A chat with Greg Nicotero, make-up and effects wizard of “The Walking Dead”

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With 124 make-up credits and 64 effects credits to his name so far, Greg Nicotero is one of the busiest and most respected make-up and effects professionals in Hollywood. Originally inspired to take up special effects after seeing “Jaws,” he broke into the business working for the legendary gore-effects maestro Tom Savini on zombie-master George Romero’s 1985 splatter opus, “Day of the Dead. ”

A few years later, Nicotero had decamped from Romero’s Pittsburgh’s to show-biz’s Los Angeles and formed the multi-award winning KNB Efx Group with friends Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger. Aside from his intimate involvement in such effects heavy films as “Sin City,” “Kill Bill,” “Minority Report,” “Serenity,” “Spiderman 3” and, yes, “Ray,” Nicotero has also branched out into directing, helming the second unit on Frank Darabont’s “The Mist” and making his own short subject, a funny and endearing homage to several generations of classic movie monsters, “United Monster Talent Agency.”

When I met with Nicotero and last Summer’s Comic-Con, however, it was to promote the already highly buzzed new AMC series, “The Walking Dead,” which reunites Nicotero with writer-director Darabont in an adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s Eisner Award-winning comic book series. Premiering Halloween night, the show will be taking a more dramatic look at the cannibal zombie mythos originally created by George Romero in his 1968 “Night of the Living Dead,” combining slow-moving zombies with the kind of in-depth characterization and complex yarn-spinning that’s making the onetime “vast wasteland” of television into something more like the last refuge of classical storytelling.

There’s only one problem. I’m kind of scared to actually watch the thing. You see, much as I admire the craft of someone like Greg Nicotero, I’m not exactly the usual gorehound media-fan for whom the more, and more realistic, cinematic gore he can create, the better. There was no point in hiding it.

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Today’s secret word is “$”

On an otherwise slow movie news day, Variety‘s Michael Fleming is onĀ  a small role, and the theme is filthy lucre.

* Writers Aline Brosh McKenna and Simon Kinberg have obtained $2 million from Paramount on the basis of a pitch for an unnamed upcoming project to be produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot. Especially in this climate, it’s a surprisingly tidy sum. It sort of brings back to mind the Hollywood of a couple of decades back when the studios were handing out sometimes surprisingly generous money for options to even relatively unknown writers on the basis of a pitch — though McKenna and Kinberg are far from unknown and the Abrams imprimatur surely didn’t hurt.

No details about the story have emerged but Kinberg is associated with lighthearted action pieces, like the upcoming “Sherlock Holmes,” while McKenna has worked on lighthearted feminine-friendly material like “The Devil Wears Prada.”

A Fistful of Dollars

* “The Art of Making Money” is an adaptation of journalist Jason Kersten’s nonfiction account of the career of counterfeiter Art Williams. Director D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia,” “Red Eye”) and Junior James Kirk Chris Pine are “in negotiations” with Paramount for the pic.

* Meanwhile at Fox, any action comedy headlined by Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, to be directed by James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma“), co-written by busy master scribe Scott FrankĀ  (“The Lookout” “Get Shorty,” “Minority Report,” etc.) and backed up by all-star supporting is likely to be a pricey proposition. You’d think they could afford a better title than “Knight & Day.”

  

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