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Script to Pieces: George A. Romero’s Diamond Dead

Dawn of the Dead

Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.

George A. Romero had a lot unfinished and abandoned projects over the course of his amazing career, from an early take on Resident Evil to a several Stephen King adaptations that never saw the light of day. But Diamond Dead might be among the most intriguing.

Like Night, Dawn and Day before it, Diamond Dead would have been a post apocalyptic zombie tale, but with one key element that would separate it from its predecessors: it was going to be a musical. It would not have been a film in the same vein as his Dead trilogy, though, as the protagonists were to be the zombies this time around. Diamond Dead centered on a zombie rock band and was pitched by Romero as a project akin to Phantom of the Paradise.

Diamond Dead was to center on a female musician who joins an up-and-coming band, but only winds up causing their deaths. She makes a deal with Death, and they all come back as a zombie rock band and skyrocket to superstardom.

Slack (Asia Argento) crawling on the floor in George Romero's Land of the Dead (2005).

The script, which Romero co-wrote, featured music by none other than Rocky Horror Picture Show’s composer Richard Hartley, and Ridley Scott was even on board as a producer. Romero spent several years attached to the project, but nothing ever came of it. In 2004 it started to look like a surefire thing, but he wound up making a deal with Universal to do a tried-and-true continuation of the Dead series with Land of the Dead, instead.

After that, things seemed, well, dead. But when Romero was promoting Diary of the Dead, he said that a new draft had been turned in and once again everything seemed all set, but it still never materialized.

Diamond Dead is a movie that seems too good to be true, and I guess proved to be. But the fact that it was ever even a possibility is kind of a miracle in and of itself. There was a time when people like Johnny Depp, Christopher Lee and David Bowie were all approached to star in this thing.

Team Xbox even worked with Romero and Cameron Inc. to develop a multi-platform video game that would serve as a tie-in for the film. Obviously, that was abandoned when the overall project was abandoned.

Day of the DeadDiamond Dead seems to simply be a great example of exactly what Romero hated about the larger Hollywood machine: the inherent fear to take risks. This was a weird, ambitious project that studios simply seemed to get cold feet on. The idea was too weird and nobody really wanted to spend the money to make it, so it faded into nothingness. But it was something Romero had worked on for years, and always something he would occasionally toy with the idea of one day bringing to the screen.

Interestingly enough, though, Diamond Dead did exist in some form at one point. It was briefly turned into a small-scale stage production, but that did not last overly long. Even though it’s never actually been filmed, it feels like Diamond Dead has something of a cult following. It’s one of the most infamous unmade horror movies of all time.

And it serves as proof that even Romero’s abandoned ideas were still compelling enough to find an audience. Very few filmmakers can claim that.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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