Legendary filmmaker George A. Romero, best known for directing the classic horror movie, Night of the Living Dead, has died. He was 77.
Romero’s death was confirmed by his manager, Chris Roe, in a statement to NPR.
Roe said Romero passed away peacefully in his sleep Sunday while listening to the score of one of his all-time favorite films, The Quiet Man. His wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero and daughter, Tina Romero were at his side. Romero had been battling lung cancer.
“George Romero was a gentle giant, and one of the kindest and most giving human beings I’ve ever know or had the pleasure to work with,” Roe told NPR.
Born George Andrew Romero in the Bronx, New York City on Feb. 4, 1940 to a Cuban father and a Lithuania American mother, Romero launched his filmmaking career in the early 1960s, shortly after graduation from the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University.
Romero was a pioneer in the zombie-horror movie genre and early established a name for himself with such films as the satirical Night of the Living Dead, which spawned Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, The Crazies and Martin. He defined the modern template for bringing the scary, gruesome and dead to life on screen, inspiring a myriad of zombies in Hollywood and the more recent high-rated AMC series, The Walking Dead.
Romero once told NPR’s Arun Rath in an interview, “I have a soft spot in my heart for the zombies.”
He added that in his work, it’s “usually the humans that are the worst.”
Romero acknowledged that he used zombies as a vessel for commentary.
“They are multi-purpose, you can’t really get angry at them, they have no hidden agendas, they are what they are. I sympathize with them. My stories have always been more about the humans and the mistakes that they’ve make and the zombies are just sort of out there. … They’re the disaster that everyone is facing, but my stories are more about the humans.”
When Romero created the cult classic Night of the Living Dead back in 1968, it was on a budget of $100,000 and as the The Associated Press described, featured, “flesh-hungry ghouls trying to feast on humans holed up in a Pennsylvania house.” The film was inducted into the National Registry of Films by the Library of Congress in 1999.
Like many film directors, some of Romero’s movies were successful, others didn’t fare as well at the box-office. Later in life, he struggled to make films. Still, his legacy for reinventing the movie zombie, influencing years of scary movies and leaving imitators in his shadow, remain intact.
Stephen King, prolific writer of dark, scary novels, many of them turned into movies, tweeted a tribute to Romero: “Sad to hear my favorite collaborator–and good old friend–George Romero has died. George, there will never be another like you.”