George A. Romero is a very nice man, and he genuinely loves his work.
He also created the zombie as we know it with the shambling flesh-eaters of 1968's Night Of The Living Dead, so if he wants to go on making increasingly disappointing zombie pictures, he's certainly earned that right. The day after last year's Toronto Film Festival premiere of Survival Of The Dead, the lifelong independent filmmaker - and newly minted Canadian citizen - sat down for a brief chat in a busy hotel suite.
I noticed that Survival Of The Dead and Diary Of The Dead are much smaller pictures than your big return to the zombie genre, Land Of The Dead. Is that a deliberate choice?
Yeah, it is. All the other ones were basically independent, and none of them cost more than a million and a half, which was Dawn - and that was expensive at the time, for us. Then Land finally came around, maybe partly because of the Dawn Of The Dead remake that made all that money. They had a much bigger budget than we did on Land, and Universal said yes because they'd had such a great success with that film.
Land Of The Dead was your only studio zombie picture, and it's much bigger in scope than any of the others. But you've said you're not totally happy with it.
It was a bit frustrating to me, because you have money but you don't have quite enough. It's like pulling teeth to get that extra day (of shooting) or whatever. I wasn't able to make the film exactly as I wanted. They left me alone; they didn't interfere in that sense that you hear about studio interference. But if I wanted to shoot a sunset - you know, "Look at that sunset! Let's shoot it!" - by the time you write the memo and get the permission, the sunset is gone.
Are you happier with Survival Of The Dead?
Except for the weather, we wound up doing okay. We lost three days to weather, and the financing group was willing to kick in the dough to buy the three days back, so we basically got everything we wanted. Well, not everything - we had to leave a location, so you can't ever replace that. But those things happen, and it's pretty much the film I wanted to make. I love working independently, and I love working with that freedom. It's just the best place to be.