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‘Night of the Living Dead’ Actor George Kosana Dies at 81

Variety logo Variety 1/3/2017 Will Thorne
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George Kosana, most famous for playing Sheriff McClelland in “Night of the Living Dead,” has died at his home in Clairton, Pa. He was 81.

John Russo, who co-wrote the 1968 George A. Romero horror classic with the director, confirmed Kosana’s death in a Facebook post.

“My close friend George Kosana, who played the sheriff in NOLD, has regrettably passed away after a long battle with various illnesses,” Russo said. “He will be greatly missed by me, by his fellow NOLD cast and crew members and by his many fans.”

Born in 1935, Kosana also starred in Romero’s second film, the 1971 romantic comedy “There’s always Vanilla,” however, his most iconic role was as the ammunition and hat-wearing sheriff.

Kosana was one of ten investors originally involved in the film, who each committed $600 to the project, comprising the initial $6,000 budget for the indie hit. From a final budget of $114,000, the film made around $30 million and became one of the most profitable independent horror films ever made. The movie’s success confounded critics of the time, including one Variety critic who declared it to be “amateurism of the first order,” and considered its cast, including Kosana, to be “uniformly poor.”

Kosana later reprised the role in 2012’s “Living Dead,” and played the sheriff again in “My Uncle John Is a Zombie!,” currently in post-production.

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