Why George A. Romero Hated Me
During the summer of 1980, while on a bus heading to Hampton, New Hampshire to do summer stock, I became engrossed in Stephen King’s fat novel “The Stand.” For some unknown reason, I identified with or perhaps just became obsessed with the deaf character, Nick Andros.
I noticed on the back cover of the paperback edition I was reading, the announcement: “Soon to be a major motion picture directed by George A. Romero.” I told my roommate up in Hampton about an idea that began festering in my ambitious little mind: when I returned to NYC I was going to contact Romero & try to get an interview.
My roommate, J.R., gave me a “small world” laugh and told me his friend Jim Wilhelm knew Mr. Romero. J.R. gave me Jim’s contact info and when I returned to NYC I contacted Jim Wilhelm and told him of my plans to star in the next George Romero movie. I argued that after all, he’d need a total unknown actor to play a deaf character. The audience wouldn’t believe any famous actor was deaf.
Of course I slept with Jim but instead, we became good friends. He told me that “The Stand” wasn’t going into production for a few years. Romero was busy making a movie down in Pittsburgh called “Knightriders.” Jim said this was a good thing because it bought me some time to get more acting experience.
Instead, I enrolled in American Sign Language class at the New York Society for the Deaf. I was studying acting with Madeleine Sherwood and I landed my first film role in an NYU grad film. It was a start.
I came up with the idea for the “For Your Consideration” flyer posted here and while I was back in California, designed the layout and had a stack printed up on heavy stock. I began my mail campaign with this flyer, my other headshot, my resume, and a cover letter stating why I WAS Nick Andros. Of course I dropped Jim Wilhelm’s name as a reference. I began a series of stalking by mailings — both to Romero’s New York offices as well as his Pittsburgh office.
In early 1983 I moved back to New York and I began calling the local Romero office. It was a tough nut to crack and drastic times call for drastic measures so I Xeroxed reams of cheap copies of my flyer and I posted them starting at every subway stop that surrounded Romero’s office and covered walls leading up to his building. You could not miss me.
Not long after that I met Rolf Pardula, a sound man in films. We met by chance in the West Village when he & his friend Stu stopped me because of my “John Waters’ Polyester” T-shirt. His boom man associate Stu Deutsch did sound on that film and wanted to know if I had been involved in the production. Even though my answer was no, I just bought the shirt, Rolf & I became close friends. He thought my ambush campaign was ballsy and could work.
Then I went in, all dressed up with my portfolio. They were not expecting me but when they realized who I was, an assistant came out to see me!
“Are you the person putting up all those flyers?”
I was beaming, so proud my stunt worked! “That’s me!”
“Mr. Romero insists that you stop immediately. And please stop sending us mail. You really need to stop.”
It was a few years later, after Rolf & Stu did the sound for “Day of the Dead” with Romero that Rolf was out here in California visiting me. He confided in me that during the shoot he mentioned me to George Romero, and George replied “Oh I hate that guy! What an ass. I wouldn’t hire him if he were the last actor on Earth.” (or something to that extent)
By this point, I had been immersed in the deaf community and knew second hand their frustration at hearing actors playing deaf roles. I knew a deaf actor should play it and I no longer wanted anything to do with it.
Neither did George Romero. His option lapsed or he sold the property or whatever, but by the late 1980s it was no longer his film. In 1994 they made a TV miniseries out of “The Stand” and Rob Lowe played my part.
I wonder if Rob Lowe had to plaster flyers all over New York to get that job.
Perhaps he got it because he didn’t bother with flyers.