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Nine Questions for “The Walking Dead”‘s Greg Nicotero

If you’ve had a chance to check out Fangoria’s Blood & Guts, you’ve already seen Anthrax guitarist and major horror fanboy Scott Ian get up close and personal with The Walking Dead‘s main makeup guy Greg Nicotero. But who’s to say Scott gets to have all the fun? We had a thing or two we wanted to ask Nicotero ourselves, and he proved to be as generous with the answers as he generally is with the gore.

Nerdist: What’s your all-time favorite moment of “blood and guts” onscreen?

Greg Nicotero: The original Dawn of the Dead, without a doubt.  There was nothing like it at the time and, in my opinion, it has never been surpassed for sheer shock value. The onslaught of zombie make ups, gags and bites forever changed (and clearly continues to do so) makeup FX and horror films.

N: Who would garner more kills: zombie Chris Hardwick or zombie Scott Ian?

GN: Scott in a second.  He would probably throw Chris into the first wave of walkers coming at them to make the most excellent escape.

N: Your mentor Tom Savini directed a pretty great remake of Night of the Living Dead. Have you ever wanted to take on a task of that magnitude yourself?

GN: Sure, why not.  I have to say I am much more interested in developing original material than doing a remake… and having directed several episodes of The Walking Dead, it is giving me a great opportunity to shoot zombie stuff and become a more experienced filmmaker.

N: Is it easier or harder to do more realistic makeup (like, say, Public Enemies) versus monsters, zombies, and such?

GN: Monsters and creatures give you more latitude to use your imagination and get creative.  Fake animals are really difficult to pull off well because of the fact that people see them almost every day and can tell the difference, versus a creature that you get to design and create its entire physiology and anatomy.

N: What was it about makeup FX that intrigued you initially? How did you get involved?  

GN: I loved the classic Universal Monsters, War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, stuff like that.  Harryhausen… I loved all of that stuff growing up.  I give most credit to Famous Monsters, Aurora, and Castle Films.  I was lucky enough to have met George Romero through my uncle, who was a local actor in Pittsburgh and was able to parlay that into an apprenticeship on Day of the Dead with Savini.  Within 4 years I had moved to LA and started KNB.

N: What is the most challenging project you had to work on? Why?

GN: Each show is challenging for different reasons: time frame, budget, access to cast and director. I always strive to make sure the work we do feels fresh.  Everything is scrutinized so much now; way more than when I was younger before the invention of video, DVD and the Internet.  I am very proud of what KNB has done, but there are too many to really single out. Sin City, The Walking Dead, Evil Dead 2 , Inglourious Basterds.

N: Are you grossed out by anything anymore or have you developed a tolerance through your work?  

GN: Once in a while something may gross me out, but not what you would think.  I hate spiders!  Blood and gore and cadavers don’t gross me out, as I have always been fascinated with biology and even considered following in my dad’s footsteps to become a doctor at one point in my youth.

N: Were you a horror fan growing up? What were some of your favorite titles?

GN: Hell, yes.  Jaws, Dawn of the Dead, Horror of Dracula, Godzilla, The Omen, The Exorcist, Planet of the Apes, The Haunting, I could go on and on

N: What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved in makeup FX?

GN: Do your research.  There is a wealth of information out there; way more than when I was younger. Concentrate on technique and form, and don’t fall in love with dumping blood all over everything.  My anatomy experience has served me well in making what we build organic and real.  Photograph everything and never be afraid to test gags and rework them if you have to: refinement makes for a great final effect.

Dan Casey contributed to this interview.



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