The legendary director George A. Romero, who changed the landscape of horror films with his low-budget, independent black and white 1968 zombie masterpiece Night of the Living Dead, died at 77.
According to a statement from his longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald, Romero died Sunday in his sleep while listening to the soundtrack of one his favorite films, The Quiet Man from 1952,following a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer.” Romero was surrounded by family, his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero.
Night of the Living Dead was made by Romero and his friends in Pittsburgh on a budget of $114,000 and went on to become an iconic statement of horror, pulling in $30 million. The movie was based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. Romero also co-wrote the script with John A. Russo. It gave rise to the sequels Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (1990), Diary of the Dead (2007) and George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead (2009). It also gave rise to a new breed of horror director, like Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter.
Romero was born in the Bronx, N.Y. on February 4, 1940. He went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, graduating in 1960. He started his career making short films, including a segment for the children’s educational series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Romero followed Night of the Living Dead with There’s Always Vanilla (1971), Season of the Witch (1972) and The Crazies (1973), the vampire film Martin (1978), Knightriders (1981), Creepshow (1982), which was written by Stephen King, Monkey Shines (1988), Two Evil Eyes (1990), an adaptation of King’s The Dark Half (1993), and Bruiser (2000). In 2004, Romero directed the first of DC Comics’ six-issue miniseries The Death of Death. Claudio Argento contracted Romero to direct a 3D remake of the Dario Argento film Deep Red in 2010.
Romero also directed the 1998 live-action commercial for the videogame Resident Evil 2.
Romero’s final credit is for writing his part for director Hèctor Hernández Vicens’ Day of the Dead in 2017