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Ghostbusters: Bringing the iconic franchise back to the big screen

by Brandon Russell | March 3, 2016March 3, 2016 6:05 am PST

Do we really need a reboot? That’s what a lot of longtime fans asked when Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters project was announced last year. Some things you just don’t change, like Cheerios or the recipe for Coca-Cola. And, yet, after hearing Feig, co-writer Katie Dippold, and original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman discuss the film during a special Q & A on Wednesday, I’m confident this new Ghostbusters is ready for a new generation.

Of course, revisiting such a beloved property is no easy task—this isn’t like Colin Trevorrow taking over Jurassic Park. First, there was backlash over the simple fact that a new Ghostbusters would have the gall to exist. Then there was a very vocal minority who complained about the film’s female-centric cast. To put it lightly, it’s been a roller coaster over the past several months, and Feig couldn’t be more relieved now that the first trailer is finally out there.

“My history with [Ghostbusters] goes back to opening weekend [in 1984],” Feig explained. “I’d never seen anything like this—a combination of comedy with science with the supernatural with action. I just thought, ‘If someday I could do something like that it would just be unbelievable.’”

Lo and behold, Feig would get his opportunity. While filming The Heat, Reitman approached Feig to carry on the paranormal mantle. Feig, of course, couldn’t pass the project up.

“I have such a love for this property, and what I really wanted to do is just bring it to a new generation, give a new generation their own team,” Feig said.

That team consists of some of the biggest names in comedy currently: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. But despite what you might think, the script was drafted without any particular actors in mind. According to Dippold, these characters weren’t written to specifically be female. Not even McCarthy, who has featured in previous Feig films, was a shoe-in.

“The funniest people I happen to know are women,” Feig said. “It should never be about [gender]. Ghostbusters are for everybody.”

Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, a college professor and particle physicist; McCarthy is Abby Yates, a published author and paranormal expert; McKinnon is Jillian Holtzman, a wise-cracking nuclear engineer; Jones, meanwhile, plays Patty Tolan, a NYC subway worker who has an early paranormal encounter. Together, they make up the new Ghostbusters team, one that Feig hopes will find an audience among a new generation of fans.

After watching the trailer (again and again and again), it’s easy to see why Feig chose who he did. Separately, these women are all supremely talented. Put them together, however, and you have the comic equivalent to the 1927 Yankees. In just a few short minutes, you already get the sense that Feig’s Ghostbusters is going to be one of the funniest movies of the year.

It helps that these actors have all previously worked together in various capacities, whether it be on Saturday Night Live or in movies. Feig, meanwhile, has directed numerous films featuring Wiig and McCarthy in leading roles. That familiarity lends itself to the loose nature of the comedy happening onscreen, a lot of which was improvised during filming, according to Dippold.

“Kristen is this vulnerable comedian and Melissa is a headstrong comedian,” Feig said. “You’ve got Kate who’s just the weirdo nut and then Leslie is just this powerhouse. The four just mix so well and it was really fun just to figure out what role they were going to play.”

Their careers and off-screen relationships somewhat mirror that of the original cast, too. Reitman had previously worked with Murray and Ramis while Ramis already knew Aykroyd. It made the 1984 original feel more personal, which is something that Feig hoped to capture in the new film. But it wasn’t just the onscreen chemistry Feig wanted to capture; he and Dippold had to make sure the spirit of the original was kept intact, from the ghosts to the iconography to the weaponry. The easiest way to do that, according to Feig, was to go the reboot route rather than make a straight up sequel.

“I didn’t like the idea of them being handed the technology and being told how to do this,” Feig said. “I want to see [their own story] developed.”

As for keeping the formula fresh, Dippold explained that she and Feig wanted to capture the heart of the originals while still bringing new ideas to the table. Much of the movie’s most famous iconography is called out in the trailer—Ecto-1, Slimer, proton packs, ectoplasm—but there are plenty of new moments that Feig said he can’t wait to show people. Unfortunately, he’s not ready to divulge that information just yet.

“When you see the movie, there are a lot of things you’ll be happy to see but they’ll come at you in a different way,” Feig said. “I don’t want to give stuff away because we do it in a fun way—you know the iconography. Let’s just say most of them show up in one way or another. Hopefully in a way that will be surprising and unexpected.”

Something fans will notice right away is that the ghosts look different. It’s not that the ghosts in the old movies looked bad; the effects actually holds up pretty well all these years later. But Feig wanted them to have more of an aura, for them to look more gothic. At the same time, it was important for the ghosts to look like they were a part of the city’s history. New York City is so important to the original Ghostbusters, and Feig didn’t want to ignore that.

Unfortunately, Feig didn’t say whether or not we’ll see the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man terrorize the city. He also didn’t say whether Vigo, who was the main villain in the Ghostbusters sequel (and someone who has a mythology all his own), will make an appearance. For that matter, I’m curious to see who will be this generation’s Dana and Louis, who were so integral in both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2. It won’t be all new faces, however, as plenty of cameos have already been confirmed and, I’m guessing, we can expect a beautiful nod to Ramis, who passed away in 2014.

When asked about how he’s feeling heading toward the movie’s July release, Reitman, who acted as producer of Feig’s Ghostbusters, replied, “Confident.”

Ghostbusters hits theaters on July 15, 2016.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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