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Tom Savini

Thomas Vincent “Tom” Savini (born November 3, 1946) is an American actor, stuntman, director, award-winning special effects and makeup artist. He is known for his work on the ‘Living Dead’ films directed by George A. Romero, as well as ‘Creepshow’, ‘The Burning’, ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘The Prowler’, and ‘Maniac’. He also directed the 1990 remake of ‘Night of the Living Dead’. As an actor he has appeared in films such as ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (and its remake), ‘From Dusk ’till Dawn’, ‘Grindhouse’ and ‘Machete’.

Savini was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was raised Catholic and graduated from Central Catholic High School, before attending Carnegie-Mellon University. Savini served in Vietnam as a combat photographer. Savini continued to practice with makeup in Vietnam, often frightening indigenous peasants by appearing to suddenly transform into a “monster”.

Savini is primarily known for his groundbreaking work in the field of special makeup effects. He got his breakthrough working with Pittsburgh filmmaker George A. Romero, providing a convincing wrist slashing effect in the opening scenes of ‘Martin’ (1977). The following year, working with an expanded budget on ‘Dawn of the Dead’, Savini created his signature palette of severed limbs and bite-marks.

Savini has also worked on films by Dario Argento (Trauma, Two Evil Eyes) and Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2). His signature realism livens genre films such as ‘Maniac’ (1980), however, perhaps Savini’s most noteworthy special effects occurred in the zombie epic ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985).

Savini has noted that most of the characters he has played are bikers. He played a relatively straight, innocuous character in ‘Martin’ (1977), but played a menacing biker called ‘Blades’ in ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978), a role he reprised with a brief cameo appearance in the 2005 continuation of the series, ‘Land of the Dead’; as well as a cameo as a sheriff in the 2004 remake of Dawn. He also played the whip-wielding, vampire-fighting biker ‘Sex Machine’ in the 1996 Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez film ‘From Dusk ’till Dawn’. (This character was a riff on the “Blades” character Savini created for Dawn of the Dead replete with the same costume.)

As a director, Savini helmed episodes of the syndicated television series ‘Tales from the Darkside’, the aforementioned 1990 color remake of ‘Night of the Living Dead’.

In 2007, Savini took on a role in Planet Terror, one of two stories in the film ‘Grindhouse’. “Planet Terror” was directed by Robert Rodriguez: the other story, Death Proof was directed by Quentin Tarantino. He plays Deputy Tolo, who tries to save his town from an infestation of zombies. In 2008, Savini played another vampire in the movie ‘Lost Boys: The Tribe’ and he has completed the film The Dead Matter, also featuring Andrew Divoff and Jim O’Rear.

He had a cameo in the 2010 film adaptation of the faux trailer ‘Machete’. The american filmmaker Jason Baker filmed the life of him, in his documentary The Story of Tom Savini.

Savini runs the Special Effects Make-Up and Digital Film Programs at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, Pennsylvania and is the author of several books on special effects including Grande Illusions I and II (1983, 1994) which detail the production and mechanical workings of many of his famous film effects. He is also associated with other books in the horror genre including Book of the Dead and Horror 101 for which he wrote the foreword. Savini is an associate of Dick Smith, who used to, but no longer, incorporates an advanced professional make-up seminar into the last semester of the program. Among other projects, Smith is known for his groundbreaking work in ‘The Exorcist’.

In recent years he has taken a break from special effects, but has continued to direct, produce and star in several movies. Savini has been known to refer movie make-up effects projects to graduates of his school. However he has been hands on with Australian productions ‘Redd Inc’ and ‘Mary Doe’ earlier this year.

7 responses

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