Quantcast ICONS OF FRIGHT presents TIM SULLIVAN'S SHOCK N' ROLL ISSUE 3: GEORGE A. ROMERO & GREG NICOTERO

It's officially October 2008! And today marks the release of George A. Romero's LAND OF THE DEAD on Blu-Ray! The flick marked his return to the "zombie" genre which he created back 1968 with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. In celebration of this release, ICONS and Tim Sullivan have decided to reprint 2 vintage interviews with George A. Romero and Greg Nicotero. These are among 2 of my personal fave interviews that Tim conducted for LAND's release back in 2005. So sit back and enjoy a candid chat with both Romero and Nicotero about LAND OF THE DEAD! ICONS OF FRIGHT and Tim Sullivan's SHOCK N ROLL present ISSUE 3: THIS LAND WAS BLED FOR YOU & ME! -Robg. (10/1/08)

Move aside George Lucas, another George is in town. This George’s name is Romero and yeah, you might have written a little space opera called STAR WARS, and yeah, you might have made a bit of a cultural impact in the land of sci-fi, but hell, in the land of horror, this guy made the modern landscape what it is today! A land of rip-offs and parodies and remakes and sequels and sequels to remakes and even sequels to sequels of remakes (got that?), and it all started in Pittsburgh 40 years ago with a bunch of chocolate syrup and leftover goodies from the local butcher shop and a certain little line of dialogue…

“They’re coming to get you, Barbara…”

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. No matter how freaking old you are now or when you first heard that immortal line, whether it was a Drive-in in the 60’s, a revival house in the 70’s, a rented video in the 80’s or a netflick last week, that line is to horror freaks what “Luke, I am your father” is to sci-fi geeks. But NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has a full ten years on the STAR WARS legacy, and one would be hard pressed to think of another genre series that has lasted this long, let alone bringing forth a new chapter in all but one decade since its first entry. (Ah, one wonders what a 90’s George Romero LIVING DEAD movie would have been like. Think of it, a mid 90’s Clinton-era zombie parable, sandwiched between the alternative grunge of the early 90’s and the boy band pop of the later 90’s).

This summer is Nirvana. Not only have we finally seen Anarkin become Darth, but we are finally seeing the maestro play comeback kid on the long side of 60, showing all his moviemaking protégés how the mentor does it. The grandfather of the modern horror film is back kiddies, and Grandpa can shock and roll with the best of them, maybe even better than us all. Pay attention, cuz this is how it is done. With thoughtfulness and storytelling and craft and characterization. Oh, yeah, and did I mention blood and guts and chopped off hands and stomped heads and imploding entrails? This is George Romero supersized. Widescreen for the first time, a bigger budget than previous zombie efforts, but with his independent spirit and unique flavor intact and as potent as ever.

Along for the ride with Grandpa Zombie is one of his ‘grandkids”, make-up impresario Greg Nicotero, a fanboy FX assistant 20 years ago on DAY OF THE DEAD, now, with partner Howard Berger of KNB, in charge of the entire special make-up effects army so integral to Romero’s world. Greg is proof in the pudding that one can go from apprentice to colleague, so aim high, zombie kids. Here now, is a double feature for y’all, straight up from the LAND OF THE DEAD. After all these years, “They’re STILL coming to get you…”


PART ONE: GEORGE ROMERO

I gotta tell you, George, I was at the press screening the other night with Greg Nicotero, and man, I haven’t felt that kind of glee at a horror flick since, I gotta be honest with you, since maybe DAWN OF THE DEAD. I’ve always said, you know, I grew up watching the black and white Universal horror movies when I was eight, nine, ten, and then at thirteen, DAWN came along and it was like a Goregasm. That was when my adolescence set in and suddenly my world went from black and white to color.

Man! Geez, that’s a great word! Goregasm. Can I use it?

Absolutely.

All right. I’ll credit you.
DAWN OF THE DEAD was a goregasm for us horror fans, but it also had that undercurrent of social commentary of consumerism and conformity. What social issues were in your head while writing LAND OF THE DEAD?

I started something with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD that I couldn’t possibly have foreseen. Since then, what I’ve tried to do is reflect on the socio-political climate of the different eras. The stories are similar, but they are set in different decades. It’s an unusual conceit, but I like being able to make the film current, politically speaking, even though the story is continuous. With LAND, I actually had to change the political issues.
When I initially finished the first draft of the script, it was before 9/11, actually just a few days before, and after that, everybody just wanted to make soft, fuzzy friendly, movies, and it was impossible to get a deal on this. So I waited, and then about a year later, I guess it was right before the invasion of Iraq, everybody was worried, “Are they gonna hit us again?”, so I went for that. There’s nothing in the film that clobbers you over the head, but the idea of the high rise tower being the financial center and the idea of the administration trying to convince people that everyone’s okay. Little ideas like, you know, being protected by water, that if we’re surrounded by water they can’t get us. Just the image of these big, armored vehicles going through towns and mowing people down, well, in this case they’re zombies, but then, you know, wondering why they don’t like us? So there are a lot of those allusions. They’re not up front. The kids don’t have to worry about that, they can just take the ride.
What per cent of the audience do you think gets those allusions?

I don’t track that kind of thing. It’s pretty hard to say. But my suspicion would be that most of the people in a bar in Pittsburgh would be, “Whaddya mean? Whaddya talkin’ about?” I know that people that write about film and people that think a bit get it. The one sort of ‘on the nose’ thing is when Dennis Hopper says, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists”. That’s it right there.

That line got a great response the other night. I think there were a lot of people, myself included, that put the face of Bush on Hopper’s character, and were quite gleeful when he finally got his.
You know, I think probably if you even showed the film at the White House they wouldn’t get it. They might be a little upset that we burned money (laughs).

What’s it like directing all those zombies?

You can’t tell zombies how to move. If I did, I’d get 100 people moving and groaning in same way. I basically say, “Okay, you’re dead, you’re stiff.” And I ask them to use their imaginations. Then I end up with some amazing interpretations. Some are a bit over the top, but the variety is great for the cameras.
So what differentiates a George Romero zombie from any other zombie?

I guess the number one differentiation everyone talks about, or at least asks me about is, “Do your zombies run?” And no, they don’t. I figure if they take off running their ankles would probably snap. My line about this has been that my zombies would probably take out library cards before they’d join a health club. (laughs) I find it more threatening, you know, I grew up on FRANKENSTEIN and THE MUMMY and all that, and I just find it more threatening when there’s these big, lumbering things inexorably coming at you and you’ve got to find the way to stop them. You’ve got to find the Achilles’ heel. The argument is, “Well, you can just run away from them if they’re walking”, and I’ve actually used that. In the mall I’ve had guys run right through them, you know, but then all of a sudden, you get trapped in a situation and you’re in trouble. I just prefer to keep it that way.
If I had to answer that I would say George Romero zombies have true character.

Well, yes, and in this one there are several zombies that are lead players, actually. I try to do that as much as possible, even with wardrobe. I know in the DAWN remake it was just a gang of zombies in clothes from the Gap. And I try to give them personality, you know, ball players and nuns.

I would also say your zombies have incredible pathos.

Obviously, that’s the idea. You’re supposed to feel for these particular zombies, like when they push through into the city and you see all these other helpless zombies hanging with targets painted on them… I’m trying to do that. I’m trying to make the zombies more and more sympathetic while the humans are sort of disintegrating as we go. LAND is set in a devastated world. There’s no electricity except for places inside the city where people are trying to live normal lives. That is their terror… it goes back to the idea of ignoring terrorism and other societal problems outside your own door. They think, ‘If we ignore it, it’ll be okay” That’s the core of what the movie is about. The protagonists are the ones that have to go out into the dark side of the world.

Do you foresee a world of the dead where the humans literally have become the bad guys, say, like Vincent Price’s character in LAST MAN ON EARTH where in a world of vampires, the vampire hunter is the evil one?

Maybe. Maybe. I don’t know, man. I hope not. I don’t think I really want to go there. That gets a little too PLANET OF THE APES for me.

One of the occurring themes in your films is the notion that things are not going to get better. Normalcy will not be restored.

Well, my problem with most traditional horror films is that you upset the apple cart only to restore it again. That’s sort of the standard formula. In the end, everything’s going to be okay. We’re back to normal. Well, who wants to be back to normal? My films are not at all traditional horror films, slashers or anything. I just think of them as stories, basically- people stories underneath it all. The early horror films were about a crisis that could possibly destroy the world; it was all about restoring order. The real horror in my films is that order is never going to be restored. And that’s one of the things that I’ve tried to do with the LIVING DEAD series particularly. It bothers me when I can’t. I did a movie called MONKEY SHINES and the hero sort of got healed in the end which disturbed the hell out of me. The studio insisted on it. Now, on the other had, these guys at Universal have been fabulous. No bullshit. There are a couple of execs here who are real fans of this genre and ‘get it’, and man, it’s the best experience I’ve had.
Good for you, man. It’s nice to have that. It must be nice to have a little bit more money, too. You’ve got to do some of your most epic zombie kills yet.

It was cool, but we weren’t rich, man. The DAWN remake had, I don’t know. We had twenty million, and I think the DAWN remake was thirty two, thirty three. So, we weren’t rich, and the scope of the film is huge. We had forty days for the whole thing, they had forty days just for second unit. And it was grueling. Sub zero temperatures some nights, and it was all at night. All outdoors. But, man, everybody just came to play. Everybody put 120% into it.
Everybody wants to be a zombie in a George Romero movie! I know you had Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg from SHAUN OF THE DEAD in there.

Yeah, we got those guys in there, and Savini’s in there.

Yep. He got a big cheer at the screening.

Tom’s the man.
So this year we us fanboys had the two George’s, Lucas and Romero, returning to their most famous stories. We got a final chapter in the STAR WARS legacy and another chapter in the LIVING DEAD series. Is LAND OF THE DEAD the end of your saga? Or a new beginning?

I don’t think it’s either. I like to say it’s the fourth of ten. I won’t be alive that long… But I don’t know. If the movie does well, there will be a sequel and we’ll have to do it quickly. In that case, I would make it almost Part Two of this movie. If that doesn’t happen, I think I’ll wait for some sort of political change, or sociological change and try and do another one then!
Well, maybe you can create that political situation just so you could have fodder for your next zombie film!

There you go. That’s a premise for you. Maybe I’ll just phone in a bomb scare to the White House!

We’re going on 40 years since NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. You really are the guy who initiated what I consider modern horror. Being that guy, how would you say the landscape of horror films 2005 differs most from horror films 1967?
I’ve always considered myself this guy who happens to be a filmmaker who lives in Pittsburgh. I’m grateful that there is ongoing interest in what I do. I guess, to my fans, I’m sort of a Pancho Villa kind of figure, always just under the radar. stuff has had an extraordinary shelf life and I can’t explain why. Partly, I guess, because I am this rogue guy, but also because some people find what I do interesting- there’s something there, something underneath it all. And I think that back in 1967, there were a lot more innovative things going on back then. There were a lot of cats working at the time like Tobe and Wes, Sean Cunnigham… There were just a lot of people doing some really hard ass stuff. But I don’t see a lot of stuff now that has any real equal depth. I don’t see too much of that now. It’s either big Hollywood special effects or things like THE RING or THE GRUDGE. A bunch of Japanese knock-offs that scare you for the sake of scaring you with some very thin premise such as, “You watch this video you’re gonna die.” I mean, who believes that? But people are willing to go and get scared by it, so what do I know?


PART TWO: GREG NICOTERO

Dude! What’s going on?

I’m doing my whirlwind publicity tour.

You’re a rock star, man. Mr. “Entertainment Weekly”!

Hey, you know, it’s all for the benefit of the movie. There was also something written up in “Premiere” and “USA Today”. There’s a big article with a quote from Eli Roth saying, “ LAND OF THE DEAD is like STAR WARS for horror fans!”

Eli’s right. It is to horror movies what STAR WARS is to the sci-fi genre. It’s the real thing! The real LIVING DEAD! And it’s the man who created the series, for God’s sake! What horror film series has lasted this long? We’re talking 40 years.

So fucking cool.

Here’s a question I asked George I want to ask you as well. What differentiates a Romero zombie movie from any other. Now I know you’ve literally seen them all.

I have seen them all. You know, George’s fingerprints are all over his characters. It’s how they perform, it’s how they react. They’re not just out there to eat people. I remember a lot of people’s initial reactions to the LAND OF THE DEAD script, and they were saying things like, “Zombies that think? Oh, no! That’s terrible. What a horrible idea.” But everybody seems to forget the part at the end of DAY OF THE DEAD after Bub shoots Rhodes, he actually salutes him.
Right. You know, I did forget about that.

Well, people do forget. And Bub shows the beginning of that sort of intelligence. So in LAND OF THE DEAD, in that opening scene where you see Big Daddy come out of the gas station and grab the gas pump, he’s exhibiting exactly what George set up in DAWN and DAY. In DAWN, you know, the idea of the shopping mall being an important place that they return to and congregate, and then in DAY, you’ve got a smart zombie like Bub. So, it’s a logical progression. It’s all thoughtfully orchestrated. It’s not just zombies for the sake of being zombies.

In many ways, when I was watching the film, I thought it should have been called EVOLUTION OF THE DEAD.

That’s a really good title, actually.

It never hit me till LAND that all along, this saga is really about the progress of these zombies in terms of their intelligence and adaptation.

People don’t think about that, because, you know, it’s hard to look at the movies in any sort of sequence because of the fact that they all were released so many years apart. 1968 to ’78 to ’85.

Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another twenty years for the next one. Getting back to Bub and characters like Big Daddy, tell me about the different characters that you and George created. One of the defining aspects of Romero’s zombies is that they do have such individuality. You’ve got Bub, you’ve got Doctor Tongue…

We had six featured zombies and they were Big Daddy (Eugene Clark), the Butcher (Boyd Banks), Jennifer Baxter played the softball girl zombie which we called the Number Nine zombie, and then we had a teenage boy (Michael Belisario) and a teenage girl (Lara Amersey). And then Jasmin Geljo was the Tambourine Man in the opening…

That opening was great!

Listen, that opening shot as far as I’m concerned… I just love the fact that the opening shot is a sign that says, “Eats”. Which is so George. It’s sly and it’s telling and it’s satirical. It says “Eats” and there’s an arrow and we follow the arrow down… I love that shot! It’s one of my favorite shots in the entire movie because it really sets you up perfectly. Anyway, our six reoccurring zombies…
Our action figures, if you will…

Yes, exactly. You know in DAWN when you see the nurse zombie and the business suit zombie and the zombie with the M-16, well, this was our little group of reoccurring zombies that we knew we would be seeing over and over again. So each of them had a specific look. We fine tuned them. With the teenage zombie boy, he’s got a big bite on his neck, and we always imagined that he and his girl were making out and things went from getting a hickey to being a zombie (laughs). George really cast people that had a unique look. With Eugene, George liked the “Bub” aspect of his make-up. We went with a wrinkly flesh effect with “Big Daddy” And then with the “Number 9” zombie, she was supposed to be almost pristine looking except for this big huge chunk taken out of the side of her face. And then, of course, The Butcher, he’s really more far gone and rotting. To me, he is the creepiest looking. There’s a couple of my all time favorite zombies, and he’s one of them. Boyd was so great. When his eyes would get so wide and his teeth would get really wide… For me, one of the things that was most important was that I wanted all the zombies to look a little different. I didn’t want to just do the standard, “Oh, we can digitally remove their nose”. We saw that before. We saw that in RESIDENT EVIL. So, that to me was the biggest challenge. And my plate was full ‘cuz George was relying on me to come up with gags that people were going to walk out of the theater thinking about.
He kept saying, “I want to make sure there are five gags that people keep talking about.” And I was like, “George, you’ve got five in the first five minutes of the movie!” It’s like a visual onslaught. And there were a couple bits and pieces that he almost didn’t use. There was the hand grenade gag where the guy is holding grenade and it gets cut off. Well, George fixated on that forever. He was like, “Well, the hand hits the ground, it kinda bounces unnaturally. It looks a little funky.” But, you know, when that gag happens… I was sitting next to Frank Darabont at the screening, and he literally jumped out of his seat. People love that stuff. I mean, George’s vision is so precise and he has so much to say, and in the 20 years since DAY, George’s voice is as clear as ever. His fingerprint is all over that movie. It’s touching and its sad and its funny and its scary and its creepy.
I agree, the zombie set pieces were among the best ever. I think people, myself included, were going in there thinking, “Not only do we have the other Romero zombie movies, but we also have all the remakes and the parodies”, but you topped it! You guys came up with stuff that I didn’t imagine. That must have been a load of pressure on you to top all that.

I’ll tell you, for George and I both, the pressure was really incredible. George said at the premiere the other night, “You know, I can’t say that this movie was a lot of fun to make” and he’s right. It was a really grueling movie. I can only imagine the pressure that George felt as a director, cuz to me as a make-up effects guy, it was hellacious. You know, everybody knows that I came out from under Tom Savini’s wing, and there was a lot of resistance initially when people heard that Tom wasn’t doing the make-up effects and we were doing it. Everyone just assumed that George Romero and Tom Savini were a fixture. So already I felt that I had an uphill battle. And with George, well, George also had such a good working relationship with Tom. And George was so used to working in the independent film world. George kept saying to me jokingly, “Listen, you and I are going to be in my garage with a 16mm camera shooting inserts when this is all done.” Well, that was what he was used to. He was used to, “Hey, I want to shoot that guy getting shot and falling off the balcony” and we’d go over and stick a squib on the back of his head and BLAM!
But that was 20 years ago. Now there has to be a stunt guy, there has to be a bump in pay, you just can’t do a lot of it the way that George was accustomed to doing, this sort of guerilla filmmaking style. If I were to compare any director now to the way George is, it’s Robert Rodriguez. Robert does it his own way, and Robert has restructured how movies are made to suit his vision. George did the same thing thirty five years ago. He really restructured how horror films were made to suit his particular vision. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, perfect example. No one had ever seen anything like that. DAWN, the opening scene where the guy gets his head blown off with a shotgun. C’mon! I mean, it’s the first 10 minutes of the movie!
Did you and George sit down together and come up with the zombie set pieces? Or where they in the script?

When we first started the movie, we sorta sat here at KNB and brain stormed this huge four page list of zombie gags. Some of them ended up in the movie, some didn’t. There’s two really good set pieces, one of them that was inspired by a piece of artwork that Bernie Wrightson had done. It was a really great drawing of a zombie whose head is attached with just a couple bits of sinew and a little bit of a spinal chord, and when I was showing George all the art work, I said, “I want to do this character as a puppet.” And he loved it and when we got to shooting that sequence, we had a combination of some CGI stuff and some articulated puppet head stuff. To me the best part about it is that you see the zombie’s hands grab the soldier’s shoulder, and you pan up and there’s a headless zombie, and anybody who knows the rules George has set up is going, “Wait a minute, how can a zombie not have a head?” And then as it leans forward, the head, which is precariously attached by its spinal chord, flips forward and bites him on the arm!

That’s my favorite gag in the whole film.

I was really delighted with how that one came out. Cuz, you know, its tricky. Even George was like, “God, I’d love to cover it more and get more footage and try and prolong it”, but it really works. I also love the ammo mag scene. I think it really reeks of classic Romero. The scene where they go in to get all the ammunition and they find the zombies chomping away on the dead soldiers. We shot that the last night of the shoot. Listen, I’m telling you, the first twenty minutes of the movie are riveting. And it’s funny, because I’m so accustomed to looking at those gags clinically, like, you know, the cheerleader gets half of her face ripped off, and the father zombie’s head is machine gunned off and Big Daddy is left holding the head as the body drops. There’s literally eight gags in the first fifteen minutes of the movie where you’re going, “No way, did I just see that? Did they just do that?”

How the fuck did you guys get away with an R Rating?

You got to remember one thing. Those gags are cut fast. I mean, when the cop zombie bites Mike on the arm in the liquor store, there’s only a couple of frames of that bite in the movie. By the way, that was actually my arm that doubled for the bite, and I tell you, that gushed blood like you wouldn’t believe. And I love the fact that Gino Crognole, who played that zombie, was one of my guys. He went in and really bit hard, and when he pulled the big chunk of flesh out, he just stayed there and chewed for a minute. And they cut back to him with a big chunk of flesh in his mouth as he’s chomping away before he gets up.
As great as it is for George, this is great for you, too, cuz what self respecting teenage gore hound in the 80’s didn’t have Tom Savini’s SCREAM GREATS video in which you where quite visible, talking about your work as his assistant on DAY OF THE DEAD and the scene where you got your head ripped off. You’ve always been a role model of someone who followed their dream, followed their mentor and then made it. I mean, look at you! You went from being Tom Savini’s assistant on DAY OF THE DEAD to designing a zombie character for him in LAND OF THE DEAD!

I’ve also known George for almost thirty years, and I’ve known Tom almost just as long. For more than three quarters of my life, these two men have influenced me and inspired me and made me happy and made me cry and made me bewildered. When we did FROM DUST TILL DAWN, Quentin and Robert really wanted Savini to play a part in the movie. So I called Tom, and Tom set a video camera up, filmed himself, and when they saw the audition tape, they were, “We have to have this guy in the movie.” Tom has so much screen presence in DUSK TO DAWN. And the fact that so many people are going, “Why isn’t Tom Savini doing the make-up on LAND…” Well, Tom Savini’s a great actor, and Tom Savini’s a great director now. He’s been there, done this stuff before.

This is a question I like to ask people who work in this genre; Why do you think we love to see blood and guts and gore and mayhem on screen, and we pay to see it, and when its done well we applaud it or make a nice paycheck. What is it?

Well, you know, there’s something about horror movies. It’s putting yourself in a precarious situation to analyze how you would react. Like, “What if you were walking down the street and there was a dead body on the ground? What would you do?” And you can project yourself into a movie. Here’s a perfect example. When I saw TITANIC, I remember thinking, “Why didn’t somebody take a couple doors off the Titanic and just float away?” (laughs) You put yourself in those scenarios, and in horror movies, that’s the ultimate scenario. You can watch a great white shark jump up on the back of a boat, or you can see a crowd of zombies cornering people and think, “What would I do?”, without ever leaving the safety of the real world. And I think that’s what its all about. That adrenalin rush. There’s nothing more gratifying than immersing yourself into a movie and going on this amazing rollercoaster ride. And when the movie’s done, you feel that elation of, “The ride has ended and I survived and I had an amazing time, and now I want to get back on and go again.”
I’ve also thought of it as the appeal of a magic show. You’re basically a magician, Greg, and you’re make-up effects are your tricks. I mean, what really is the difference between the head severing gag in LAND OF THE DEAD and the old lady being sawed in half trick?

There’s no difference! It’s about misdirecting your audience. And when you have guys like George Romero and Mike Doherty, who did a great job editing LAND, you have master magicians. And I have to say, in directing a lot of second unit for George, I learned more about filmmaking from George than I have from any other director that I’ve worked this closely with.

What do you prefer creating; The gore effects? Or do you prefer character make-ups?

Well, you know, gore effects are changing a lot now. After BATTLE ROYALE, which had some of the most amazing digital blood I’ve ever seen, gore effects are a little different, and you don’t see them as often. It’s gotta be in the right story, the right framework. I don’t know. I have to say I like it all. I’ve been lucky enough to deal with great character make-ups on SIN CITY, fantasy characters on CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, and then I go and do zombie gags for George. They’re all great.
You’re just living the life. Blowing up zombies. Making Mickey Rourke up as Marv in SIN CITY…

You know, I’ve had an amazing career. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve worked with some of the best directors in the world. I’ve worked with Spielberg and I’ve worked with Tarantino, who is one of my greatest friends, and Robert Rodriguez… I’ve been able to fulfill my dream and live out this fantasy life that began because George Romero opened this door of opportunity for me.

It all goes back to George.

It does. And that’s the other issue, which was LAND OF THE DEAD was ultimately me paying back George for giving me my first job.

Why do you think it is that a movie like LAND OF THE DEAD would not get nominated for a make-up Oscar whereas you hopefully will for SIN CITY?

Well, horror movies have always been considered low brow. I think a lot of people look as horror movies as cheap, get rich quick schemes. Exploitation. And after DAWN OF THE DEAD and FRIDAY THE 13TH, the onslaught of low budget horror movies simply trying to cash in on the success of those films definitely fueled that contention. When you have a movie like FRIDAY THE 13th making ninety million dollars on a one million dollar investment, well, those guys making the rip-offs were definitely just trying to make money. They weren’t doing it because of the art. So I think that all horror movies suffer for that in terms of their reception as ‘viable creativity’. And yes, they are definitely a developed taste. I sat next to a woman at a screening of LAND who was groaning and hemming and hawing. Any one in the world can watch a western or a comedy, but you have to have a certain stomach for horror movies, and not everybody does.
And the people who do probably aren’t the guys giving out Oscars!

I would probably have to agree (laughs). You know, there’s magazines that focus on movie make-up and I don’t even think they would write an article about zombie make-up.

Do you consider gore an art form?

Yes. When its done well, there’s nothing better.

What’s a favorite gore effect you’ve done?

Oh, my God. There’s so many. Hmmm. Guess I would have to say the severed ear in RESERVOIR DOGS. We made a lot of blood for that movie. KILL BILL and KILL BILL 2, I don’t know if you consider that gore, but when you spill four hundred gallons of blood, I would consider that relatively gory…


How about a favorite character make-up?

I’d have to go with Marv from SIN CITY. Without a doubt. Mickey Rourke is a fucking genius, and I’ll tell you, he brought that character to life. But that’s what character make-ups are about. Character make-ups are about actors making you believe they’re not wearing rubber. Everybody in SIN CITY accomplished that. Nick Stahl also did a great job. Robert put such a great cast together for SIN, they could have been wearing paper bags on their heads and it would have been equally insightful.

How about the oddest make-up effect you’ve ever done?

One of the things I get asked about more then I ever would have imagined is the penis Mark Wahlberg wore in BOOGIE NIGHTS. I can say, “Guys, I’ve worked on THE GREEN MILE, I did DANCES WITH WOLVES, ARMY OF DARKNESS, but they want to hear about the dick from BOOGIE NIGHTS”. It never ends.

Literally.

Ha ha.

All right, what grosses you out? Anything were you just say, “Oh, My God….”

As I get older, and John Carpenter called me a pussy the other day because we talked about this, but you know, when you have kids, you look at films differently, and I went to see THE AMITYVILLE HORROR remake, and what was hard for me to stomach during that film was seeing children put in danger. Because when you have your own children, you spend your entire existence keeping them out of harm’s way, so its hard for me to find movies entertaining that do put children in jeopardy. LEMONY SNICKET? Hated it! Hated that movie with a fucking passion. And John Carpenter told me, “Oh, you pussy, you’ve got to get over that.” And I was like, “Why?” And he said, “If you want to be a storyteller and a filmmaker, you may make something that doesn’t sit well with you but you got to do it.”

That leads nicely to the next question, will we ever see you behind the camera as a director? We saw you as an actor, you were hilarious in Roy Knirim’s CEMETARY GATES…

Oh, my God, did you see that?

Yes, I saw it. It cracked me up.

Roy said that Howard Berger and I steal the movie.

You do! You guys were hilarious. I’d see a movie just about you two guys.

Don’t say that cause Roy will do one and I’ll have to reprise that cheesy character. (laughs). You know directing is something that I would like to experience. On LAND OF THE DEAD, during the last two weeks of the eight week shoot I really felt I started getting my momentum going as a Second Unit Director, you know, shooting gags and getting a lot of good stuff, and yeah, I think it’s something I would like to do once. I don’t think I would want to make a career out of it. I mean, I’ve spent the last 18 years of my life promoting my FX company, I just can’t see spending the rest of my life promoting myself as a director. ‘Cuz I would never leave KNB. It’s my life. But it could be fun. Everybody always talks about doing movies with your friends… That’s what I would want to do.
Well, you’ve got a lot of cool friends to pull from. Darabont, Carpenter, Romero, Tarantino, Rodriguez…

I know. I know. But the thing about all these guys that amazes me is that aside from having a working relationship with them, I really care about them as friends. When I saw Carpenter a few weeks ago for MASTERS OF HORROR, we had a little bit of work to talk about, but we spent an hour talking about his family and my family and what we’ve been up to. And then it was like, “Oh, we gotta talk about this script.” And he was, “I don’t know. Do whatever you want”. But with all these guys, I couldn’t work this closely with them or with anybody without really caring about them as people. I always go out of my way to maintain that friendship with them outside of work and not just ‘showing up on set’. And that’s important to me. You have to have a life outside of work, and unfortunately you get into the spiral insanity of this business, but, I mean… I was delighted that I was able to sit next to Frank the first time I saw LAND OF THE DEAD. In fact, when the movie ended, Frank came up to me and said, “George Romero just erased every zombie movie that was made in the last twenty years.”

Originally posted on: http://www.upcominghorrormovies.com/shock/c16.php
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