George A. Romero is widely revered as the master of all things zombie, but the Lord of the Dead says he hasn't yet seen The Walking Dead and turned down a chance to direct episodes of the series. What's he working on instead? An adaptation of the "medically correct" zombie novel Zombie Autopsies.
In an exclusive interview with io9 to promote his involvement in AMC's annual Fear Fest, Romero said that while he's a fan of Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead comics, he hasn't had a chance to see the series yet and rejected the chance to be a part of it because it just didn't feel like the Romero way.
"I love the books, I haven't seen any of the episodes. Listen, I love Frank [Darabont], I know he's done a good job. I love the books, I never watched any of the episodes because... my zombies are sort of my own. I didn't want to be part of it. Producers called and said, 'Do you want to direct some of these?', and I said no. Because I just didn't think it was me. I've been waiting to see the whole first season, which I missed because I've been traveling. I've been waiting to look at it, but I haven't seen any of it."
What makes a Romero zombie? Well, it's more than the slow walk.
"My zombies are purely a disaster. They are a natural disaster. God has changed the rules, and somehow this thing is happening. My stories are about the humans who deal with it stupidly, and that's what I use them for. I use them to sort of make fun of what's going on in a number of societal events. And that's it. I don't use them to just create gore. Even though I use gore, that's not what my films are about, they're much more political. That's it. This whole zombie revolution, it's unbelievable. We were in France last week, and 3,000 zombies came out for the zombie walk. We're going to Mexico City next week and there are 5,000 zombies expected to show up. I don't know what that's about. I contributed to videogames more than movies. If you want to look at it in a purely economic term, no zombie film has ever broken $100 million [at the box office], except for Zombieland. That's the only one. But videogames, they've sold hundreds and thousands of copies, so I think really this whole zombie craze is about videogames more than film."
So, more than 50 years after defining the genre with Night of the Living Dead, Romero still wants to make zombie flicks that are issue-oriented, and he says the next thing he wants to tackle is the American economy. While he doesn't have a story set himself, he does know a guy.
"I would love to do something about the economy. But zombies are not good mathematicians -- I don't think they're going to be out selling cheesy mortgages or anything like that. So it's tough for me to see that. A friend of mine recently wrote a novel called The Zombie Autopsies, and it's about an isolated group of people doing autopsies on zombies during the zombie apocalypse and trying to figure out what the hell caused this. They come upon this discovery.
[Note: SPOILERS ahead!]
"The scientists discover that this is not a naturally occurring virus; they deduce that it must have been created by somebody. And they later discover that it was created by people who were trying to topple the economy. So that's a unique way in to talk about the economy, but it's not my story. Steven C. Schlozman is the guys name, he's a Harvard psychologist who has somehow been swept into the zombie craze and is writing zombie novels."
Romero confirmed in the same interview that he's bought the rights to Zombie Autopsies and that he's "working on the screenplay right now." Though Night of the Living Dead borrowed from Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, this would be his first true adaptation of someone else's zombie story to screen, and he's planning to use the source material to make what may be his most gruesome flick yet.
"It's more like The Andromeda Strain. It's very tense and very medically correct. This guy's a doctor, it's all about being medically correct. I think about it like the first Hammer Frankenstein film, which was all about very graphic scenes of brains floating in blood and things like that. I want it to be perfectly accurate, almost shockingly so."