George Romero, father of zombies, rises as a sculpture for Monroeville Mall
A Verona filmmaker is working on a sculpture to memorialize the source of his artistic inspiration and his favorite movie director: George Romero.
Christian Stavrakis, 46, launched an online fundraising campaign to collect $18,000 so he can create a bronze bust of Romero and place it in the Monroeville Mall — the set for Romero's 1978 cult horror classic “Dawn of the Dead.”
“He was always an inspiration. Now that he's gone, we have to do something,” said Stavrakis, who owns a film production company in Gaithersburg, Md., and a second location in Pittsburgh.
Romero, who is known as the father of the zombie film, died July 17. He was 77.
Stavrakis said he grew up in the director's shadow. His brother, Taso, worked with Romero on “Dawn of the Dead,” “Day of the Dead,” “Knightriders,” and “Creepshow 2” as a stunt double and stunt coordinator.
“He played a character and he was even a zombie in some of them,” Stavrakis said of his brother, who is 14 years older and lives in West Virginia.
Stavrakis said he is almost finished with the bust that he started sculpting in February. He plans to unveil it at the Monroeville Mall during the Living Dead Weekend festival June 8-10.
The mall supports the project.
“The history of Monroeville Mall and the iconic movie filmed at this location, ‘Dawn of the Dead,' brings back memories for many of our patrons and for the people who like to visit the mall from around the world just to experience the location,” said Kelly Rodacay, a mall spokeswoman.
The mall set up a memorial in honor of the director in the upper level, where passersby can see a photograph of the director in his younger days. There is also a framed photograph of a scene from “Dawn of the Dead” near the mall's fountain.
The new bust will be on a pedestal the mall is donating on its lower level near the Dick's Sporting Goods Court, Rodacay said.
“George inspired all by hiring local actors, actresses and extras and broke into a style of movie which will be remembered in the pop movie sector for many years to come,” Rodacay said.
The project had received $6,200 as of May 17. Donors who give amounts starting at $10 can receive prizes including post cards, bumper stickers, posters or T-shirts. For a donation of $5,000, you can get a full-scale replica of the bust itself. There are three such replicas available.
The online campaign will end June 6, two days before the weekend festival begins. Stavrakis said the bust of his idol will be installed at the mall whether or not he reaches the $18,000 goal.