How Night of the Living Dead Broke New Ground in Casting

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Feb 20, 2018

An ultra-low-budget production made well under the radar of Hollywood, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead went on to revolutionize the horror film, infusing the genre with an urgent strain of social commentary and single-handedly spawning generations of imitators. In this dread-filled tale, a motley crew of strangers find themselves boarded up inside a farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania, struggling to fend off the legions of ravenous undead gathering outside. The scenario comes to nightmarish life in no small part due to the raw and powerful performances of the largely nonprofessional cast, not least the extraordinary Duane Jones, who plays the coolheaded and resourceful Ben. In the video above, an excerpt from a supplement on our chock-full new release of Night of the Living Dead, three of Romero’s most prominent successors—independent filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, The Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont, and acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro, whose monster-movie romance The Shape of Water is currently up for thirteen Oscars—discuss the groundbreaking casting of an African American actor in the film’s lead role.