pop culture memory lane

10 Things We Learned From Vanity Fair’s Ghostbusters Story

GHOSTBUSTERS, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, 1984. (c) Columbia Pictures/ Courtesy: Everett Collection.
Photo: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

To mark the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters’ release, Vanity Fair put together a long feature on the making of the the 1984 comedy classic, interviewing key players including Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and Ivan Reitman (no Bill Murray, sadly). While we’ve heard some of the anecdotes before — and we don’t mind hearing them again! — there were also some interesting new and lesser-known details sprinkled throughout. Here are the most interesting tidbits:

1. Slimer really was modeled on Belushi
It’s already a pretty well-known bit of Ghostbusters lore that Aykroyd, while on set, referred to Slimer as “The Ghost of John Belushi,” and that Belushi was rumored to have served as an inspiration for the character. But here Aykroyd finally confirms outright that the gelatinous ghoul was “based on John’s body,” adding “I will admit to having an inspiration along those lines.”

2. Ghostbusters was very much a product of the entrepreneurial ‘80 business climate
Director Ivan Reitman says that, after reading Aykroyd’s “exhausting” first draft, he came up with a new idea for the movie’s central premise: that the Ghostbusters would go into business. As he puts it: “This was beginning of the 1980s: Everyone was going into business.” So basically, if the movie came out now, the Ghostbusters would probably own a tech startup.

3. They cut a scene featuring dead celebrities
In the original shooting script, there is a shot of the interior of the “containment unit”/storage facility (which was originally not in the basement, but in a Sunoco gas station in New Jersey), whose tenants included “the moping spirits of famous dead people.” 

4. Eddie Murphy was never going to be Winston Zeddemore
Despite widely believed rumors, Reitman denies that Murphy was in the running to play Winston Zeddemore, saying he “was never a consideration.” Zeddemore needed to be an audience proxy who had things explained to him, and “[Ernie Hudson] had this wonderful, likeable, kind of naïve quality, and I just cast him.” 

5. When Sigourney Weaver met Bill Murray, he turned her upside down, literally
Weaver describes meeting Bill Murray on set for the first time, standing outside the New York public library. “I went over and I introduced myself and he said, ‘Hello, Susan,’” she explains. “[Then] he picked me up and put me over his shoulder and walked down the block with me. … It was a great metaphor for what happened to me in the movie: I was just turned upside down and I think I became a much better actress for it.” 

6. They weren’t officially called the “Ghostbusters” until pretty late in the game
It was recently revealed, via some rare outtakes from the film, that there were other possible company names in the running, including the “Ghostbreakers” and “Ghoststoppers.” The article clarifies the story behind this, explaining that there had been a ‘70s children’s show called The Ghost Busters, and the gang didn’t know till well into shooting whether they would be able to use the name. As a result, they had to create a few alternate signs to post outside the firehouse headquarters. They were finally pushed to get the name cleared when they shot a scene featuring hundreds of extras on Central Park West yelling, “Ghostbusters! Ghostbusters!” over and over again. “I got on a payphone and called Burbank and said, ‘You guys have got to clear that name,” associate producer Joe Medjuck recalls.

7. Oscar will be a Ghostbuster in Ghostbusters III (if there is ever a Ghostbusters III)
Sigourney Weaver says she told Ivan Reitman that she had “one condition” for the sequel, which was that she wanted her son Oscar [from Ghostbusters II] to be a Ghostbuster, and Reitman responded, “We’ve already done that.’” Other than that, updates on Ghostbusters III were limited. In a statement to VF, the president of Columbia Pictures simply said: “We are currently working hard to re-create the magic of the original in order to bring a new Ghostbusters adventure to life.” Reitman also indicated there were no hard feelings about Murray’s lack of interest in the project, explaining, “Bill’s had a life change in what he wants to do as an actor and God bless him.”

8. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man caught fire a bunch of times during shooting
“I think we built nine different suits,” says effects man Richard Edlund, “and several of them went up in flames.” 

9. Winston Zeddemore might be the Ghostbusters CEO now
We’ve already heard Rick Moranis say he thought Louis Tully would be Bernie Madoff’s future cellmate, but here we also got some speculation on the fate of Winston Zeddemore. Ernie Hudson says he envisions Zeddemore as “the C.E.O. of the Ghostbusters franchise. I just hope that he wouldn’t be on a walker or [in] a wheelchair.”

10. Three of the Ghostbusters are basically the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man
When re-working the main characters in scriptwriting sessions, Aykroyd says that he, Harold Ramis, and Reitman drew on a number of Hollywood archetypes – one notable one in particular. “Put [the characters of Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, and Egon Spengler] together, and you have the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man,” says Aykroyd. Pretty awesome, right?

10 New Tidbits from VF’s Ghostbusters Story