Movie director George Romero, father of the zombie movies and resident of Toronto, has died from lung cancer at the age of 77, one year before the 50th anniversary of his iconic movie, "Night of the Living Dead."
He died in his sleep with his wife Suzanne and daughter Tina nearby.
George and Suzanne were good neighbours in our condo building and besides seeing them in the hallway and on the elevator, I sat down with George four years ago to talk about his work and then talked to a few other people about him and his work.
What became clear was the stature of this gentle, modest man and how his legacy would live on.
Here is what I wrote about him for Zoomer magazine in October 2013:
The Godfather of the Zombie flick, George A. Romero talks with Judy Gerstel about his (undead) legacy
"I used to be the only guy in this playground," says George A. Romero, the legendary filmmaker. The playground he's referring to? The Zeitgeist's current obsession with the undead – or zombie, if you prefer. To wit, AMC's hit television series The Walking Dead, about to enter its fourth season, and reportedly the highest rated show on television among 18- to 49-year-olds. Then one of this past summer's few real breakout "monster" hits was World War Z, the Brad Pitt vehicle (he also produced) about a global zombie apocalypse based on the best-selling novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft).
But it is Romero alone who can claim to have started the trend when his first feature film Night of the Living Dead was released 45 years ago this month. Romero's real world, the one he lives in outside his imagination, is centred in a two-storey Toronto condo near St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District, which he shares with his third wife, Suzanne Desrocher, three birds and a cat.
He first came to Toronto to make the horror flick, Bruiser, funded by Canal Plus, at the end of the '90s and made the city his home. But few of Romero's neighbours realize their condo building is Zombie Central. For it's here that the 73-year-old is working on a series of zombie comic books for Marvel and also adapting the book The Zombie Autopsies for the screen. The author of the novel is medical doctor and Harvard psychiatrist Steven Schlozman, who says, "George is completely lovable – a real mentor and father figure."
And a cult figure as well for those who have taken up the zombie genre. "When it comes to zombies," Max Brooks has said, "it's George's world, and the rest of us are just lucky to live in it."
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