In Part 2 of our podcast, the Damn Dirty Geeks pick up right where we left off discussing JAWS with director/special effects master Greg Nicotero for a second hour of fun jokes and inside stories. (Listen to Part 1 here)
Greg Nicotero: more JAWS and DAWN OF THE DEAD
Greg and the DDG talk about the JAWS-inspired home movies made when we were younger, using everything from fiberglass wall-mounted sharks to Fisher Price toys, rubber sharks, piles of leaves and stop-motion action figures. Greg also shares his own geek origin story, being inspired by Universal classic monsters, TV shows like LOST IN SPACE and LAND OF THE LOST, and especially miniature-mashing disaster movies like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE TOWERING INFERNO.
But it was the mechanical sharks in JAWS that began Greg’s obsession to learn how such movie creatures were made, reading film magazines that turned a hobby into an eventual career. Fate intervened when local Pittsburgh filmmaker George Romero began production on his zombie sequel DAWN OF THE DEAD in 1978 that Greg finally connected with his destiny… via Greg’s uncle. Yet fascinatingly, Greg first met George Romero in Rome, Italy while the Nicoteros were on vacation! It’s a fun and amazing tale Greg shares in this episode.
This episode concludes with a lengthy discussion about how Tom Savini’s makeup effects in DAWN OF THE DEAD inspired Greg to practice his craft to position him to join Savini’s makeup team on DAY OF THE DEAD. We get elbow-deep into the gut wrenching gore effects of classic Romero zombie kills and how their artistry — seemingly primitive to today’s photorealistic CG visual effects — nonetheless hold up better and remain more horrifyingly convincing decades after their creation.
Jack and Frank raise a fascinating question to Greg: would he direct a remake of JAWS? Listen to learn Greg’s definitive answer, as well as his opinion on the impending reboot/remake of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON by Universal.
Buckle up for Part 2 of our supersize podcast with Greg Nicotero, whom we’ll definitely have back on the Damn Dirty Geeks podcast when his very busy schedule with THE WALKING DEAD and other films allows him to return to town.
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Trivia: when Greg Nicotero tells his story about meeting George Romero in Rome, Italy in our podcast, this is the period when Romero was writing DAWN OF THE DEAD. Italian filmmaker Dario Argento invited Romero to Rome so he could write the sequel undistracted and it worked — reportedly Romero hammered out the DAWN OF THE DEAD script in about three weeks. Argento read the script as Romero wrote it, but didn’t interfere with the writing at all. But later Argento did provide much of the music in DAWN OF THE DEAD’s soundtrack, and edited the cut of the film for its European release.
Trivia: when the MPAA threatened to give DAWN OF THE DEAD an X rating due to its extremely gory violence, George Romero convinced the rating board to release his film unrated, to avoid the pornography stigma of usually X-rated films. As discussed in our podcast, TV networks could not show promotional trailers for DAWN OF THE DEAD until after 11:00 pm. Theatrical trailers contained a disclaimer that, while no explicit sexual content appeared in the film, no one under 17 years of age would be admitted at theaters to see it.
Trivia: lacking a budget to afford professional stunt performers, makeup artist Tom Savini and actor Taso Stavrakis did many of the requires stunts, including Taso doubling for Nancy Friedman as the Biker Girl Zombie.
Trivia: the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania was, at the time of filming DAWN OF THE DEAD, the largest mall in the United States. While no longer holding that record for decades, it’s still a popular tourism attraction for Romero zombie film fans.
KNB EFX Inc. – visit the website of Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger’s award-winning makeup effects studio
DAWN OF THE DEAD – cued video clip exposing the stomach appliance as Sledge is torn apart, as discussed in this episode
DAWN OF THE DEAD – purchase George Romero’s groundbreaking sequel on Blu-ray via Amazon.com
DAY OF THE DEAD – purchase the Blu-ray Collectors Edition of George Romero’s second zombie sequel via Amazon.com
Leaves – Frank Dietz’s Super 8mm film parody of JAWS set in a suburban neighborhood threatened by killer foliage
Quint in ’58 – Frank Woodward and Jack Bennett’s comedy short film about JAWS’ memorable captain
DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD – purchase Roy Frumkes’ DAWN OF THE DEAD documentary on Blu-ray via Amazon.com