An Oral History of Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)
Reproduced from Variety magazine (July 2029 issue)
McCarthy. Wiig. McKinnon. Jones. Believe it or not, it was over 20 years ago that these four plucky female heroes launched the beloved movie franchise which culminated in 2028's G10stbusTENs: Ghostbusters Go To Space Camp. We interviewed the key players in the making of this classic comedy. How did they capture lightning in a bottle?
AMY PASCAL (PRODUCER): The idea for the movie hit me as I was looking at the opening weekend numbers for Grown Ups 2. It came to me as a single image: a tentpeg franchise, but with four-quadrant appeal. And I was like, bang, that's it.
Although my idea got changed up a lot in the execution - that's the collaborative nature of movies as an art form - I think the success of Ghostbusters was down to my strong central premise.
It turned out we had the rights to this old, male-skewing action IP with ghosts in it. This was near the low point at Sony. We were desperate. I'd just greenlighted a film where Adam Sandler fights Donkey Kong, so I was like, "Fuck it. Let's do ghosts."
PAUL FEIG (DIRECTOR): It always made more sense to me that a team of paranormal investigators would be all-woman, because women are more credulous when it comes to ghosts and astrology and all that nonsense. When Amy said we needed to cast proven female leads, who had to use between five and seven new gadgets with strong toy potential for the 8-11 age group, it made artistic sense to me.
KATIE DIPPOLD (WRITER): We were tremendously aware that a subset of male over-25s had strong recognition of the existing brand, and we were determined to honor and exploit that fully.
Paul was adamant that the new product should be a reboot and exist in a different world than the existing property. But at the same time, we wanted to explore the elements that had made the original such a hit with males, while putting a fun new spin on them that everyone could enjoy.
Take the iconic 'no ghosts' logo. I think even the biggest fan of the original would admit that there's a major weak spot in the story. It doesn't explain enough about the logo design process. Did one of the Ghostbusters just draw it, or did they hire an agency, or did they maybe ask a friend to do it? It's never addressed. That was the inspiration for two of our classic scenes.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH (KEVIN): As a severely autistic character with sensory processing problems, Kevin struggles with basic social interactions like answering the phone. And he's easily overwhelmed by all the Ghostbusters riffing great lines off each other, which is why he's so confused in the interview scene.
But one of his special interests is Adobe Illustrator, so although he can't understand how to use a phone or what a fishtank is, he can use a laptop to quickly put together a bunch of logo ideas.
PAUL FEIG (DIRECTOR): Many of the best lines of the original movie came from Bill Murray ad libbing. I use an even more creative process, where I don't burden the actors by scripting out any dialogue or character traits at all.
The choice to make Kevin disabled was 100% Chris. He'd done an awful lot of research, visiting them in facilities and whatnot, but the angle he was taking was somehow never communicated to me until halfway through the shoot. Completely unsuitable for a family film, of course. Thank God we were able to work around it in editing!
MELISSA MCCARTHY (ABBY): That interview scene with Chris was the first day I knew the movie was going to be something special. He riffed line after line about how he wanted to bring in his dog, Michael Cat!!
How do you top that? We all had to try when it was our turn to be filmed. I did a bit about my pussy, Michael Hunt, and how it had got stuck outside in the rain. Then Kristen came up with an inspired riff about how she had a dog called 'Michael Cat is Called My Vagina'. In all, we generated ten minutes of solid material, which ended up being cut because the studio wanted a PG-13.
I didn't realise that the dog was supposed to be a support animal for Kevin's disability until much, much later.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH (KEVIN): I don't feel that my intentions for the character came across in the final edit.
NATE CORDDRY (GRAFFITI ARTIST): I'll never forget the script for the scene where I draw the logo. “Graffiti guy draws the logo." That was the entire page.
KRISTEN WIIG (ERIN): At this point in the film, we've already seen a ghost. So a common fan question is: why are we acting like the graffiti artist is giving us valuable information as he spray-paints a cartoonish Casper the Friendly Ghost that's nothing like the ghost we've seen, or the subway ghost we're hunting?
MELISSA MCCARTHY (ABBY): The joke is that he's so desperate to post up his graffiti that he lies about seeing a ghost, so he can draw a ghost, but then cross it out. That's what he wanted to do all along.
LESLIE JONES (PATTY): That scene is about how a bunch of white girls undermine me to let a white dude realise his 'artistic vision', even though I'm just trying to do my job.
NATE CORDDRY (GRAFFITI ARTIST): I've done enough improv to know that when someone asks you if you've seen a ghost, you have to come back with "Yes, and". Yes, and now I'm going to paint the logo. Had my character actually seen a ghost? No idea.
KATE MCKINNON (HOLTZMANN): That scene when I take a picture of the logo while improvising "Damn homes, thass a good logo!" was when I knew the movie was going to be something special.
KATIE DIPPOLD (WRITER): We thought a lot about how to introduce the character of Patty. I think even the biggest fan of the original has to admit that introducing Winston is kind of awkward. But our market research told us that to engage with urban audiences, you do need a Black one.
PAUL FEIG (DIRECTOR): I had always envisioned that the rebooted Ghostbusters would all be African-American women. They're just naturally more superstitious, and I love their humorous, cowardly antics. But not far into development, the edict came down from on high that we were allowed a hard maximum of one.
KATIE DIPPOLD (WRITER): We wanted our film to be grounded and relatable, so, of course, the Black character couldn't be a highly-qualified scientist like the white ones.
We settled on making her a subway worker who quits her job to work for the white Ghostbusters, without any suggestion that she is getting paid. That tested really well in the South.
PAUL FEIG (DIRECTOR): That scene answers two key questions for the audience: why would the Ghostbusters take on a Black employee, and where does the car come from?
KATIE DIPPOLD (WRITER): In the original, the Ghostbusters get their iconic car, but the explanation of how they get it is thin and unsatisfying. There's a couple of lines of dialogue about how they bought the car, and that's it. During the writing process, we realised that's not enough to introduce such an iconic element of the Ghostbusters universe, so we put in a scene where Patty says she has access to a car through her uncle or whatever, and another scene where she brings them the car and makes a hilarious Oprah reference, and another scene at the end where Ernie Hudson played the uncle and was legally obligated to deliver some great lines.
PAUL FEIG (DIRECTOR): Our guiding principle was that, if the original dealt with a plot point in one scene, we should give it two or three. Struggling with their equipment to capture their first ghost is a great scene in the original, but what if we split it into a scene in the subway where they struggle with their equipment and fail to catch a ghost, and a scene in a rock concert where they succeed? And we brought the sliming part forward into the very first ghost encounter, so the audience isn't waiting around for half the film wondering "when is the sliming going to happen?"
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is in one scene in the original, so we have him come back as a carnival float, but then we also have a ghost who has all the same characteristics as him come in at the end too. That way, nobody can complain that we hadn't done everything the first film did! And they shoot that ghost in the dick.