George A. Romero, 'Night of the Living Dead' director, dies at 77

LOS ANGELES, California (NBC News) — George A. Romero, who launched the zombie film genre with his 1968 "Night of the Living Dead," died on Sunday, Variety has confirmed. He was 77.

The director died in his sleep following a battle with lung cancer, according to a statement from his manager, Chris Roe.

"Legendary filmmaker George A. Romero passed away on Sunday July 16, listening to the score of 'The Quiet Man,' one of his all-time favorite films, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero at his side," Roe wrote. "He died peacefully in his sleep, following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer, and leaves behind a loving family, many friends, and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time."

Made in Pittsburgh on a budget of $114,000, "Night of the Living Dead" earned $30 million and became a cult classic. Romero's friends and associates in his Image Ten production company pooled their funds to make the film. Influenced by Richard Matheson's novel "I Am Legend," the black and white film followed a group of people trapped in a Pennsylvania farmhouse who fall prey to a horde of the undead. The movie was said to be a critique of capitalism during the counterculture era.

After "Night of the Living Dead," he directed films including "There's Always Vanilla," "Season of the Witch," and "The Crazies," although none had the impact of his first production. His 1977 vampire art house picture "Martin" was somewhat more well-received.

He went back to zombies with "Dawn of the Dead," which made more than $55 million on a half a million dollar budget, then made his third movie in the franchise with "Day of the Dead" in 1985. His fourth movie in the series, "Land of the Dead," was made in Toronto in 2005, starring Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento and John Leguizamo. He followed that with "Diary of the Dead" in 2008 and "Survival of the Dead" in 2010.

Born in the Bronx, Romero's father was Cuban and his mother Lithuanian. He graduated Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, then began shooting shorts and commercials, including a segment of "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood."

He is survived by his wife, Suzanne, and two children.

 

This article originally posted on NBCNews.com


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