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Interview with Scott Reiniger star of the original Dawn of the Dead
By James Whittington, Sunday 15th November 2020
DAWN_OF_THE_DEAD_3D_BD_SLIPCASE_PACK_ (1)

On the eve of a stunning new 4K box set of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight Films, we chat to one of its stars, Scott Reiniger about this incredible film.

HC: How did you first become involved with Dawn of the Dead?

SR: Well, I was in New York, I was a stage actor in New York and I went to college with Christine Forrest, who later became George's wife and she asked me if I wanted to audition for this film called Dawn of the Dead, she wanted to know if I knew who George Romero was and I said, "Yeah, he was the guy who directed Night of the Living Dead". So, they sent the script over and I read it and it was probably the bloodiest thing I have ever read in my life. It was about 225 pages long and I went in and auditioned for him and he was very down to Earth, very warm, very easy, and very relaxed person. So, during the audition it was very relaxed. I had my first audition and he liked what I did and I was invited back the next week and I went back the next week and did the same thing with a little change and he smiled and said, "I really like what you're doing", and I said something like, "What's the but, I hear a "but" in your voice?" as it sounded like there was going to be a "but" and George said, "You're not quite how I imagined. I love what you're doing I have this (other) role already cast with this guy twice your size and you're going to be on screen with him a lot of the time", that was Ken Foree (who plays Peter Washington who is part of the SWAT team). Then it just popped out of my mouth and I said, "George, after the first five minutes the audience in not going to give a crap about that!" and he laughed and I saw him later that evening and he said, "OK, you got the part", like he talked me into it! It was very funny.

HC: What were your first impressions of Ken?

SR: He was really big! (laughs) He was very nice, and we were so very different people. We got to know each other because I had my car there and he went with me and drove with me and we got to know each other and developed a sense of humour. We became very comfortable with each other and I think this kind of played into us playing in the film together.

HC: You do seem to have a natural on-screen chemistry.

SR: Yes, and that was nice, and it was fun, and we made fun of each other.

HC: The sequence which involves you both securing the shopping mall driving huge trucks seemed to be huge fun.

SR: Yeah, I would say so because that was all improv. That truck scene we improved the whole thing. That was a lot of fun.

HC: What was it like shooting, mainly at night, at that shopping mall location?

SR: It was all night. It was like being in The Twilight Zone. It was very bizarre. We would shoot all night and we had zombie extras everywhere and life would be turned upside down as we would work all night and sleep all day. So, it's a very, very big adjustment actually. It was like we were in our own world.

HC: For most of the movie its only a small cast on screen, did you have much time to rehearse?

SR: No. We would rehearse on the set but other than that, no, not really. George would give a lot of freedom as an actor he didn't micro-manage which was a great thing about him. He was very relaxed, very open to ideas. You know some directors try to micro-manager you and that never works. It usually directors who are inexperienced who will do that.

HC: Did you expect it to turn out so bloody and violent?

SR: Yeah, kind of. I did, yes. But, with the script I didn't get the humour. When we were on set I sort of got what we were doing. In the script you don't really get the social parallels and all of that when you read the script but when we were shooting you start to see this.

HC: You and Ken had very physically demanding roles, how did you stay fit and focused?

SR: I was very physically fit at the time anyway, just getting enough sleep, you know?

HC: When you look back at making the movie which moment stands out for you?

SR: I think the scene in the truck where my character Roger starts to "lose it" was a major turning point for the character in the film. He goes completely over the top, he starts to lose it as he sort of prides himself on being able to control situations, he's ex-military, ex-cop but he can't control that situation, and he starts to become unhinged.

HC: How hard is it to play someone going through that emotional state and how did you prepare?

SR: Well I would prepare them and I'd personalise it from the situation I'm in for myself, all that stuff you're trained as an actor to do, and once you understand what it is you have to do you have to commit to what you're doing fully.

HC: How long after the film was released did you realise it was something special?

SR: When it was released, I thought it was going to be very controversial because it was so violent, you couldn't really predict how popular the film would become. That was a big surprise and its equally as popular today more than ever which is amazing.

HC: Can you remember your first convention?

SR: My first convention was great fun being with David Emge (played Steve in Dawn of the Dead) in Arlington VA but very few fans showed up. David said don't worry since that was unusual. Well he was right about that since subsequent conventions were well attended and awesome!

HC: If the film was to be remade once more, who would you have play Roger?

SR: If there was a remake, I'd like Adam Driver or Ryan Phillippe to play Roger.

HC: Scott Reiniger, thank you very much.


Related show tags: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
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