George A. Romero Had A Complicated Relationship With ‘The Walking Dead’

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Horror fans were shocked to learn that George A. Romero, the director of all-time classics like Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Creepshow, passed away over the weekend after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer.” He was 77 years old. In a heartfelt tribute, Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright wrote, “It’s fair to say that without George A. Romero, I would not have the career I have now.” It’s also accurate to presume that without the “father of the zombie film,” there would be no The Walking Dead, currently one of the most popular shows on TV. He might have been fine with that.

Romero was outspoken about AMC’s zombie series over the years, calling it a “soap opera with a zombie occasionally. I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism and I find that missing in what’s happening now.” He also said that because of The Walking Dead and World War Z, “I can’t pitch a modest little zombie film, which is meant to be sociopolitical.” Romero continued, “I used to be able to pitch them on the basis of the zombie action, and I could hide the message inside that. Now, you can’t.” He even declined directing episodes of The Walking Dead.

“All of a sudden, here came The Walking Dead. So you couldn’t [do] a zombie film that had any sort of substance. It had to be a zombie film with just zombies wreaking havoc. That’s not what I’m about.”

All that being said, Romero admitted he “loved the books” from Robert Kirkman, so he wasn’t a complete Walking Dead hater, only for the show (although he did recently receive an award from executive producer Greg Nicotero, who called him “my friend, my mentor, and my inspiration”).

“My zombies are purely a disaster. They are a natural disaster,” Romero once said. “God has changed the rules, and somehow this thing is happening. My stories are about the humans who deal with it stupidly, and that’s what I use them for. I use them to sort of make fun of what’s going on in a number of societal events. And that’s it, I don’t use them to just create gore.” It may sound like Romero was bitter about his modest creation being turned into a blockbuster he couldn’t profit from, but he wasn’t. “It’s not really resentment,” he told Indiewire in 2016. “I’ve had a terrific run.” He sure did.