George Romero Remembered by Fans and Friends at Public Memorial Service
Fans dressed as flesh-eating zombies bid farewell to the legendary 'Night of the Living Dead' director in Toronto.
Fans dressed as zombies turned out Monday in Toronto to bid farewell to George Romero, the gore-obsessed auteur who lived and shot low-budget movies in the Canadian city for more than a decade until his death on July 16.
It was a day of memories as fans of the Night of the Living Dead director gathered at the spooky Mount Pleasant cemetery to honor his life and career, which included launching the zombie movie/TV genre to make way for The Walking Dead and World War Z.
One after another, fans filed into the funeral center, where Romero's wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, were among those standing next to Romero's closed hardwood casket. Overhead, scenes from Night of the Living Dead and its various sequels played on a giant screen amid finely detailed bronze, marble and wood interiors.
Greg Nicotero, an executive producer on AMC's The Walking Dead, declined comment as he left the funeral center after paying his respects. Romero's casket was surrounded by floral arrangements, including one from the horror punk band The Misfits, who collaborated with the zombie auteur on his 2000 pic The Bruiser.
There was also assorted memorabilia, including photos from various stages of his career and a trophy with a blood-splattered hand gripping a miniature CN Tower given to Romero by the Toronto International Film Festival, where his sequel Survival of the Dead played in 2009.
Fittingly, many fans were in costume as they praised an American helmer who made Toronto his home since 2004, well away from the big-budget Hollywood studio system. Toronto mother Leanne MacRae applied zombie makeup and prosthetics to herself and her daughters, Miranda, 8, and Juliette, 6, before they lurched and moaned to pay their respects to Romero.
MacRae recalled to The Hollywood Reporter the first time she saw Night of the Living Dead, a 1968 classic. "I was at my girlfriend's house. I'm pretty sure we didn't sleep that night, and just screamed into our pillows. We were terrified," she recounted.
Romero died last week after a battle with lung cancer, according to a family statement.
Also dressed Monday as a flesh-hungry ghoul to pay homage to the cult filmmaker was Eric Jackson. He wore a zombie mask and chewed on a severed leg as he made his way in and out of the funeral center.
"We'll never equal him [Romero]. He really defined the modern zombie, taking it out of its voodoo roots and turning it into something very long-lasting," Jackson said when coming out of character to talk to THR.
Talent that appeared in zombie movies Romero shot locally were also on hand to honor the father of the zombie film.
"He was a sweetheart," said Toronto actor Boyd Banks, who appeared in Land of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead, while Ermes Blarasin, a stunt performer who played a zombie clown in Land of the Dead, recalled how he was "blown away" by how nice Romero was on set.
Aspiring screenwriter J.T. McCallum said Romero changed his life 10 years ago when, as a 13-year-old, he viewed Night of the Living Dead for the first time. "I realized he was a genius. And I was able to meet him [Romero] three times, and he encouraged me to make films," McCallum recounted.