SFX chats with cinema greats Frank Darabont and Greg Nicotero about the zombies in their upcoming TV show
Legendary writer, director and producer Frank Darabont is working alongside the award winning make-up and special effects wizard Greg Nicotero on the new TV adaptation of the comic The Walking Dead. It's centered around Rick Grimes, a small-town police officer, and a number of other survivors including his family, who have banded together in order to survive after the world is overrun with zombies. The show premieres in October on AMC in America and FX in Britain. SFX caught up with Darabont and Nicotero at Comic-Con and quizzed them about how zombies will work in their world...
How are your zombies different from other people's presentation of them?
Greg Nicotero: Our zombies don't eat brains! That's a fallacy.
Frank Darabont: That's a big myth from Return Of The Living Dead. Dan O'Bannon and those folks have completely skewed our perception of what zombies do. We enjoy old school Night Of The Living Dead zombie stuff. I'm not that keen on revisionism as a rule. We're thrown back to the good old days. The keenest cleverest revisionist thing is 28 Days Later and isn't really a zombie thing. We're in a drooling, lumbering George Romero mindset on this thing.
Nicotero: George really set up the rules. We have no idea if shooting a zombie in the head stops them. We just assume, "Oh yeah, shoot them in the head!" but that's because George made those rules up. We could be in big trouble if it ever actually happens!
Speaking of Romero's lumbering zombies, should zombies walk or run?
Darabont: As far as zombie speed is concerned of course they can run! But we'll limit it to when they are in a frenzy. Many times they are not. They are fundamentally mindless and do a lot of standing around. But they are predatory. And like any animal, when they're riled to that state by hunger or aggression, they move faster. You can't just have zombies shuffling along like the mummy. You know what they say: if you can't out run the mummy you deserve to die!
Do the zombies in The Walking Dead represent anything? Are there any Romero-style social metaphors going on here?
Darabont: To me they're just dead people walking around! To me, those zombie metaphors have been covered by other filmmakers. They've laid those metaphors out through the decades, particularly George Romero. I don't know if I can bring anything new to the zombie metaphor, so my focus is the human part of the story. We'll find metaphors as we go! We don't have a set agenda of metaphorical touch points. Stuff like that can come naturally. It's more interesting to find out what the audience and fans bring to it.