“When there’s something strange in your neighborhood…Who ya gonna call?”
Ghostbusters was a groundbreaking comedic film and a huge money-maker. The film made more than $538 million (in 2010 dollars, adjusted for inflation), making it the 32nd biggest-grossing movie ever. For a time, it set a record as the highest grossing box office comedy. Ex-Saturday Night Live writer/performer Dan Aykroyd was already making hit movies in the early 1980s (he played Elwood, the tall and mostly silent brother, in The Blues Brothers) when he started writing Ghostbusters.
This could have been the original cast: Eddie Murphy playing the role of Winston Zeddemore and John Belushi playing Dr. Peter Venkman, the role Bill Murray would ultimately make famous. Murphy ended up turning down the role to do Beverly Hills Cop and Belushi died before the script was finished. Imagine if this was the cast for Ghostbusters 3?
The Origins of Ghostbusters
Dan Aykroyd was always fascinated with the paranormal. Aykroyd was best friends with John Belushi; he and Belushi went back several years, even prior to their groundbreaking work as members of the original cast of Saturday Night Live. The two had just finished the John-Landis-directed, soon-to-be-classic Blues Brothers when Aykroyd started developing a concept for he and Belushi. Belushi, the hottest comedy actor of the day, was being offered scripts left and right, so he started shooting the romantic comedy Continental Divide and working on the upcoming bizarro comedy Neighbors (which co-starred Aykroyd), while Aykroyd continued hammering out the script for Ghostbusters, which was then known as Ghostsmashers.
In the draft Aykroyd was developing, the Ghostsmashers traveled through space, time and other dimensions fighting ghosts. They wore S.W.A.T.-like outfits and busted ghosts Harry Potter-style, with wands instead of proton packs. In early storyboards, the Ghostsmashers wore riot gear, such as helmets with visors.
Aykroyd pitched the project to director/producer Ivan Reitman, who had directed Bill Murray in Stripes. Reitman liked the basic idea but had serious concerns about the budget. The story was set in the future, and featured flying cars. Reitman suggested a re-write, so Aykroyd enlisted the help of pal Harold Ramis, who had already helped make three of the biggest and most enduring comedies of the era (co-writing National Lampoon’s Animal House, co-writing and directing Caddyshack, and co-writing and co-starring with Murray in Stripes).
Initially, the character of Dr. Peter Venkman was written for John Belushi. The role of Winston Zeddemore was intended for Eddie Murphy. But in March 1982 (just before the script was finished), John Belushi died of a drug overdose. Aykroyd was devastated but was determined to finish the script as a tribute to his friend. As Ramis described it in the DVD commentary, he and Aykroyd retreated to “a bomb shelter in Martha’s Vineyard” and in three weeks (in May and June 1982) finished the draft for Ghostbusters.
They had come up with an idea for a group of (cough, cough) scientists that was based in Manhattan and which canvassed the greater New York area to investigate paranormal activity, such as hauntings. (Remember, this was before Ghost Hunters or T.A.P.S. would rule cable television with essentially the same concept years later.) The mix of Roto-Rooter Man meets “ghost whisperer” was an overwhelming hit. The rest was box-office history.
How the Ghostbusters Theme was Created
Ray Parker Jr., who was a successful R&B recording artist of the day, struggled for weeks trying to come up with a theme song for Ghostbusters. With just days away from his deadline, he finished another long but unsuccessful day of music production. Then, while watching TV at 4:30 in the morning, Parker saw a commercial for a drain company. The commercial reminded him of a scene from Ghostbusters and ultimately inspired the classic catch-phrase “Who you gonna call?” The chorus of people in the song shouting “Ghostbusters!” included Parker Jr.’s girlfriend and her pals.
Billy Murray break dancing in Times Square, see it here.
As it turned out, Ray Parker Jr. was sued in late 1984 by another recording artist (Huey Lewis) for plagiarizing Lewis’ “I Want a New Drug” for “Ghostbusters.” Specifically, Lewis alleged that Parker’s horn arrangements were lifted from his earlier song, which had also been a radio hit. The two artists ultimately settled out of court.
Fans of the Ghostbusters just can’t enough. A recent Atari video game with a story and dialogue by Aykroyd and Ramis was a blockbuster hit. The game had the Ghostbusters returning to old haunts like the Hotel Sedgewick and other parts of New York. The upcoming follow-up, Ghostbusters 3, is probably already one of the most anticipated movie sequels of all time. But if you want more of the classic Ghostbuster team of Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore, you should head over to YouTube:
Lost Scenes from the Original Ghostbusters
Ramis and Aykroyd were prepared to create a universe for their characters if they needed it to tell their original story. For Ghostbusters, like many comedy films, additional scenes were shot. However, due to running time and story, it was decided they be edited from the final cut. Some of the scenes just add to the depth of the characters, but some (like this one with Murray and Aykroyd playing bums) are a rare treat for Ghostbuster fans:
Bill Murray as Carl the Groundskeeper (from Caddyshack) in Ghostbusters.
Several scenes between Ghostbusters secretary Janine (Annie Potts) and Egon were cut, including this one where the two share a meaningful moment before Egon takes on the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man:
Egon gets ready to make the world’s largest roasted marshmallow.
Other deleted scenes include one featuring the green “slimer” ghost being discovered by two newlyweds at the Hotel Sedgewick. Also cut from the final film was a Ghostbuster inspection of the room. In another lost scene, there are additional shots related to the early plot of Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler losing their academic sponsorship and getting thrown off campus:
Who gets the Noble prize for science? Venkman, of course!
Here’s a list of other scenes that were shot, but cut from the final film. Some of these scenes appeared as extras on the Criterion Collection CAV laser-disc release:
- A policeman tries to place a parking ticket on the Ectomobile, but the car won’t let him.
- Venkman leaves Dana’s (Sigourney Weaver) apartment for the first time and on the way out has an exchange with Louis (Rick Moranis).
- Ray dresses in an old general’s coat as he and Winston inspect Fort Detmerring.
- Finally, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man sequence, which ends with his large marshmallow hat falling to the ground.
The music video for the song, “Ghostbusters” became one of the most popular for the 80s. The video was also directed by Ivan Reitman. As was the trend at the time, it included celebrity appearances by numerous stars of the period, including Chevy Chase, John Candy, Danny DeVito, Peter Falk, Melissa Gilbert, Carly Simon, Teri Garr, Irene Cara and George Wendt. And the Ghostbusters themselves, including a break-dancing Bill Murray.
Both Chase and Candy had been offered roles in the film. Chevy Chase turned down the role of Dr. Peter Venkman, and later claimed in an interview that the script used in the movie wasn’t the script he read and was asked to consider. He said that earlier script was even darker and scarier. John Candy, another 80s comedy star, quit the role of Ghostbusters accountant Louis Tully because of his rejected ideas to make his character a German and own a pair of schnauzer dogs. Rick Moranis was a last-minute replacement. Candy, Moranis and Ramis all knew each other before production, as they were all veterans of SCTV, (Second City TV) a Canadian sketch-comedy show, where many Saturday Night Live players started out.
Thoughts on a Sequel
Dan Aykroyd has confirmed Ghostbusters 3 is currently in production. Casting rumors are all over the board but most industry insiders confirm Sigourney Weaver returning as Dana Barrett, the Ghostbusters’ main client and Peter Venkman’s love interest in the first two movies. Although, recently Weaver stated that if Bill Murray were not in film, she would not be either, which may cause a slight snag – the story is rumored to involve the old Ghostbusters handing over the reigns to a younger crew – Oscar Barrett, Dana’s son from the previous film, is supposed to start his own Ghostbuster franchise, according to industry speculation.
There are several remaining questions that fans want answered, though:
Q: Will Bill Murray make an appearance?
A: Recently in an interview on Dennis Miller Radio, Dan Aykroyd said, “We will be doing the movie and hopefully with Mr. Murray.” Murray has been vocal about any part he’d play. “I told them if they killed me off in the first reel, I’d do it.” Otherwise, he’s been firmly against a sequel, blaming Ghostbusters 2 for weakening the franchise.
Q: What’s the story?
A: In Ghostbusters 3, Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz character has lost an eye, so he can no longer drive the trusty Ectomobile. For his part, Egon is now more interested in lab work than field trips. The ghost-busting business has definitely taken a toll on the original team. One day, young blood (Ashton Kuchter and Jesse Eisenberg have been attached to the role) walks in the front door and turns the business around. In another version, the Ghostbusters find themselves in Hell. Nothing has been officially announced.
Q: Who’s in the cast? Is it being cast? How can I be in it?
A: This was the description Sony sent in a call to actors, in a recent industry breakdown:
“A ragtag group of paranormal researchers reopen their notorious ghost-removal service, and a new generation of Ghostbusters is brought on board to be green-slimed and trained to contain the mischievous spirits.”
So yes, they’re casting Ghostbusters 3. Ramis and Aykroyd are set to return, and will also serve as executive producers and writers. Sigourney Weaver would probably also be returning as Dana Barrett, but still no word on Bill Murray. Anna Faris (of Scary Movie fame) and maybe even Ben Stiller are also rumored to have roles. You could be in the film, too. Casting directors are currently looking for both actors and extras to work on the film, which will shoot in Los Angeles and Chicago. If you are interested in auditioning for a principal role in Ghostbusters 3, you may send your headshot and resume to: Richard Mento c/o Joanna Colbert Casting, 9720 Wilshire Blvd. 4th Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 9021. Extras should contact: Central Casting, 220 South Flower Street, Burbank, CA 91502. Those seeking to be extras should not send photos. You must also register your interest in person by calling 818-562-2755.
Q: When would Ghostbusters 3 hit theaters?
A: The release date has been tentatively set for Christmas 2012.
No matter when it comes out, Ghostbusters 3 will hopefully start the franchise in a whole new direction and series of films. With today’s special visual effects technology, the spooky atmospherics will certainly be better , but it still all comes down to the story and the characters. And we’re all still waiting for the final details on that.
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