Bill Hinzman, who was cast on-the-spot as a zombie in 1968 cult film Night of the Living Dead in a role that earned him the longlasting admiration of horror fans, has died at age 75, his daughter said.
Hinzman died of cancer on Sunday evening at his home in Darlington, Pennsylvania, his daughter Heidi Hinzman told Reuters.
He played a prominent role in Director George Romero's low-budget, black-and-white 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, which is credited with revolutionizing the zombie genre.
Hinzman was working as an assistant cameraman on the film when Romero decided to cast him as the zombie in the movie's opening sequence.
We'd like to tell the story that it was a hard audition session, but Bill was there and old enough and thin enough and he had an old suit, said the film's producer Russ Streiner.
Dressed in that suit, Hinzman appears at a Pennsylvania cemetery and attacks a pair of young siblings by knocking the man's head against a tombstone and chasing the woman.
He lurches across an open field and eventually chases the woman into a farmhouse.
Fans called Heinzman No. 1 zombie, said Streiner, who also played a character named Johnny who fought with Hinzman in the cemetery.
He was a very popular guy, he was very accessible to the fans, Streiner added.
Hinzman also went on to direct and star in the 1980s horror movies The Majorettes and FleshEater.
He will be cremated, as he had asked, said Heidi Hinzman.
He always joked with me that if he got buried he would come back, she said.