More than 30 years after the first film debuted, more than 25 years after ghosts were last busted on screen, the long wait is finally over. Ghostbusters is returning to theaters, with a new team and new characters in a new adventure.
The new film began with director Paul Feig, who, as the creator of Freaks and Geeks and the director of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy, has built an impressive comedy resume of some of recent years’ most successful, groundbreaking, and memorable comedies. Given the opportunity to reboot the franchise, it was Feig who saw a way to bring one of his personal comedy influences into the 21st century.
“I was an enormous fan when Ghostbusters first came out,” he says. “I saw it in the theater and had honestly never seen a comedy do what that movie did to that audience. It was the funniest people – we all loved Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson, so seeing them together made it even better. But the thing that put it over the top was the context of an enormous world of fighting ghosts with technology…that’s the greatest idea in the world. It’s one of these things that make you say, ‘I wish I had thought of that idea.’”
Naturally, the idea for another Ghostbusters – as a sequel – was one that had been explored for quite a while. “I’ve always wanted to do another sequel,” says Ivan Reitman, who directed and produced the first two iconic films in the franchise, and now produces the new film with Amy Pascal. “It’s one of those movies that you should revisit. But unless we all agreed on something, it wasn’t going to get done. Getting four people – especially these four people – to agree was kind of impossible. And then, unfortunately, we lost Harold.”
With the passing of Harold Ramis in 2014, the studio and Reitman began to look for a new comedic talent to take the helm of a future film. That’s when Feig entered the picture. “I started wracking my brain,” says Feig. Funny people fighting the paranormal is still the greatest idea ever, and it felt like there was still so much to explore. I thought, ‘How would I do it?’ Well, I’d make it with the four funniest women I know. That excites me, because it makes it something new.”
Reitman was excited about the opportunities for comedy in Feig’s idea. “What’s really exciting about Paul’s take is that it’s not about the gender,” he says. “It’s the friendship of four particular characters as they do something extraordinary.”
“At first, we spent a lot of time talking about what we wanted the script to be,” says screenwriter Kate Dippold. “Then we talked about the story and the characters. Nobody wanted to do remakes of the original characters, so we came up with four new characters of our own.”
It was in this way that Feig approached the film as an entirely new story. “I wanted the movie to start with our world today – a world that has never seen ghosts that we can prove,” says Feig. “Our Ghostbusters have dedicated their lives to scientifically proving ghosts exist, but they’re considered loonies, because there’s no physical proof. But when they actually get to see the ghosts they’ve been trying to see for their whole lives, they’re going to prove that their whole lives’ mission was correct.”
So, Dippold and Feig created new characters who would mesh well as a team. He explains: “Abby is the paranormal expert; she’s dedicated her life to studying ghosts. Erin is the physicist, who tries to bring a scientific grounding into it. Holtzmann, the engineer, can take the concepts that Abby and Erin come up with and actually build the physical equipment to fight them. And finally, Patty joins the group as the newcomer who knows the ins and outs of New York City, which will be one of the keys to solving where the ghosts are and what’s happening to Manhattan.”
“You’ve seen men as comedic eggheads but it’s been a long time since have women been portrayed as funny scientists,” says Pascal. “It was a fresh and unique take on the material that needed to be told.”