Today is Memorial Day, and over the past few days a lot of articles have been popping up to pay tribute to Dennis Hopper. We would like to remind everyone about the role he played in the Pittsburgh based Land of the Dead (2005) by local director George A. Romero.
While Hopper wasn’t a soldier or anything like that, some would argue that Romero’s films (and Hopper’s character) have a lot more to do with war and current affairs than one might think. Romero’s zombie movies are known for being political allegories about war and greed, and in the DVD Special Features section of Land of the Dead, there is an interview with Romero where he mentions that Dennis Hopper styled his performance after Donald Rumsfeld. Whether that’s true or not, most of us would agree that both war and zombies suck.
Even if you’re not a big fan of zombie movies and you never saw Land of the Dead, you’re probably thinking, “Hey, cool! I never knew a zombie flick was filmed here 5 years ago”. Well, that’s because it wasn’t.
That’s right… the famous Pittsburgh zombie movie was actually filmed 300 miles away in Toronto. Yeah, pretty boring right? According to an interview with Hopper just before the release of the movie, he was asked if they filmed it in Pittsburgh:
No we talked him into going to Toronto…it’s not that far from Pittsburgh.
Interestingly, just before that, he also has this to say about Romero and the Burgh:
Where was George Romero? He was still alive and was in Pittsburgh, he never left Pittsburgh he made all his films there, he was an industrial filmmaker as well and he did commercials and he always made his films independently in Pittsburgh. So Mark Canton went to see him and as it turned out he did have another Zombie Movie, the fourth, that he would like to make.
George Romero is a name most Pittsburghers are familiar with. Most well known for his horror flicks, Mr. Romero was a CMU grad (1960) and his first job out of college was with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Rumor has it that he got his start in horror movies after a piece he did that involved Mr. Rogers getting his tonsils removed. So far, George Romero has made six Living Dead movies with Land of the Dead being the fourth.
Romero’s first movie was Night of the Living Dead and it premiered at the Fulton Theater in 1968. The Fulton Theater, now known as the Byham Theater, was also where the Pittsburgh premiere of Land of the Dead was shown 2005. The sold-out event was hosted by Steeltown Film Factory, and “attracted such prominent filmakers as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez”.
Those of you who saw the film surely remember Hopper’s famous words:
Zombies, man. They creep me out.
Couldn’t find a good clip of Dennis Hopper as Kaufman, but check out the trailer below for a short scene with Hopper’s line…
An interesting paper about the allegory of politic/war and zombie films: Lessons from the Undead: How Film and TV Zombies Teach Us About War
Also check out The Zombies that Ate Pittsburgh: The Films of George A. Romero by Paul R. Gagne