David Emge, known for starring in the original Dawn of the Dead, has died. He played helicopter pilot Stephen in the film. Emge passed away from undisclosed causes at West River Health Campus on January 20.
Emge was a veteran of the Vietnam War. The actor landed his most notable role while working as a chef in 1968. He starred in George Romero’s follow-up to The Night of the Living Dead. Emge also appeared in The Booby Hatch and Basket Case 2.
For Dawn of the Dead, Emge reflected fondly on his time filming the classic. In a 1979 interview, he talked about filming inside the shopping mall.
“I loved that movie,” Emge told The Burlington Free Press. “It was filmed outside of Pittsburgh in a nine-week shooting schedule with two weeks off for Christmas. A cold spooky show…Half of it was shot inside the shopping mall. We worked from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and had free run of the place.”
Spoilers for a decades-old film, but Emge also got the chance to leave his mark on the zombie genre by becoming one of the undead in the film. Emge helped develop the zombie walk that’s been copied by many.
“Being the zombie was something that I could just like, grab onto,” Emge recalled in a documentary about the film. “I sat there for weeks and weeks watching all of these people coming up with ‘their’ zombie. And I’m thinking, what am I gonna do? I had to come up with something that was distinctive enough, so I thought, okay, now, so what happens to this guy? He gets bit in the neck, he’s bit in the leg, he’s shot in the arm, so basically the zombie image came out of the wounds that he received.”
Fans Memoralize David Emge
Fans have offered an outpouring of support for Emge and his family. Sharing to the wall of his online obituary, one fan wrote, “I bow my head to one man who gave great character to a film that I have enjoyed since I was 14 years old. Thank you, David. We miss you. You made me very happy as a kid and filled my world with joy every year.”
Another commented, “Rest in Peace David. You are loved and will be missed by the countless fans who enjoyed your work in the movies. Godspeed Flyboy. My condolences to the family.”
Another commented, “David, thank you for being such a great actor playing Stephen ‘Fly Boy’ in the original DOTD. For some reason as a kid I always felt comfort watching that film. As an adult I appreciate what you all made back then. Your legacy shall live on. Condolences to you and the family from Paul in the U.K.”