Actor Joseph Pilato, who stole the show as Captain Rhodes in director George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead and went on to provide the voice of MetalGreymon in Digimon, has passed away at age 70. The horror icon has continued working right up until very recently, including an appearance in The Chair, a 2016 movie based on a comic book series from Alterna Comics’s Peter Simeti. According to his profile on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), Pilato’s final role was in last year’s Shhhh!, a horror comedy about a serial killer targeting people who were being disruptive in a movie theater.
According to the horror website Bloody Disgusting, Pilato’s friend Marty Schiff broke the news on Facebook today, saying, “It is with great sadness that I inform you that actor and old friend Joseph ‘Joe’ Pilato passed away quietly in his sleep last night. Rest in Peace, Joe.” Friends and fans have been flooding the message with condolences, and word of his passing is moving through the genre fandoms he helped shape during his long career. Given his appearances at fan conventions over the years, it seems likely Pilato is another case of an actor who fans feel close to because so may of them have interacted with him directly. Still, it was an analog relationship: Pilato reportedly did not own a computer.
Day of the Dead was not Pilato’s first go-’round with zombies — or his last. The actor, who would later go on to appear in movies like 2015’s Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D, made his undead-universe debut in Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead, albeit in a tiny role as an unnamed police officer. Romero was not the only great director with whom Pilato would work; he had minor roles in Ron Howard’s Gung Ho and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (you might recognize him as the Dean Martin look-alike).
Not long after Pulp Fiction was when Pilato took the gig as MetalGreymon, in which he appeared in several episode of Digimon from 1999 until 2001 as well as in the first Digimon movie. Other projects featuring Pilato included The Demolitionist, Wishmaster, and Music From Another Room.
We send our best wishes to Pilato’s family and friends in this difficult time.