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David Emge, Star of George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’, Dies at 77

David Emge, Star of George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’, Dies at 77

Actor David Emge, best known for his role as ‘Flyboy’ in George A. Romero’s horror classic Dawn of the Dead, has passed away at 77. According to his obituary, Emge died on January 20 at West River Health Campus in Evansville, Indiana. No cause of death was given.

David Emge played ‘Flyboy’, one of the main characters in 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. He portrayed a pilot for the WGON-TV station who becomes trapped in a mall with three other survivors during the zombie apocalypse.

Emge’s performance is notable for two reasons. He plays a complex human character in Stephen ‘Flyboy’ Andrews. Sometimes selfish, other times brave… but always practical, the character is nuanced and perfectly embodied by Emge.

Spoilers for Dawn of the Dead ahead… Of course, horror fans also love that David Emge played one hell of a zombie. When Flyboy is transformed into one of the ghouls at the end of the film, his shuffling, pained performance is perhaps the most highly regarded zombie turns in all of horror.

News of David Emge’s passing led to an outpouring of tributes from fans and friends on X (formerly Twitter). GARF (The George A. Romero Foundation), wrote they were “heartbroken” over his death. “David made a great impact with his performance in George’s Dawn of the Dead,” they added. “We are grateful for him. Our sincerest condolences to his family, friends, and fans. Rest easy, Flyboy.”

“God bless David “Flyboy” Emge,” a fan wrote. “Emge delivered what I consider to be the finest (and perhaps most influential) zombie performance in the history of horror cinema in DAWN OF THE DEAD”

“Sad to hear of the passing of David Emge. He gave one hell of a performance in Dawn of the Dead,” another fan agreed.

A Chance Meeting Landed David Emge’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ Role

David Emge was born on Sept. 9, 1946. He studied drama at the University of Evansville, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree. During that time, he served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Emge began his acting career on stage in the early 1970s and made his feature film debut in the comedy The Booby Hatch in 1975. He also appeared in the films The Liberation of Cherry Janowski and The Devil and Sam Silverstein, both released in 1978.

After his role in The Booby Hatch, David Emge ventured into the culinary arts in New York, where fate intervened and brought him face to face with the legendary horror filmmaker, George A. Romero. At the time, Romero was developing a sequel to his iconic masterpiece Night of the Living Dead. The director saw Emge as the perfect fit for the character of ‘Flyboy’.

Following his role in Dawn of the Dead, Emge continued to make his mark in the horror genre. In 1990, he starred in the sequel Basket Case 2, alongside Kevin Van Hentenryck and Annie Ross. He also appeared in the 1992 film Hellmaster, sharing the screen with John Saxon from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Eventually, Emge emerged as a favorite on the convention circuit, meeting fans of his work from around the world. Fans can pay tribute to David Emge on the Pierre Funeral Home website.