Thirty years after “Ghostbusters” took the world by storm, director Paul Feig brings his fresh take to the supernatural comedy, which arrives in theaters this weekend. Starring some of the funniest actors working today –- Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth, the long-awaited return serves as a reboot with cameos from the original cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson.
The Columbia Pictures film was produced by Ivan Reitman and Amy Pascal, and written by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig. The film is based on the 1984 blockbuster by Reitman, which was written by Dan Aykroyd and the late Harold Ramis.
Paul Feig told EUR/Electronic Urban Report that Ivan Reitman was the motivating factor behind his decision to revisit the world of “Ghostbusters.”
“The lure was Ivan Reitman calling me up and asking if I would consider taking over the franchise or bringing another one to it, and I don’t take that lightly cause Ivan’s one of my heroes,” said Paul.
“I wanted to be Ivan when I was watching his movies as a teen, and older than that. I never really thought of remaking ‘Ghostbusters’ because why would you? It’s like going, “I’m going to remake the ‘Godfather.’” But when he brought it up, and he brought it up originally as a sequel script. I was so excited. But then I didn’t quite know how to do that, cause it’s been so long, and Harold had just passed and I knew Bill didn’t want to do it,” he explained. “But it stuck with me, the idea of doing that. Amy Pascal was really pushing me to try to figure out my way to do it. And as soon as I figured out let me do it with the funniest women I know because why did that first movie work? Cause that super group of funny people made it great. So I thought I can do that and reboot it and start it again as a new origin story.”
Did Bill Murray resist doing a feature remake as well as taking part in any way in this reboot?
Paul: He just resisted doing any sequel to ‘Ghostbusters.’ It had gotten pretty well-known in Hollywood, and outside of Hollywood in the ‘Ghostbusters’ community, that Bill just decided that he didn’t want to do another one. And so you go, we have Dan and Ernie who are great, but are we going to be able to capture the magic with half the team gone?
Was it challenging to get the originals to sign on to make a cameo appearance?
Paul: They were so fantastic, and everyone was so supportive of this. When I first announced that I was going to do it with an all-female cast, I didn’t even know who I was going to cast yet. Bill immediately did an interview where he said what a great idea he thought it was, and I should cast Kristen and Melissa. He was a supporter, which was nice. And then everyone else just really wanted to be involved. The support we got from everyone was just incredible.
Feig is best known for directing the 2011 film “Bridesmaids,” featuring Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. He also directed the comedy films “The Heat” (2013) starring McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, and “Spy” (2015) which stars McCarthy, Jason Statham, and Jude Law.
He created the critically acclaimed show “Freaks and Geeks” and the Emmy nominated actor/director is also known for playing Mr. Eugene Pool, Sabrina’s science teacher, on the first season of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” as well as Tim, a camp counselor, in the film “Heavyweights.”
You seem to have spotted “It” in Melissa McCartney and Kristen Wigg. What is “It” about them that you find so inspiring which makes you continue to work with them?
PAUL: They are just money in the bank. They are so likable. They have that quality that you need from a movie star which is: a movie star, in a way, has to be your best friend on the screen, no matter what role they’re in. You have to go, ‘oh, I like that person.’ or ‘I wanna be with that person,’ even if they’re playing a challenging role where they’re testing your patience. It’s like a family member who you’re like, ‘Oh I want to murder that person but at the same time, I love them, so I’m going to stay with them cause I know this is not who they are all the time.’ And that’s what both Kristin and Melissa have. They’re also just amazingly talented actresses. It’s great when someone is funny, but if they’re not a good actor then that makes it really hard to get a good performance that people are going to care about. So when you find somebody who is that deep of a talent, that can do it all that way, you just hang on to them and don’t let them go.
Did you rely on any newly advanced software techniques to produce the special effects in “Ghostbusters”?
PAUL: What we relied on more was how we could do practical effects in a way that they would interact with the actors and the actors can interact with the ghosts, and we could then turn it into the visual look that the modern day audience needs. And the biggest technique that we had was brought by our special effects supervisor who said light interaction is the key. Where CGI falls down is when it just exists separately from things going on. We knew we wanted (our ghosts) to glow, and if we just then put a CGI ghost in where people were just staring at nothing, it wouldn’t feel real. We wanted to use practical ghosts. We designed their look, put the actors in make-up and prosthetics and full costume, but then devised these kind of LED light exoskeletons that they would wear so that there’s light interaction on the actors, and it’s going on in the environment around them. So then when we ghost-up those real actors, and we make them clear and give them the extra emanations and all that, it will feel real. That was our biggest innovation of what we did.
The female Slimmer was a delightful surprise, and a charming addition to the franchise. Was the creation of new ghosts just as important as the casting of your leading ladies?
PAUL: Oh yeah, the ghosts are such a big part of this. They are your supporting cast in a way, but for me, that’s why I wanted to cast actual actors to do it. So that first ghost, the Gertrude Aldridge Ghost, is actually Bess Rous, who is one of the stars of a TV series I did for Yahoo called ‘Other Space.’ She’s amazingly talented but also has this very striking look. So we designed her look of how she was going to dress and what kind of context she would be in, but I wanted her face and I wanted her expressions and her giving the weird looks and being scary and looking very benign. Same with the ghost in the subway. That’s a friend of mine. If you watched ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ my old show, he was the high school counselor, Dave Gruber Allen, who now has this crazy long beard and crazy hair. So he’s the prisoner (ghost) who was electrocuted in the 1920’s, and we designed it around his face. It just made it more real.
Are you concerned with how the controversy surrounding the film will affect opening weekend box office numbers?
PAUL: Well, the backlash started pretty much the day I announced I was going to do the project, and so it’s been with us the entire time. It’s sorta morphed. It first started as very anti-woman but then other people were just nervous about the touching of a classic, and then added into that, people were mad that it’s not a sequel. It’s a reboot. It just kept bringing along a lot of controversy that I understand. We’re not trying to erase the original. We’re trying to be very reverent to it but at the same time, doing it in a way where older fans can get what they loved of the original one. The new generation doesn’t need to know the old movie at all. They can just discover these things for the first time. The only concern you have is, you just hope that people give you the chance because I want people to see the movie. I’m convinced that the majority of people are gonna have a fun time.
Have you experienced any real life paranormal activity?
PAUL: I have not. As I kid I was so afraid of the idea of ghosts. I was so terrified of them that I embraced science to try to prove to myself that it wasn’t there. I became such a science-head that I kind of don’t worry about that. But that’s why I wanted to write it with Katie Dippold cause she’s very into ghosts and very into scary movies. So she’s the one who brought the ghost part to [‘Ghostbusters’], and I brought the science to it. So you go, if someone was to conjure up ghosts, how would they do it using science? And, what are ghosts? Maybe they’re energy that hasn’t dissipated.
As a creator, how is the way technology is changing how viewers receive content effecting the stories you tell and how you tell them?
PAUL: The delivery systems are all different. You make a movie for a giant screen, and then you realize a lot of people are going to watch that on their phone. And you don’t want to be so aware of it that you shoot something in a way that it wouldn’t be spectacular on the big screen. You still want to keep that scope. The downside of the technology, or of the Internet itself is, when I saw the first ‘Ghostbusters,’ I saw one trailer and I saw a poster and I didn’t know much about it al all. I had this absolutely pure experience of not knowing what was coming and just being blown away by it. Today, the Internet — there’s leaks, people want exclusives, everyone wants a clip, everybody needs trailers, they need TV ads…all this stuff. So what happens is, as studios will do, they go, “Here’s all the great stuff that people love in these test screenings. Let’s put it all in.” As a filmmaker you’re going, “Oh my god, but all this stuff — these were supposed to be surprises. These were supposed to be a pure experience.” That’s why I love the test screening process cause people have no idea what’s coming — this is the pure experience. But then, very few audiences get to have that anymore because they’ve seen so much stuff and they’ve heard so much stuff, and things under this guise of, “Oh look, we’re giving you this gift of showing you what’s in this movie.” It’s not a gift. I think it’s a hindrance. Obviously you’ve got to get people to come to the movie, but once they’re there and going, “Oh, I know what happens here, I saw this in the trailer,” as a filmmaker, it’s kind of heartbreaking because nobody gets that pure experience anymore.
“Ghostbusters” is now playing in theaters nationwide.