Remembering when George A. Romero literally walked out on Hollywood

Contributed by
Jul 25, 2017

It's been more than a week since the world lost George A. Romero, the legendary director of Night of the Living Dead and the father of modern zombie films. It seems appropriate that we're still talking about him, because while he's no longer with us, Romero will never truly die.

It's important to remember Romero as more than a zombie filmmaker, though. He was, in many ways, one of the ultimate indie directors, scrounging up money to make Night and kind of never stopping filmmaking in that mold. For a great example of Romero's attitude about Hollywood, we can look no further than Mark Jacobson writing in Vulture about his old friend.

Once upon a time, Jacobson (who once drove across Pennsylvania to be an extra in Romero's Knightriders) had an idea for a movie. Romero, hot off the success of Dawn of the Dead, had the ear of Hollywood at the time. So the pair took a pitch meeting at United Artists with an executive who apparently had difficulty avoiding taking phone calls on that particular day. Here's how Jacobson tells it:

"The executive’s desk looked like a B-52–sized boomerang, with him in the middle and a white-shirted, black-tied assistant seated at either end. He greeted us warmly, bidding George to unfurl the pitch. This was something Romero did with characteristic bravado, acting out all the parts. It was about then that one of the assistants told Bach there was a call he had to take. The executive apologized, spoke on the phone for a few moments, then hung up. Romero started up again, inventing accents for characters. There was another phone call, again icing Romero’s flow. When it happened a third time, Romero turned to me and said, 'Let’s go.'

"'You mean, just get up and leave?' I asked. Bach was still on the phone. 'Yeah,' the director of Night of the Living Dead said, lifting his sizable weight from his chair. The executive was calling to George as we left the room, but Romero kept going. When we were in the elevator, he said he really didn’t think the Hollywood thing was going to work out anyway. I think it was the best meeting I ever had out there."

For all the tension he was capable of producing in his filmmaking, Romero never seemed to have time for it in his real life. He was a laid-back sort of director, taking things as they came and discarding needless tediousness as he went. This seems to be the perfect example of that.