While watching the pleasant Monday Surprise that was this weekend’s Ghost Town, we were disappointed by one tiny aspect of the movie. (Spoilers ahead, though if you’ve ever seen a movie you totally already know this stuff.) When the icy heart of misanthropic dead-people-seeing dentist Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) finally melts and he begins helping Manhattan’s ghosts find peace in the afterlife, we’re treated to a surprisingly poignant montage of Pincus talking to bereaved survivors while ghosts beatifically whoosh away into Heaven or nothingness or whatever. But while we get to see the old-lady ghost’s daughter read one last letter from her mom, and the biker ghost’s girlfriend delivered a helmet, we never find out what it is that binds the movie’s funniest specter to earth: Naked Guy Ghost!
How did he die? Why was he naked when he died? Did they film a scene of Ricky Gervais delivering clothes to his naked widow that wound up on the cutting-room floor? The movie frustratingly leaves these questions unanswered. So we asked Naked Guy Ghost himself, who was played by UCBT favorite Jeff Hiller.
“The script barely mentions him,” says Hiller, and writer-director David Koepp never offered Hiller any details, other than to stress that Naked Guy Ghost wears Hiller’s own glasses. But that didn’t stop Hiller from working his own backstory for Naked Guy Ghost! A trader with a Wall Street firm, Naked Guy died while naked hot-tubbing on a company trip in the Hamptons. “After extensive ribbing from his co-workers for being so uptight, he did something daring for the first time in his life,” says Hiller. “He took off his bathing suit and hung it on a ficus tree and jumped in the hot tub. But one of the other traders stole the suit, and when he got out, he freaked, ran for cover on the wet deck, and slipped and fell on his head. The fall was fatal.”
So what does Naked Guy Ghost need from Bertram Pincus, D.D.S.? “Naked Guy’s mom thinks he was some kind of pervert. She thinks she didn’t know her son at all. He needs Pincus to explain to his mom that he wasn’t up to no good,” Hiller says, solemnly. “It’s more tragic than Shakespeare, right?”
Sadly, no redemptive ending was ever filmed for Naked Guy Ghost, but Hiller certainly got plenty of revealing scenes. “I was standing in what amounts to a flesh-colored G-string on Fifth Avenue and 95th Street,” Hiller remembers. “Double-decker buses drove by, and people would yell, ‘RICKY! I LOVE EXTR—’ and then they would see my doughy white body. I feel both pride and humiliation.”