As It Happens

Why George A. Romero's widow donated his archives to the University of Pittsburgh

The late filmmaker's family and friends are donating scripts, props and photos to build an archive in the so-called "zombie capital of the world."

'It will be cherished, and that was really very important to me,' says Toronto's Suzanne Desrocher-Romero

Suzanne Desrocher-Romero and her late husband, filmmaker George A. Romero. The pair met in 2005 when Romero was filming in Toronto. (Submitted by Suzanne Desrocher-Romero)
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Transcript

A collection of zombie heads is heading south to give new life to studies of the undead. 

Horror legend George A. Romero's widow is sending items from her late husband's archives to the University of Pittsburgh in the hopes the collection will keep the filmmaker's legacy moving forward.

"At the end of the day, I'm glad it's going to be protected. It will be cherished, and that was really very important to me," Suzanne Desrocher-Romero told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

The collection includes items from Romero's cult classic hits like Night of the Living Dead and Monkey Shines. 

Gathered over his 50-year career, the scripts, photographs, contracts and props will join items from Romero's daughter, Tina Romero, and his business partner and friend Peter Grunwald. 

Dawn of the Dead director George Romero, left, and producer Richard Rubenstein, right, on the set of the 1978 horror classic. (George A. Romero Foundation/University of Pittsburgh Library System, Archives & Special Collections)

Desrocher-Romero, who is also the chair and founder of a foundation that bares her late husband's name, envisions students and scholars across the world accessing his work. The pair met in 2005 when Romero was filming in Toronto. 

"I think at the end of the day, if you have a student in Copenhagen or in Beijing, they'll have access to all of his work digitally," she said. 

Desrocher-Romero says she hopes the archives will help nurture filmmakers, but also progress the horror genre across different media, like video games, literature and music. 

A foam latex zombie head. (George A. Romero Collection/University of Pittsburgh's Library System, Archives & Special Projects)

Although his legacy is tied to the genre of the undead and creepy crawlers, Desrocher-Romero said her late husband didn't set out to become a horror icon.

He was, above all else, a storyteller, she said. 

"In this business, you take the successes as they come," she said. "He did feel he was pigeonholed in this genre, but he was grateful for it. He would have liked to have been known for other works, but he was proud of [the horror films]."

Romero had close ties to the city of Pittsburgh.

He grew up in the Bronx in New York City, but moved to Pittsburgh for university and shot many of his films in and around the city.

"When my dad came to Pittsburgh as a student at Carnegie Mellon, he never would have imagined that one day the city would be known as the zombie capital of the world," Tina Romero said in the press release. 

"I'm so excited for people to discover some of the treasures I grew up with."

The cover page of the script for Romero’s Land of the Dead featuring cast signatures. (George A. Romero Collection/University of Pittsburgh's System, Archives & Special Collections)

Though he eventually settled in Toronto and was a "permanent resident of Canada and proud of it," Desrocher-Romero says Pittsburgh and the movie industry and workers there held a special place in his heart.

"At the end of the day, he would have made all his films in Pittsburgh," she said. "He was quite happy there."

Written by Sarah-Joyce Battersby. Interview produced by Morgan Passi.

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