When the incredibly sad news of the death of Harold Ramis swept around the world, many fans responded with heartfelt heartbreak, followed by the assumption that the rumoured Ghostbusters 3 project would also be laid to rest. A Ghostbusters film without Egon would surely be like an Ectomobile with one flat tyre – sure, you can drive it, but ultimately, you’re going to damage your vehicle.
It was quite a surprise, then, when Ivan Reitman reached out to Deadline to set the record straight after years of speculation – officially confirming the production, and explaining why he no longer plans to direct it:
“There has been all kinds of stuff, unofficially written about Ghostbusters. I’ve been reading things online for about four years – speculation on who’s writing, what they’re writing, who’s in it, who we will use, and who’s directing. We’d decided not to comment up till now – I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, and it was never clear what Bill [Murray] was going to do. A lot of things happened in the last few months, the most significant of which was the passing of Harold, who was a very good friend who was extraordinarily influential in my career. We did five movies together including both Ghostbusters.”
Indeed, before the tragic loss of comedy giant Ramis, it was the seemingly fruitless pursuit of Bill Murray that drove the majority of the speculation out here in fandom. Rumours abounded of script drafts flying back and forth between original co-writer and fellow ‘Buster Dan Aykroyd, and the elusive Murray. One particularly viral – but unconfirmed – story had Murray returning a shredded draft to Aykroyd in a dramatic expression of distaste.
When discussing the script, it quickly becomes clear that the real driving force behind Ghostbusters 3 has always been the original helmsman himself – Ivan Reitman:
“The first [draft] was done by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, and me, Harold and Dan helped them on it. It was a really good script, but then it became clear that Bill really didn’t want to do another Ghostbusters and that it was literally impossible to find him to speak to for the year or two we tried to get it going. When Bill finally…well, he never actually said no, but he never said yes, so there was no way to make that film. We decided to start over again, and I started working with Etan Cohen [Men In Black 3, Tropic Thunder], with Dan lending a helping hand. Harold got sick about three years ago, and we kept hoping he would get better. I kept pushing forward on the Etan Cohen [script] and we now have a draft that is very good, that the studio is very excited about.”
Throughout the efforts to get Ghostbusters 3 to the screen, Ivan Reitman has remained the most constant part of the process – an immovable force, determined to bring his labour of love back to the big screen – not least because of his keen awareness of the ongoing life of the first two films, and the way that new generations are coming to love them as much as the audiences of the 1980s. Recently, however, the nature of his involvement has changed:
“It’s a version of Ghostbusters that has the originals in a very minor role. When I came back from Harold’s funeral, it was really moving and it made me think about a lot of things. I’d just finished directing Draft Day, which I’m really happy with and proud of. Working on a film that is smaller and more dramatic was so much fun and satisfying. I just finally met with Amy [Pascal] and Doug Belgrad when I got back. I said I’d been thinking about it for weeks, that I’d rather just produce this Ghostbusters. I told them I thought I could help, but let’s find a really good director and make it with him. So that’s what we’ve agreed will happen. I didn’t want all kinds of speculation about what happened with me – that is the real story.
“It was such an amazing time in my life 30 years ago, and I felt that way on the second film. With Harold no longer with us I couldn’t see it. It really seems to have resonated, and I think a lot of adults who saw it when they were younger have shown it to their kids and they seem to respond much the same way. Sony sees this as a huge worldwide opportunity, and it is eager to make the film.”
Sony certainly is keen on maximising the potential of franchises – both old and new. With relatively recent efforts to reinvigorate James Bond and Men In Black, they have also tapped 16 Blocks scribe Richard Wenk to write a sequel to Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer (also written by Wenk) – even though it is not released for another six months.
Confirming their eagerness, and in support of Reitman’s decision to vacate the director’s chair on this occasion, Chairperson of Sony’s Columbia Pictures, Amy Pascal, responded:
“We totally understood. He was thinking he might feel that way when Harold died, and then came back to us and confirmed it, that while he was excited to return and make the movie as producer, but did not feel he wanted to direct the movie. We are delighted to work with Ivan on this movie in that capacity. We love him, and he’s going to continue to play an important role. We’re very anxious to get the movie started.”
So, now we know it is definitely happening, and that Reitman will produce, but what about the rest of the jigsaw puzzle?
“I’m not going to say how many Ghostbusters there will be in the new cast, but we are determined to retain the spirit of the original film, and I am pleased that all of this seems to have happened organically. I’m hoping we can get started by the fall, set in New York, but given the logistics and the stuff that happens, the beginning of 2015 seems more likely.”
Hmm. “…the logistics and the stuff that happens…” The mind boggles. Giant men made of marshmallows and walking national monuments are so passé these days. Then there’s the casting process, of course – about which no announcements have been made – and the small matter of finding a director willing to take on what will surely be one of the most anticipated projects of recent times.
The big question then, is who would be your all-new Ghostbusters dream team? How about Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig? Maybe throw some Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio into the supporting mix there, and add a dash of John C. Reilly in the bad guy role? Truly, any casting announcement – when it happens – will be a corker.
Until then, we must simply take comfort in the words of Ivan Reitman, and trust that he will oversee the careful crafting of this next instalment with all the love and devotion he poured into the first two classics. Until we see it with our own eyes, however, this project will divide fans of the originals in the same way that it seems to have divided Murray from the rest of the original team – those that want the franchise r-booted, and those that think any such effort smacks of Sony trying to milk an old cash-cow.
Either way, it is official. Ghostbusters 3. Light is green, trap is (hopefully) clean.