George Kosana, 'Night of the Living Dead' Actor (and Investor), Dies at 81

George Kosana 1968_photofest - H 2017

George Kosana 1968_photofest - H 2017

The Pennsylvanian played the sheriff in George A. Romero's iconic 1968 zombie film and put in $600 of his own money to help get the movie made.

George Kosana, who portrayed Sheriff McClelland in the George A. Romero zombie classic Night of the Living Dead, has died. He was 81.

John A. Russo, who co-wrote the 1968 film with writer-director Romero, said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that Kosana was found dead in his home in Clairton, Pa., on Friday. He had battled various illnesses for years.

In Night of the Living Dead, Kosana appeared with an ammunition belt draped over one shoulder and memorably improvised the line, "They're dead. They're all messed up."

The actor also worked on the crew and served as production manager on the project, which was filmed in nearby Pittsburgh, not far from Clairton.

Russo, who was friends with Kosana since their days growing up in Clairton, noted that Kosana was among a small group of second-round investors who put in $600 to help fund the movie, which wound up with a budget of $114,000. Kosana thus shared a small percentage of the profits, which were marginal because Night of the Living Dead was not copyrighted thanks to a monumental blunder by its distributor.

"[Every other zombie movie] that's out there today in my opinion is either a spinoff or influenced by our film," Kosana said in a 2011 interview.

"When we made it, we had hoped it would give us enough money to do another one. It took off with a life of its own, and we're grateful for that."

Kosana later played Sheriff McClelland in Living Dead (2012) and My Uncle John Is a Zombie! The latter film, written and co-directed by Russo, is in postproduction.

Kosana also appeared in Romero's There’s Always Vanilla (1971), the filmmaker's follow-up to Night of the Living Dead, and in Russo's The Booby Hatch (1976).