While the zombie Bub might be the first character you think of when George A. Romero's Day of the Dead comes to mind, Joseph Pilato's performance in the film is an all-timer, making Captain Henry Rhodes just as memorable as his living dead counterpart, and we're sad to share the news that the actor has passed away at the age of 70.
Multiple sources, including Bloody Disgusting (via a Facebook post by Pilato's friend Marty Schiff), have reported the news of Pilato's passing. According to the Facebook post by Schiff, Pilato "passed away quietly in his sleep."
A frequent collaborator with George A. Romero, Pilato appeared in the legendary director's Dawn of the Dead, Knightriders, and Day of the Dead. It was his role as Captain Henry Rhodes in the lattermost film that cemented his place in horror immortality. His performance as the increasingly deranged and violent Captain Rhodes was the perfect contrast to the heartwarming zombie Bub and Dr. Matthew "Frankenstein" Logan, electrifying the air with tension in the movie's claustrophobic bunker setting.
Rhodes' death scene in Day of the Dead set the bar for practical effects gore, and you could argue that the bar has yet to be surpassed more than three decades later. While the makeup effects by a talented team including Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero made Rhodes' death scene a palpably terrifying slice of cinema, Pilato's intense acting and epic one-liner ("choke on ’em!) made the scene a truly haunting experience that actually makes you empathize with Pilato's antagonistic character.
In addition to his work with Romero, Pilato had a number of memorable voice acting roles throughout his career, including Vexor in the horror-themed Power Rangers-esque series BeetleBorgs, MetalGreymon in several Digimon projects, and Harry Cooper in Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn.
Pilato also appeared in Wishmaster, played Dean Martin in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, and worked as a makeup artist on Romero's Dawn of the Dead.
When you talk about horror history from the last five decades, Joseph Pilato deserves to be mentioned in the conversation. He's earned a place in the hearts of countless horror fans, and our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.