A new Ghostbusters movie is released today (in America)… and it also just so happens to be my birthday too.
So I thought I’d do a big Ghostbusters blow-out of a celebration.
I’m going to do an overview of both the Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters 2 films. Take a look at the failed attempts at making an official Ghostbusters 3. I’m also going to take a look at Ghostbusters in games over the years as well as a behind the scenes look at the making of the films right here (this is going to be a big celebration). There is a lot to cover, so I’d better crack on.
First, lets get the elephant in to room out of the way…
This new movie, it has such a huge “hate train” forming over the internet and this hate has been going since the film was first announced, even before the film had begun shooting.
This is asinine and pathetic. People boycotting a film they have not seen so really can not offer a fair opinion. Me? I also have not seen the film, I have no desire to see the film on the big screen either. But I think it looks like an enjoyable film non the less.
I’ll post my views on the picture when I get around to watching it… and this is what separates me from others. I will actually watch the film before I pass judgement on it.
Why am I in no rush to see the film, all female cast? Nope.
Well, I just don’t like Paul Feig films. I have tried watching several of his films and they are just not funny or well made. He makes cheap trash unfunny comedies. If you like his films, then good for you… but they are just not for me.
Melissa McCarthy is not funny nor can she act. In fact, none of the main four are funny or halfway decent actors, regardless of gender.
And that is about it for my negatives on the film. I have no problem with there being an all female line up, I just wished they hired four funnier and better females instead… and a better director. I’m not going to be blinded by nostalgia or my love for the original either. When I do get around to watching the remake, I’ll judge the film on the film that it is and not the film the original was.
The film was released here in the UK on the 11th (no I still have not seen it yet) and it has been getting pretty decent reviews. Not amazing, “best film ever” reviews. But its not getting a slating like a certain superhero team up got earlier this year.
It is possible that this new Ghostbusters is not the horrendous train wreck many people wanted and expected it to be?
So why would I want to see it?
I actually think the trailers didn’t look that bad. There is the whole “most hated trailer ever” thing going on with this film. All I can say to that is if people really think this film has the worst trailer ever… then you’ve not seen many trailers. Yes I am a genuine Ghostbusters fan, I wouldn’t be doing this whole multi article celebration if I wasn’t would I?
As I am a Ghostbusters fan, this is why I want to see the film. I’ll not judge a 2 hour film on a 2 minute sample of out of context clips. I just wont pay to go and see it at the cinema. It doesn’t look THAT good, it just doesn’t look that bad either. Plus as I previously pointed out, the film is getting decent reviews.
Just as an add on. Yes I have heard the new Ghostbusters theme tune and yes… its fucking terrible.
Now that is out of the way. Lets get into the main event, the making of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2.
Originally written by Dan Aykroyd as a vehicle for him and John Belushi after the success of The Blues Brothers. Dan’s original script was very different to the final film. He first came up with the idea for the story while at his family farmhouse in Ontario. Dan is a big believer in ghosts and this comes from his family. His great-grandfather was a renowned spiritualist, his grandfather investigated the possibility of contacting the dead via radio technology and his father wrote a well respected history of ghosts book.
It was while at the family farmhouse sometime in 1982, Dan read an article in a parapsychology journal about the idea of trapping ghosts.
Dan Aykroyd: “I thought, I’ll devise a system to trap ghosts and marry it to the old ghost films of the 1930s. Virtually every comedy team did a ghost movie, Abbott & Costello, Bob Hope. I was a big fan of those.”
So he started to write a screenplay about a comedy ghost hunting duo inspired by his heroes with himself and John Belushi in mind for the lead roles. It was while Dan was writing the screenplay in 1982 that he received some devastating news.
Dan Aykroyd: “It was originally written for John [Belushi] and I. I was writing a line for John, and Bernie Brillstein (eventual Ghostbusters executive producer) called and said they just found him, It was a Kennedy moment, we loved each other as brothers.”
It was a big blow for Dan to lose his best friend and he put the screenplay on hold for a while. After some time, Dan decided to return to his comedy ghost movie idea once more. Armed with only a half completed draft of the idea, he took it to Bill Murray. It has been said that Bill loved the idea, even at this unfinished stage, he agreed to be part of the project there and then and play the part originally written for John Belushi. This pushed Dan to complete the screenplay and get it to a filmable script. So he cracked on with the writing once more and was already thinking of the perfect director for the job, Ivan Reitman. With the success of films like; Animal House, Stripes, and Meatballs. Reitman was becoming the go-to guy for comedy films of the early 80s.
Ivan Reitman: “I was in the right place at the right time. I got to work with the people who’d eventually become the new comedic voices of English language comedy.”
Eventually, Dan finally had a rough first draft for his Ghostbusters movie. But it was way too big and would have been impossible to film in the early 80s as Reitman recalls. It was also a much darker film than the finished project with the film being set in a dystopia like future and also taking place on different dimensional planes with the idea that the Ghostbusters would be a franchise with many branches all over the world. The script was just not filmable at all, but it did contain many great ideas that Reitman loved including the now infamous Ghostbusters logo and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. It was while at a lunch to discuss the movie that Ivan told Dan the script just will not work as a film, but he did suggest a few ideas that would form what Ghostbusters would eventually become and came up with the idea of having the film in a more contemporary setting and even using the film to set up the Ghostbusters instead of having them already established.
Ivan Reitman: “I basically pitched what is now the movie that the Ghostbusters should go into business, this was beginning of the 1980s and everyone was going into business. I called it my domino theory of reality. If we could just play this thing realistically from the beginning, we’d believe that the Marshmallow Man could exist by the end of the film.”
Reitman had another idea too, he suggested that Dan should try to bring in Harold Ramis to help out with the writing to get the script streamlined. Ramis was already known for his work on Caddyshack and National Lampoon’s Vacation as well as being Bill Murray’s co-star in the movie; Stripes. Apparently, after the lunch meeting, both Ivan and Dan walked into Harold’s office on the Burbank Studios lot with the unfinished first draft and he quickly read through it and listened to Ivan and Dan’s ideas. Ramis liked what he read/heard and agreed to help out and get the script into a more manageable project. After working on the screenplay with Dan for a while, Harold decided he’d also like to play a part in the film and the project started to gain momentum as three of the Ghostbusters were now in place.
The script was still not finished but the backbone of the film was sturdy enough to pitch the idea to a movie studio and ask for funding. Reitman went to Columbia Pictures in 1983 armed with the unfinished script, three main actors and himself as director. When asked how much money he would need to make the film, he just blurted out “$25 million all in”, by his own admission, Reitman just came up the figure up out of thin air. Surprisingly he got what he asked for, but this amount of money did catch the attention of the big wigs at Columbia Pictures.
Frank Price (Columbia Pictures chairman): “It was a horrendous amount of money for a comedy. It was too expensive, too risky. CEO, Francis Vincent said. I explained, I’ve got Bill Murray. I was going to go ahead with it. They made it clear that it was all my responsibility. I was out on the limb.”
It was decided the film would have to be completed for a major summer 1984 release, only giving them just over a year to finish the script, film it, and edit one of the biggest budget, effects laden films that any of them had ever made at that point. Aykroyd, Ramis, and Reitman locked themselves away to get the script finalised, working seven days a week. First order of business was to define the three major characters. Dan was pretty happy about having his original ideas and characters completely broken down and rebuilt.
Dan Aykroyd: “I’m a better originator than executor of a finished screenplay. I’m a kitchen-sink writer, I throw everything in there. I’ve always relied on a collaborator to bring it into reality.”
The main characters in Dan’s original script were fairly undifferentiated and they needed to be refined and reworked to be believable. Aykroyd claims that the they drew on a particular Hollywood classic for inspiration. The three main characters of Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, and Egon Spengler were inspired by the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. The script was coming together fast as the trio hammered out a more detailed and filmable screenplay as the story and jokes grew and grew. Eventually, the script was finished and now ready to begin shooting, but there was a major problem. It was estimated the the film would require around 200 special effect shots and the major and most reliable special effects companies were all busy on other films being made at that time like; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Return of the Jedi. They had a major effects film ready to shoot and yet, no effects team to shoot it. This was when Reitman suggested they start up their own effects company. Around the same time, Oscar-winning effects man Richard Edlund (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist) decided he wanted to set up his own special effects studio.
Richard Edlund: “I had to put a whole company together—and lawyers ate up a lot of time. By the time the contract was made out, we had more like 10 months to rebuild the studio, shoot all the scenes, and composite everything. We had to build elaborate equipment. It was an incredibly ambitious amount of work.”
Almost everything was in place to begin shooting… almost. There were still a few major characters not yet cast. Sigourney Weaver heard on the grapevine of the film and wanted a part. She was sent a script and asked to audition for the role of Dana Barrett. Dr. Venkman love interest and pivotal character that turns into a “Terror Dog” for the climax for the movie…
Sigourney Weaver: “I had to audition for Ivan. I remember starting to growl and bark and gnaw on the cushions and jump around. Ivan cut the tape and said, ‘Don’t ever do that again.'”
Still, Ivan must have enjoyed the audition as afterwards he immediately got on the phone to Dan and Harold and told them that he had found Dana. Reitman remembers he thought Weaver had an amazing sense of humour and the right amount of gravitas for the part. The character of Dana was originally written to be a famous model in the script, but it was Sigourney’s idea that she should be a musician instead as she felt this would give the character a softer soul which would make it easier to be possessed.
The next character to be cast was Louis Tully, Dana’s affectionate neighbour who also becomes the second Terror Dog in the film. The role was first offered to long time friend of Harold Ramis and Bill Murray; John Candy. They had worked together previously on other projects and even used to tour together in a comedy troupe back in the 70s.
It was perfect casting as in early storyboards for Louis Tully he was depicted as a more rotund character and Candy was happy to accept the role… except for the fact Candy insisted on playing the part with a thick German accent and being accompanied by two huge dogs whenever he was on screen. Reitman tried to talk Candy into playing the role with his normal accent and without the two huge dogs as there was already enough dog symbolism in the film anyway. But Candy just refused and eventually the role was offered to somebody else instead. Enter Rick Moranis who was already interested in the part before it was offered to John Candy. So Reitman gladly hired Moranis and a memorable character was born.
The shooting script had changed so much from Dan’s original idea that the Ghostbusters grew from only two members to four, yet with Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis, they only had three in place for filming. Winston Zeddemore was supposed to be the more grounded character and the one the audience would relate to as he was the outsider of the main group and would be the voice of reason among all the craziness that was going on in the story. Dan Aykroyd has said in the past that the first person up the the role was Eddie Murphy, however, Ivan Reitman has stated that Murphy was never in consideration. But none of that is really important as eventually it was Ernie Hudson who was untimely chosen to play Winston.
Ivan Reitman: “Zeddemore needed to be a stand-in for the audience, a character who could have things explained to him. Ernie Hudson had this wonderful, likeable, kind of naive quality, and I just cast him.”
The four main characters were now in place as well as most of the supporting cast and the film was now ready to begin shooting. It was October 1983 and the crew began filming in New York. This was quite a ballsy move as New York back then was not considered a “movie city” at all. In the 1970s and early 80s, New York was known as a city of crime, corruption and it was in the midst of a fiscal crisis. New York in the 1970 even almost went bankrupt. Nobody wanted to film anything in New York back then, never mind a multi-million dollar summer blockbuster. Due to the amazing success Ghostbusters would eventually have (spoiler?), the film is credited with helping turn New York around in the early 80s to the tourist attraction and movie friendly city it is now known as.
The film was mainly shot guerilla-style as they didn’t bother with filming permits or permission for the most part. One scene that is part of a montage at Rockefeller Center, which is privately owned and the crew didn’t know. Has the Ghostbusters being chased away by a security guard. That was a genuine security guard in the background chasing Aykroyd, Murray and Ramis as they were not allowed to film there and it was all immortalised on film. The whole shoot was a jovial and fun time with many of the cast and crew making lifelong friends. Sigourney Weaver recalls her first day on set and her first time meeting Bill Murray outside the New York Public Library.
Sigourney Weaver: “I went over and I introduced myself and he said, ‘Hello, Susan.’ He picked me up and put me over his shoulder and walked down the block with me. It was a great metaphor for what happened to me in the movie, I was just turned upside down and I think I became a much better actress for it.”
It was about midway through the shoot when a legal issue arouse that jeopardised the production. It was discovered that there was a 70s TV show called; The Ghost Busters and this created a legal barrier preventing the use of the name Ghostbusters. As they were already well into the shoot with many scenes where the Ghostbusters name was prevalent, they couldn’t just re-shoot everything as that would be too costly both financially and time wise. For a stop gap, during the rest of the shoot, the crew made up various alternate names including; Ghoststoppers and Ghostbreakers. There were even replacement props and signs made up with the new names on them in case they would be needed. It was during a huge crowd scene being filmed at Central Park West where a few hundred strong crowd of extras were chanting the name “Ghostbusters! Ghostbusters!” over and over as loud as they could when Associate producer Joe Medjuck recalls that he got on a nearby payphone can called the Burbank Studios where the films main production office was and demanded they clear the name Ghostbusters for them to use at any cost. Just think, if it hadn’t been for the overtly enthusiastic extras that day… we could have been watching a film called; Ghoststoppers!
The rest of the shoot was problem free as the cast and crew remained harmonious until the very end. The film finally wrapped up in February 1984 leaving the crew only four months to edit and finish over 200 effect shots and in the early 80s, that was a hell of a task. During these effect shoots, there was a problem with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. You see, how they did most of those effects was with a stuntman in a suit being shot against a miniature background. You know the scenes where he is set on fire by the Ghostbusters proton packs? Well for that, they really set the suit on fire, with the stuntman inside. Several of the suits just exploded into flames and were ruined which resulted in the stuntman inside being left unable to breath properly. No major harm was done to the stuntman, but the suits were totally destroyed.
The effects were finally finished and cut into the film literally days before the film was set to be seen for the first time. Ghostbusters was first shown to industry insiders and the producers of the film… and its response was not good at all with many of the studio’s producers disliking the film and commenting on how much of a waste of money it all was. $25 million for a comedy film? Still, what do producers know eh?
Rick Moranis: “The film crossed over to so many markets and audiences and was celebrated for so long. It went through three seasons. The entire summer, every kid was dressed as a Ghostbuster for Halloween, and it dominated the Christmas gift season.”
Ghostbusters proved those industry types very wrong as the film broke Columbia Pictures best opening weekend record as well as its best opening week record. It went on to gross $238 million domestically and then went on to make $291 million worldwide. Ghostbusters became a worldwide phenomenon creating a whole new franchise with video games, TV shows, toys, merchandise and even a sequel film (more on these to follow).
As I mentioned at the start of this. The film was originally going to be for Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi to star in. Alas, the untimely death of Belushi changed that idea. Yet Belushi is still in the film to a certain degree. Did you know that the infamous Slimer ghost was written by Dan as an homage to his friend John Belushi? Dan has said that the Slimer ghost is the “ghost of John Belushi” and that the ghost carries a lot of John’s personality traits.
Also on the same subject, did you also know that the Slimer ghost’s name was not originally Slimer at all? In the script, the ghost never had a name but the crew lovingly named him The Onionhead Ghost. Though the ghost is never given an official name in the first film, fans just called him Slimer because he slimed people. Then it was when the animated TV show was made that he was first officially named Slimer and he has been called so in every official subsequent Ghostbusters property since. effectively, the fans gave Slimer his name.
Winston Zeddemore: “I’m Winston Zeddemore, Your Honor. I’ve only been with the company for a couple of weeks, but these things are real. Since I joined these men, I’ve seen shit that’ll turn you white.”
That is yer making of Ghostbusters. This article is already a fairly long read, but I just want to quickly (and it will be quick) cover Ghostbusters II here too…
After the success of Ghostbusters at the box office and its many sprouting branches like the toy line, merchandise and even a animated TV show spin off. The cast and crew thought it would be a great idea to team up and do something together again… yet it was not going to be a sequel to Ghostbusters at all. The general idea was the reunite the all the main cast, but in an all new movie playing all new characters. But Dan struggled to come up with a workable script that could bring everyone back together and that was when the idea for a Ghostbusters sequel came about instead.
Released in 1989, Ghostbusters II saw all the main cast return and the film grossed more than $215 million which was respectable, but less then the first film. Many fans feel the sequel was a huge let down (me included), don’t get me wrong, its not a bad film… its just not a great film and lacks so much of the character the original had.
As you can tell, I don’t have much to say on this one, but don’t blame me. I tried, I really did. See, when I do these behind the scenes things, I always watch making of documentaries, watch the movies with the commentary on, look up interviews on the interwebs, etc. I do a hell of a lot of research when I do these things. The sad truth about Ghostbuster II is that not many people seem to want to talk about it. I found a few behind the scenes featurettes but not much, I couldn’t find any interviews with anything interesting and my DVD doesn’t even have a commentary track. I don’t know if its just me, but finding behind the scenes stories on Ghostbusters II is almost impossible. Sorry.
The best I could find was this…
Ivan Reitman: “It didn’t all come together. We just sort of got off on the wrong foot story-wise on that film.”
See, nobody has anything good to say about Ghostbusters II… not even the director.
Peter Venkman: “Have you been outside lately? Do you know how weird it is out there? We’ve taken our own head count. There seem to be six million completely miserable ass-holes living in the tri-state area.”
With the Ghostbusters II thing being a bit of a wash out (still sorry about that). I want to make it up to you by just taking a little glance at the much respected animated TV show and just point out how clever and more like a real sequel than the official live action sequel was… well, the first 2-3 seasons anyway.
The Real Ghostbusters aired between 1986-1991 and was very successful. The pilot show actually picks up right where the original film left off, with the destruction of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
Notice how in the live action film that the characters all wear the same colour uniforms but in the animated show they are different? This is actually explained in the show itself and its little attention to details like this that made this show such a hit with Ghostbuster fans. This all showed that the producers and writers of the show were themselves fans of the original film and loved it as much as we did. There are a tonne of amazing little references and details to spot through the series.
The show even got a little meta at times as there is one episode (Take Two) where the characters from the cartoon are invited to watch and be consultants on the original live action film at the film studio, claiming that the events in the live action film version are a fictional take based on the “real” events from the cartoon. With some funny jokes along the way, like Peter Venkman (cartoon) sating that Bill Murray looks nothing like him (tit-bit: the original drawing for Peter looked just like Bill Murray but it was changed to avoid legal issues). Or Winston claiming that Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis sounds like a law firm.
The Real Ghostbusters was a genuinely great TV show that did very little wrong and didn’t try to insult the intelligence of its viewer base. The characters all felt “real”, the show had some great episodes and stories. It wasn’t just about busting ghosts as there were some great character moments within the show too.
I said the show didn’t insult the intelligence of the viewer and it didn’t… not until season 4 anyway. The first three seasons of this show are truly great, yeah a few hit an miss episode sure, but overall its a loving and respectful “sequel” to the original film. In fact at times, it feels much more like a real sequel than the real sequel.
And then season 4 happened and ruined everything. Producers decided that if it ain’t broken, they had better ruin it anyway. Season 4 is where they started to force Slimer down our throats, in fact the show itself was renamed; Slimer! And The Real Ghostbusters. They even gave the little green bastard his own spin off show and it was just too much of something that nobody asked for. The quality of the writing went downhill too, voice actors were changed and characters themselves were altered dramatically as well as dynamics of their personalities. They changed outspoken Janine from a head strong female character to a typical “mother” type. They removed Winston from any of the main action and just made him the driver and for those in the know, yes Winston was the ONLY black character in the show… and he’s now just the driver, make of that what you will. They even removed Peter and Slimer’s bitterness toward each other and made them best friends… and if you know anything about the TV show, then you’d know how sacrilegious that is. I could sit here all day and point out the many, many instances the producers ruined this show but I won’t.
Yeah, season 4 onward is just horrendous. But please, watch the first 3 seasons and be pleasantly surprised by just how good this show was/is. Its funny, well made, written, produced and acted.
Just want to finish up with some interesting trivia about the cartoon…
Bill Murray played the live action Peter Venkman, while Lorenzo Music played the animated Peter in the cartoon. Lorenzo Music was also famous for playing Garfield in the animated TV show, while Bill Murray voiced Garfield in two feature films.
Ernie Hudson who played Winston Zeddemore in the Ghostbusters films has said he auditioned for the role of Winston in the cartoon, but he lost out to Arsenio Hall.
Struggling to come up with a believable voice for Egon, Maurice LaMarche decided to just mimic Harold Ramis instead. When Bill Murray heard the voices in the cartoon for the first time, it has been reported he said: “”Harold’s guy sounds like him, I sound like Garfield.”
When Lorenzo Music sadly died in 2001 he was replaced as the voice of Garfield by Frank Welker who voiced Slimer in The Real Ghostbusters.
Peter Venkman: “Okay. Once upon a time there were four Ghostbusters who were trying to catch the Bogeyman but they couldn’t because one of them wouldn’t shut up and go to sleep. The end.”
I’m at about 5000 words now so I think that is enough Ghostbusting for the time being, but there is more to come in my Birthday/Ghostbusters celebration with a look at the failed attempts at getting a Ghostbusters III made, a look at Ghostbusters in gaming over the years and overviews of Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters II.