Marilyn Eastman, the actor most famous for her role as Helen Cooper in George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie classic Night of the Living Dead has died at the age of 87.
Self-funded on a micro-budget, Night of the Living Dead was originally inspired by Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, taking from it the central ‘siege’ narrative. In Romero’s film, a group seven-strong, including Eastman’s Helen Cooper, find themselves barricaded within a farmhouse, as the dead, attracted to the scent of the living, incessantly bang on the defended doors, baying for brains.
Eastman was also the vice president of an industrial film firm based in Pittsburgh named Hardman Associates, Inc. making up one of the two executives Romero approached whilst looking for producers for his debut feature. Becoming part of the production company named Image Ten, Eastman helped put together the initial funds for Night of the Living Dead.
In her passing her son, John Eastman released a statement that included just how much his mother enjoyed being part of the Night of the Living Dead fanbase, “I cannot overstate how much she enjoyed the affection and attention shown to her by countless NOLD fans, and up until several weeks ago, was planning personal appearances”.
The statement also read, “In addition to her iconic role as Helen Cooper in the 1968 Horror Classic Night of the Living Dead Marilyn was a Stage, Television and Radio performer as well as a writer and producer. More importantly, she was a hard-working single mother who raised my brother and I on her own. She is survived by my brother Michael and I, 5 Grandchildren and 8 Great Grandchildren. Marilyn Eastman died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 87”.
The George A. Romero Foundation also acknowledged Eastman’s passing in a statement which can be read below: