There were zombie films long before George A. Romero wrote and directed 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, but no one deserves more credit for the zombie genre than he. Born and raised in New York City, he graduated from Carnegie Mellon University.
Made on a shoestring budget of less than $200,000, it would go on to earn more than $10 million in box office over the decade following its release. It is a cult classic and has a rating of 96% on the Rotten Tomatoes website from 53 reviews by critics. The word zombie doesn’t not appear in the screenplay or in the completed movie. Romero referred to what we now call zombies as “ghouls.”
Ten years later, he followed up with Dawn of the Dead which cemented his death grip on the zombie genre. It would produce over $50 million at the worldwide box office, making it the most profitable of Romero’s “Dead” films.
Romero would go on to make Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and the final film he directed, Survival of the Dead. In 2004, Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) directed a remake of Dawn of the Dead starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber and Mekhi Phifer. It did over $100 million at the box office.
Romero did make other movies, including Martin, Knightriders (very different from most of his other movies) and Creepshow. He made some cameo appearances in some of his films, and also did one for 1991’s Silence of the Lambs as an FBI Agent in Memphis.
His producing partner, Peter Grunwald says he died in his sleep after a battle with lung cancer. He is survived by his wife Suzanne, their two children and a child from an earlier marriage. RIP