"Thanks for keeping our ﬁlms alive, my dad, who turns 86 this year, was the ﬁrst person to sign on the NBC network in Pittsburgh. He was one of the pioneers of early television. Dad retired to radio about 20 years ago and is still working! During the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, he was the host of a very popular show called Chiller Theater. He was as popular as a rock star back in the day. Even today, he has so many fans. People loved him and he loved them back. Dad is a wonderful man."
I went to Carnegie Mellon University and studied classical theater.
After I graduated, I moved to New York to do theater and television. I moved there in 1976 and was well established in my work by the time Day of the Dead came around."
And how the hell was the part described?
"Well not to sound conceited, George told me he was writing the part for me, he ﬁrst saw me in a play called, Reckless, by Craig Lucas. The character that I played came on stage and never left until the very end of the play. He new I could carry the role of Sarah by that performance. He ofered it to me there and then... He alluded to Sarah as being “one tough broad.”"
So why is your dad called "Chilly Billy"? I bet he was proud of you,
keeping it in the family as it were!
"Dad was named Chilly Billy by a friend of his, Red Donally. Red introduced my dad on Chiller by saying, “And here’s your host…..Chilly Billy!” It stuck and people still refer to him as Chilly Billy.
He surely was a proud daddy. He always came to my shows no
matter what. I too am super proud of him!!!!!"
Did you compare notes? Did her give you any tips on dealing with zombies?
"HAHAHAHAHAHA! Not really, you know, when Land of the Dead premièred here in Pittsburgh, George took the stage and said dad was responsible for his career. You see, George said way back when, “ We are making this little movie that I’d like you to be in.” Once it was made, dad plugged the hell out of it. Thus the start George’s horror career. Night [of the Living Dead] was a GREAT movie too."
God yes, I thought... What i would have given to be sitting on my sofa, with a cup of coffee, a big bowl of salted popcorn with Night of the Living Dead in the DVD player... Instead of here... Where ever I was... Mind you... There were some perks, I suppose...
How was the audition process? Did you meet Romero straight away?
"I ﬁrst me George as a young girl. I was 14 when Night of the Living Dead came out. Our family went to the premiere. I stayed in the lobby almost the whole movie. I hated horror movies. I never understood why people like to be scared! The next time I saw George was when he was in the theater in New York watching “Reckless.”"
How did Romero prepare you for the role? How did you get into character to be so scared?
"Well the ﬁrst script was a lot different from what became, “Day of the Dead.” It was more action oriented and less character driven. I do remember being terriﬁed that I had to wade through some swamps. I hate snakes and kept asking George if there would be guys with guns on the shore! As for being scared? I just answered that I think. No really, as an actress we use different acting techniques. But I must say, it was really creepy in the cold dark limestone cave!"
Moaning and scrapping from behind the door... they knew we were in here... my heart raced... Oh god, I thought, I had never been so scared... I looked at Lori, she seemed calm... Was she ever scared? I thought... Surely she had to be?
"Yes, when the zombie came up behind be and grabbed me, he was the zombie that had his head cut in half by a shovel."
Oh god yes! I remember that part, but on the ﬂip side, were there any times when you laughed? I heard that there were problems with the rubber zombie arms that attacked you, and they had to be remade by Tom Savini... What happened?
"It took many hours to set up the shot, Anthony DiLeo, the actor that played Miguel, had to be on the damp cold ﬂoor as they buried his real arm. They then attached a prosthetic arm. The shot was set and all was quiet….I raised the machete and came down on the arm….the machete bounced right of the arm! They then made the arm out of wax. Obviously it worked then. There were many many laughs we all shared working in the cave for 2 and a half months."
Also falling actors in the dream sequence where the zombie arms spring through the walls... Didn't they have to completely remake the wall?
"Yes they did, once again, it took them so much time to make the fake wall, It was a piece of art really. They just never anticipated that all of the arms pushing through would have such force behind, thus, the wall fell on me! They had to remake it. If you visit the cave today they still have the (fake) wall there for all to see and remember."
Louder and louder came the moans... Then a heavy blow... Oh my god... Had they learnt to use tools? Had the zombies become more... human? Lori and I quickly got up and ran to another part of the building... We found a room with a heavy fire door and a lock, surely if they got through the main doors, theycouldn't get through here... We hoped.
To calm my nerves I carried on asking questions.
And was it true that you told Anthony Dileo to really slap you? Now that's method acting!!
"I just thought it would be silly to do a stage slap for ﬁlm... Yes, it wasn’t too hard... No, I’m not a masochist."
Is horror your favourite genre?
"I must say I have grown to appreciate horror over the years, it did take some time after I shot Day. I loved the Swedish ﬁlm, “Let the Right One In.”
I have just ﬁnished writing a screenplay with Amy Hartman. I was always interested in real life horror and how it stood up to the industry of horror. I’m hoping to have George’s daughter, Tina Romero, co-direct it with me. We both have daddy’s of horror and Tina is a wonderful director in her own right. I’m very excited to share it with all the horror fans. It has many autobiographical themes. It also sets up the making of Night of the Living Dead. It goes back and forth between the present and 1968."
I heard that all the extras got caps that said "I played a zombie in Day of the dead", and a dollar, I'm guessing you got more than a dollar, but did you get a cap?
"My husband got the cap. He was one of the arms coming through the wall, protecting my breasts! Hahahaha."
We laughed... I thought I would never laugh again, then suddenly "SLAM!" we heard the doors we had been sitting against only a minute ago come flying open... Oh god they were in the building.... I softened my tone and carried on...
I had heard that Romero had to change the script due to budgeting problems, did you see the original script? I bet you were relieved that they didn't cut your part!
"Yes, I saw the original. I think you can read it online somewhere. Thank goodness he didn’t cut the part. He made it much bigger actually. There were more expensive explosions, which I’m sure some of the audience would have preferred."
I know that Romero and Stephen King have been friends for years, did he ever come on set? "Unfortunately he didn’t come on set, at least when I was there. I did meet him at a private screening. Tall man."
We could hear them getting nearer... It sounded like tens... Maybe hundreds of them... ambling and groaning... Oh god, the sound of dragging limbs will haunt me forever... I dared to peak through the thick meshed glass on the door... There were more than i expected... Much more... There eyes grey and lifeless, their moths open and hungry for brains... our brains... It was like they could smell us and they were heading our way... I turned to look at Lori, my eyes filled with tears and heart full of dread... She was looking round the room for something, anything to defend ourselves if they did make it in... I wanted to know just one thing... I asked...
So do you think you can survive this?
"You bet!!!! I AM a survivor. I was sexually abused by my uncle as a child. I wrote a book that you can get on Amazon. It’s called, “I’m Gonna Tell.” I wrote it to help others who suffer and have suffered from sexual abuse.
“I”m Gonna tell” is used curriculum at some University’s here in the states. Psychologist and students of psychology like it because it shows how the mind works as it “remembers” trauma."
She smiled... A kind of smile that I trusted... I grabbed a chair leg and joined her at the back of the room... We were ready... ready and waiting and with Lori at my side I felt I could tackle anything... Even Zombies....
For more informationon Lori Visit her IMDB page
Or to purchase her inspirational book check Amazon
Or even read about the movie, go to: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088993/