Ivan Reitman on how ‘Ghostbusters’ is still saving the world at 30
“Ghostbusters” director Ivan Reitman came up with the seminal tag line “Coming to Save the World This Summer” for the film’s pre-release poster as a way of “focusing that this movie is perhaps larger than you expect.”
The quirky horror comedy starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis about a group of university parapsychologists who open a ghost removal service was one of the blockbuster hits the summer of 1984. “Ghostbusters” has grossed nearly $300 million worldwide, earned two Oscar nominations — for visual effects and original song — spawned 1989’s “Ghostbusters II,” two animated TV series and several video games.
But in a recent phone interview, Reitman acknowledged that “there was very little expectation of the movie by all prognosticators, there were prognosticators in 1984, even though there are far less than there are now,” he said, laughing. “It was one of those movies that was pretty low on the focus list. So I was trying to do something that at least indicated that perhaps there was going to be something special going on, and the idea of saving the world wasn’t such a common idea — now the world gets saved primarily by Marvel.”
For its 30th anniversary, Sony Pictures Entertainment is re-releasing “Ghostbusters” in more than 700 locations in the U.S. and Canada on Friday for a weeklong engagement. And the new digital restoration of the film arrives on Blu-ray Sept. 16. The anniversary edition will include “Ghostbusters II” and a figurine of one of the most popular ghosts from the film, Slimer.
Rory Bruer, president of distribution at Sony, said that “Ghostbusters” is “a big part of our DNA and one of the most beloved movies that we have ever released. It’s fun to see it in a theater with a lot of fans around.”
The film has been restored over the years, but the 30th-anniversary edition marks the first 4K digital restoration.
“The technology has advanced to the point that we are able to really bring out a lot of the detail from the original negative,” said Rita Belda, a film restoration executive at the studio, who added that the original negative was in “fairly good shape considering that it is 30 years old.”
Reitman believes “Ghostbusters” has endured because it has a “feel-good quality that creates something that is more timeless. When I think of my childhood, that movie was ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ — films that make you happy. I think ‘Ghostbusters’ is a movie that finally, when you end up watching it, makes you happy. You are surprised by it all the time. It made you laugh, made you scream, and it made you happy.”
Hudson, who played Ghostbuster Winston Zeddemore, takes a more serious approach to its appeal.
“Ghostbusters,” he said, deals with “an issue that we all have — that primal fear of what’s on the other side. We are all at one point afraid of what’s in the closet when you turn off the light. It was the first time a movie dealt with it in a very smart and comedic way.”
Over the years, Hudson has encountered several members of “Ghostbusters” clubs all over the world who dress as the characters, complete with backpacks and equipment, and even convert their cars into Ectomobiles.
“I was doing a play on Broadway six or seven years ago, and guys would put on their Ghostbusters suits with their backpacks and traipse across New York and wait outside the stage. I was in the South of France, and there were Ghostbusters chapters all through France and Italy.”
With an original story idea by Aykroyd, “Ghostbusters” came together rather quickly. The first time Reitman met Aykroyd at Art’s Delicatessen in Studio City to discuss the comedy was May 1983; the film was released just 13 months later.
“Dan Aykroyd wrote this amazing outline that was originally intended for John Belushi and he to star in,” said Reitman. About a year “after John passed, Aykroyd sent it to me and thought I would be an appropriate director to put him and Bill Murray together. It took place in the future in outer space, and there were all sorts of teams of ghostbusters fighting each other.”
Reitman told Aykroyd over that lunch that it would be too expensive to make and didn’t have an emotional through line. “But it has great ideas in it. Why don’t we tell the story of the Ghostbusters?”
The director brought in Ramis, with whom he had previously worked on “Animal House,” “Meatballs” and “Stripes,” and the three wrote the first draft at Aykroyd’s house in Martha’s Vineyard.
On the first day of production, Reitman recalled, “I was on the streets of Manhattan shooting with the four guys. Seeing them in full regalia, I just had this special feeling. I thought, ‘This looks so unusual and wonderful, I think this can work.’ ”
Reitman won’t be directing “Ghostbusters III,” which reportedly will skew more female-centric.
“I was going to direct it when it was going to be a version of the original guys having major roles in it. It became clear pretty early on that Bill Murray was not interested in doing another sequel. I kept thinking somehow I’ll talk him into it, but when Harold passed [in late February], I said it’s too uphill of a climb. I am going to produce the sequel or reboot or whatever it ends up being.”
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.