George Romero, a pioneer of horror zombie films, died today at age 77 after a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer. He died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his wife Suzanne Desrocher Romero and daughter Tina Romero, as the score of his favorite film, The Quiet Man, played. The Los Angeles Times was first to report the news of his death.
His family said in a statement issued by his manager Chris Roe, “He leaves behind a loving family, many friends, and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time. ”
Romero was born in the Bronx on February 4, 1940 to a Cuban father and Lithuanian-American mother. He was a film buff from an early age. Early in his film career he shot short segments for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. He went on to become a legend in the world of horror and zombie films. He directed and co-wrote (with John Russo) the 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead. The story followed seven people trapped in a Pennsylvania farmhouse who were attacked by unnamed “living dead” monsters. The low-budget film became a financial success and spawned five subsequent films expanding on the zombie motif – 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, 1985’s Day of the Dead, 1990’s Land of the Dead, 2007’s Diary of the Dead, and 2009’s Survival of the Dead.
Romero’s non-zombie film work was also in the horror genre. He produced the anthology horror show Tales from the Darkside, and directed the horror films The Crazies, Martin, Monkey Shines, The Dark Half, and the horror anthology Creepshow (with a screenplay by Stephen King).
Romero was noted to be ahead of his time in the themes he explored, his directing style, and in his inclusive casting. He is considered the father of modern zombie flicks and his work has inspired a whole generation of filmmakers and artists. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn tweeted “RIP #GeorgeRomero. You made me want to make movies, and helped me to find meaning in monsters. Thank you. I love you.” Horror Producer Eli Roth (Hostel) wrote “Just heard the news about George Romero. Hard to quantify how much he inspired me & what he did for cinema.” Greg Nicotero, an executive producer on The Walking Dead, Instagrammed: “There are so many things to say about this man, my friend, my mentor and my inspiration. For what he gave us all with passion and fire, his unrelenting spirit will live forever. “ Joss Whedon tweeted “No one mined the zombie metaphor like Romero. (After he invented it.) No one has come close. RIP & thank you to a Great Film Artist.” Famed horror author Stephen King tweeted, “Sad to hear my favorite collaborator–and good old friend–George Romero has died. George, there will never be another like you.” Horror filmmaker Guillermo del Toro wrote “Romero has passed away. Hard to find words right now. The loss is so enormous.” Across the pond, Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss wrote “A fond farewell to charming, legendary zombie king George Romero. Martin is one of my favourite horrors. An honour to have met him. RIP.”