Zombie Movie Icon Dead At 77

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

zombie movie

The world of horror cinema mourns the loss of David Emge, the talented actor whose portrayal of Stephen “Flyboy” Andrews in George A. Romero’s classic film Dawn of the Dead became an iconic and inspiring aspect for generations of horror creators to come. Emge, born on September 9, 1946, in Evansville, Indiana, began his acting career at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in 1971, setting the stage for a brief but impactful journey through the world of cinema.

Dawn Of The Dead Star David Emgee Passed Away At 77

David Emge stumbled fatefully onto the path to horror stardom while working as a chef in a New York City restaurant. There, he managed to catch the eye of legendary filmmaker George A. Romero. While Emge had done some community acting, he was completely undiscovered until Romero recognized something special in him and cast Emge as the news pilot Stephen “Flyboy” Andrews in the 1978 zombie epic Dawn of the Dead.

David Emge’s Flyboy Is One Of Horror’s Landmark Characters

In the film, David Emge’s character becomes a symbol of the struggle for survival in the face of a zombie apocalypse. Stephen, a well-meaning pilot prone to mishaps, seeks refuge with a small group of survivors in a suburban shopping mall. Emge’s performance, marked by his character’s nerve-addled journey, captivated audiences upon the film’s release in 1978 and for generations to come as the movie became a horror film staple.

A Famous Zombie

David Emge’s character manages to evade the attacking zombies for the majority of the film but eventually succumbs to a deadly fate and becomes, as all those who are bitten by zombies do, a member of the walking dead. The image of his wide, dead-eyed zombie form and blood-soaked button-up would go on to become one of the most iconic images in horror cinema.

Influence On Shaun Of The Dead

Simon Pegg, the future star and writer of the 2004 horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead, expressed his admiration for Emge’s portrayal in his 2011 memoir, stating, “I would stare at the image of David Emge’s zombified flyboy character. The film became something of an obsession for me.”

David Emge Remained A Horror Icon

Despite appearing in only two films following Dawn of the DeadBasket Case 2 (1990) and Hellmaster (1992)—David Emge remained a beloved figure within the horror community. Even decades after Dawn of the Dead was released, Emge remained a popular celebrity at film conventions, where fans cherished the opportunity to meet the man behind the iconic “Flyboy.

Fans And Co-Stars Share Tributes

On January 20, 2024, at the age of 77, David Emge left his legacy in horror cinema. While the cause of his death remains undisclosed, fans and colleagues alike took to social media to express their condolences and share memories of the actor. 

Ted Geoghegan, the screenwriter of Brooklyn 45, tweeted, “Oh, this one hurts. The great David Emge passed away… Dawn of the Dead is one of the best social and commercial commentaries ever set to film, and David’s nerve-addled ‘Flyboy’ ties the movie together with heart and humanity.”

Remembered By Fans For Generations

David Emge is survived by sisters Sue Berry, Kathleen Wittgen, Barbara Rexing, and their extended family. As the horror community reflects on the loss of one of its icons, Emge’s legacy lives on through the enduring impact of his unforgettable performance in Dawn of the Dead, ensuring that he will be remembered by generations of horror enthusiasts for years to come.

Source: Evansville Courier & Press