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Greg Nicotero Talks Special Effects, Favorite Films, and His Horror Series, Creepshow

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From Day of the Dead to Kill Bill to The Walking Dead, Greg Nicotero has certainly had his hand in some of the most revered movies and television series of all time. Known for his incredible special make-up effects and his ability to write, direct, and produce highly awarded movies and TV shows, Greg Nicotero is, without question, a legend in the film industry.

In this interview, Greg Nicotero sits down with Randy Falk from NECA to go into detail about his journey into the special effects world, and how he found his way to now working on his next big horror series, Creepshow. Strangely enough, the original Creepshow film, released in 1982 by Stephen King and George Romero, was actually the first movie set Greg had ever set foot on as a kid. Now, some 40 years later, Greg is the mastermind behind recreating Creepshow for audiences both old and new alike. Talk about coming full circle! 

While speaking about his career path and his Creepshow origin story, Greg discusses his two all-time favorite horror films, “Day of the Dead” and “Jaws,” sharing that the famous zombie thriller kept him on the edge of his seat the entire movie, while Jaws had him wondering the entire time, “How on Earth did the filmmakers even create this shark?” According to Greg, each of these iconic horror films altered his entire career trajectory, inspiring him to move away from working on miniatures in film, and instead dive deep into special effects and practical effects, eventually becoming the true master of the craft that he is today.

To celebrate the eerie and spooky work of Greg Nicotero in Creepshow, collectors can now get their very own Creepshow magnet, included with the Haulathon 2022 Collectible Tote Bag, along with many other great Haulathon collectors’ items. Featuring a rectangular, comic styled magnet with your favorite haunted Creepshow ghoul on the front, you are not going to want to miss out on this one.

 

Read Full Interview Transcription Below: 

Marc: Hey everybody, welcome to the Haulathon. I’m your host Marc Summers, and today we have an episode that is truly fascinating. We have none other than horror legend, Greg Nicotero, who joins us to discuss his acclaimed series Creepshow streaming right now on Shutter. Ready to sit down with a genius? Well let’s get to it.

Randy: Hey, I’m Randy Falk from NECA and I’m joined by the legend Greg Nicotero - special effects master, producer, writer, and director. Along with the Creepshow television show, Greg has worked on Kill Bill, Army of Darkness, The Walking Dead and many, many other projects that you all are familiar with. So Greg, thank you for joining us today.

Greg: Hi Randy. Thanks, man. Thanks a lot.

Randy: One of the things we definitely want to talk about is Creepshow. Before we get into the current series that you are the mastermind behind, you have a really interesting history or origin story as it relates to Romero's original 82 Creepshow. Share some of that with our audience who may not be familiar with your history there.

Greg: Yeah, I never thought of it as an origin story. That’s so superhero! That’s very exciting. You know, I grew up in Pittsburgh and consequently, as pretty much as far away from Hollywood as you can get. And little did I know there was a filmmaker that lived about 35 minutes away from me named George Romero, who was doing his part in putting Pittsburgh on the map as an independent film city. Creepshow was the first movie set that I ever visited when I was a kid, and so the origin of the TV show was I read a short story and I was doing press in Australia for The Walking Dead and I was flying back, and I needed something to read on the plane and I found this book called Nights of the Living Dead. And it was all short stories written by people that took place the same night, as 9 Living Dead, just different places, and I kind of loved that. I love that alternate universe kind of storytelling. So, we reached out to try and find because we wanted to make it into a short film, and it turns out they were in the process of trying to figure out Creepshow. And they said hey, we need a creative person that can develop the stories and be the showrunner. Next thing you know, I’m working on Creepshow! Pretty weird, like really weird. Being the producing director and the showrunner gave me the ultimate authority, and it’s not that I need it, but this is my world. I mean, I grew up scouring Fangoria and Cinefantastique magazines and reading everything, and I was there. I know what it was like, and I know those summers between 1980 and 1982, the thing that blows my mind is every summer the theaters were filled with genre movies - ET, Poltergeist, Drug Warrior, Creepshow, The Thing, Blade Runner, Dead and Buried - you could literally look at calendars of those summers, Raiders of the Lost Ark, every movie is genre movie. And each weekend you had another movie coming out, so it’s like you couldn’t even catch your breath.

Randy: And this year alone we were celebrating a bunch of 40th anniversaries in toy form - like An American Werewolf in London, The Thing, ET, the original Evil Dead - all these things that had such a profound effect on me and all the guys I work with. And then your work, we’ve known each other for a very long time and worked on projects that you did creature effects on, and special effects and makeup. I think the first thing I worked on with you, if I remember correctly, might have been Army of Darkness.

Greg: It was Army of Darkness, and then I had all those references for Evil Dead 2. Because we didn’t have, interestingly enough, we didn't have a still photographer or anything and I was one of the only people back in the day that would film stuff on set. So like all the behind-the-scenes footage on Evil Dead 2 is my footage that I shot on set with my camera. So when you and I met, and I was like “oh sh*t man”, I had so much great behind the scenes stuff.  I wanted the toys to be as accurate as possible because I wanted them. So, you know, what’s great about what you guys have done is you wanted to recreate those creatures so faithfully, you know, all that stuff that you guys have done - I have all of them. Like in my house in Los Angeles, there’s walls of just the stuff that you guys did. It's amazing I’m married and have children.

Randy: You’re heroes of ours, so when we got the chance to start making toys from your creations, we wanted them to be accurate. And you wrestle with stuff sometimes trying to fill in blanks of what you see on screen. If it’s darkly lit, or atmospheric or quick cuts. And I reached out to you a long time ago and said, “we need help” and you graciously sent me binders of original slides, stuff that’s honestly irreplaceable. You have helped make all the toys better because of the kind of documentation and reference material that you’ve collected and kept over the years.

Greg: When I was working at Tom’s on Day of the Dead, he had a binder and it was filled with pamphlets from Dick Smith, that was like, here’s a blood formula, here’s a gelatin formula, here’s how to mix this, here’s how to make old age stipple. And so, you know, I think a lot of it started with Dick Smith. Because of the fact that he documented everything. I feel like guys like Tom, and guys like Rick Baker, and guys like Stan Winston realized, “oh that’s the way you have to do it.” you have to document the process. Number one, so that you have an archive. Number two, so you can share that information. I have, you know, eight hours of making Evil Dead 2. I have ten hours of Army of Darkness. Because it was just the sheer joy of being able to be on the set. And being able to do what I love to do. It was great. So I’m happy to share. Before Dawn of the Dead, and Jaws, I think I probably was more inspired by models and miniatures, you know. I loved Star Trek, and Lost in Space, and Land of the Giants, and The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. I loved the miniature work. I loved the model building aspect of it. And so I think it was until I saw Jaws that I really was interested in building models. So I have in The Towering Inferno, there’s a scenic elevator. The elevator that goes up and down the building. I have the 3’ miniature scenic elevator and it’s still got two little holes in it where the Jennifer Jones doll was standing that fell out. So, you know, it’s that kind of stuff, you know, I have a lot of original artwork. I have all of Mike Pludes' original storyboards from The Thing. I have blueprints from Jaws the shark. And I have a lot of Jaws stuff, like I have a bunch of teeth that have the tubing and were in the shark's mouth, so that when Quint was getting eaten, they can pump blood through the teeth.

Randy: Do you have a favorite horror movie of all time?

Greg: Well I go back and forth. I think it’s like, half the time it’s Jaws. And half the time it’s Dawn of the Dead. And it depends on my particular mood, as to which one is which. Because they both, I feel like they both dramatically changed the direction of my life, in seeing those movies. You know, I saw jaws for the first time. I remember just wondering how they had done it. And I remember ravenously looking through magazines and this was back then where they didn't have, the internet didn’t exist. You couldn’t just click on a link and say behind the scenes or photos of jaws. There was, you know, one article in times magazine that had pictures of the shark in the dry dock the day they were cutting it apart and trying to fix it. And I sort of became obsessed with the people that build something like that. Jaws was really, really an important movie for me because I just wanted to learn about the people that made the shark. And the people that made the movie, and Speilberg. And of course, when Dawn of the Dead came out, I think a lot of it had to do with the fact it was shot in my backyard literally in Pittsburg. Within the first 5 minutes of that movie when the zombie bites into the woman’s neck, you don’t trust him. You don’t trust George for the rest of the movie because you don't know what he’s going to throw at you. So he puts you on the edge, and even moments when they’re in the mall and jumping around and having a good time. Then they cut to the zombies outside and you’re reminded of what really is happening. So those two movies completely changed my perception of special effects, and kind of led me away from wanting to models and miniatures, into doing practical effects and then of course later makeup effects.

Randy: Greg, I want to thank you for taking time out of our busy schedule with The Walking Dead and Creepshow to join us and taking part in Haulathon and being part of this so thank you very much.

Greg: Yeah, man. Thanks! It was my pleasure. I feel like we were just getting started. We’ll do part 2, part 3, part 4.

Randy: Sounds good. I would love to.

Greg; Thanks, Randy.

Randy: Yeah, thanks, Greg. Great to see you.

Greg: You too, buddy.

Marc: A big thanks to Greg for stopping by the Haulathon. We do appreciate all the amazing stories he had to share with us. And now, collectors, I bid you a frightening farewell.

 

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