle East. I sort of went with Ireland because otherwise I would have to have an Arab and a Jew. Yes, definitely. The Big Country is two old farts. It’s Burl Ives and Charles Bickford, the Hatfields and the McCoys. So we modeled the film after that, physically tried to make it look like that.”

Then of course there’s lots of zombies. By now, it’s easy for Romero to find extras who want to be part of his zombie horde. “There are hundreds of volunteers. In Canada, they way the regs are, I forgot the way it is here but if you have so many union extras, I think it’s 35 or 40, then you can bring in your kids. So, you can use volunteers as long as you have reached the quota of hiring the minimum number of union people. Every time we go off to shoot one of these things, I just get hundreds of emails going, ‘Please let me come in.’ You can’t direct. I mean, you’ve got 50 zombies in front of you. If I do this, everybody does this. So I just say, ‘Do your best dead, man.’ People are incredibly inventive. They’re so inventive even with their wardrobe and the makeup and everything else. They all have their own characteristic walks. It’s such fun to see what people come up with and sometimes, of course, they go way over the top with it and you have to tell them, ‘Would you step into the background?’ You sort of know whether it’s something you can cut out, but if it’s in a group shot you have to just be careful. Then sometimes, it blows a little bit. But people are tremendously creative if you just let them do their own thing. It’s all different.”

George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead opens to theaters on May 28th.

For the trailers, posters and more movie info, go to the George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead Movie Page.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Magnet Releasing

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