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Like its plucky team of paranormal heroes, “Ghostbusters” overcame massive odds and hurdles to win the hearts and minds of the world.


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Ghostbusters was a pop culture phenomenon. This unique blend of horror, sci-fi, and action, led by a cast of talented comedic actors, was an instant hit. The infectious theme song, by Ray Parker Jr., had everyone proud to proclaim that Busting made us feel good.

After Columbia University gives them the ax, three parapsychology professors, Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) start their own business called Ghostbusters. They’re ghost exterminators who combine parapsychology and science to capture and eliminate ghosts.

After getting his attention, Environmental Protection Agency Inspector Walter Peck shows up at the Ghostbusters’ headquarters. The Ghostbusters refuse to allow Peck to inspect their equipment. Peck shuts down their equipment and has them arrested. Peck unwittingly unleashes supernatural chaos in New York City by deactivating their equipment.

The Ghostbusters find themselves face-to-face in a battle against a powerful spirit called Gozer.

Ghostbusters was the second-highest-grossing film of 1984 in the U.S. and Canada and also the then-highest-grossing comedy ever.

The film held the top spot in theaters for seven consecutive weeks, grossing $282.2 million during its first run. In 2015, the Library of Congress selected Ghostbusters for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Ghostbusters was an idea brewing in Dan Aykroyd’s mind. Aykroyd believes in ghosts. “It’s the family business, for God’s sake,” he told Vanity Fair in 2014.

Aykroyd’s great-grandfather was a spiritualist. The family had their own medium who conducted seances at the family’s farmhouse in Ontario. Aykroyd’s grandfather carried on his family’s interest in the afterlife, and his father, Peter Aykroyd, published A History of Ghosts in 2009. Peter Aykroyd was a telephone engineer who researched the use of radio technology to contact the dead.

An article in a parapsychology journal on capturing ghosts got Aykroyd’s wheels turning. “And I thought, I’ll devise a system to trap ghosts… and marry it to the old ghost [films] of the 1930s,” Aykroyd told Vanity Fair. “Virtually every comedy team did a ghost movie — Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope. I was a big fan of [them.]”

Ghostbusters’ original story was more sci-fi-oriented and darker. Originally titled Ghost Smashers, it was set in the future with Ghostbusters as a global enterprise with advanced technology that allowed them to fight paranormal crime inter-dimensionally.

The four main characters represent unique archetypes: Ray is the heart, Egon is the brain, Peter is the mouth, and Winston is the soul.

Aykroyd wrote it with fellow SNL alumni John Belushi and Eddie Murphy in mind as his costars. Belushi unfortunately passed away in 1982 before Aykroyd finished the script.

Here’s an odd fun fact: Belushi did make it into the film. Aykroyd admitted that Slimer was based on Belushi’s character, Bluto, in Animal House. Recalling the gluttonous ghost, the resemblance is uncanny.

Aykroyd showed his budding script to friend and colleague, director Ivan Reitman.Reitman thought the story was brilliant, but the film would be impossible to make as it was originally written. The special effects required to bring Aykroyd’s tale to life would be too expensive. So, he teamed up with Aykroyd to rewrite a more doable film.

Ivan Reitman suggested that the story be set in modern times with Ghostbusters as a small business. Reitman also brought in Harold Ramis to help rework the script. Ramis and Reitman had a working relationship. Ghostbusters was the first time Aykroyd and Ramis worked together.

Even after reworking the script, studio executives considered the movie a financial risk. The special-effects-driven comedy required a large budget and an inexperienced director led by a cast of “former television actors.”

Vanity Fair quotes Tom Shales, veteran television critic and co-author of Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live:

“This was not Animal House or Caddyshack or Stripes […] This was a big, big gamble.”

Reitman, Aykroyd, and Ramis had one year to rewrite and shoot the film.

Frank Price, the former Columbia chairman, was told he made a huge mistake in greenlighting the project.

With limited time to work on the film, Reitman, Aykroyd, and Ramus took their families away for a weekend at Martha’s Vineyard. The three tirelessly worked on the script daily, ending their writing sessions with a huge family dinner and letting loose with some fun in the evening.

With Belushi gone, Michael Keaton and Chevy Chase were considered for the role of Venkman. Aykroyd contacted another former SNL castmate, Bill Murray. Although only half of the script was completed, Murray was interested.

Many who know Murray say that he usually isn’t fully onboard a project until the last minute. However, with Ghostbusters, he committed early to the project.

“With Meatballs, he was the star of that movie, and I didn’t know if I had him until the day before we started shooting,” Reitman told Vanity Fair.

Murray earned the nickname “Murricane”  for being  “[…] a remarkable force of nature.”

According to Aykroyd, “Whenever you can, actually put a script into Billy’s hand as if you were a process server… you gotta look him in the eye [and say], ‘You did receive this.’ ”

They all admitted later that they weren’t sure if Murray was part of the project until he showed up on the first day of filming.

Murray was one of many former SNL cast members to graduate from small screen to big by the early 1980s, along with Belushi and Chevy Chase. However, Aykroyd had been staying behind the scenes as a writer, establishing himself as an idea person.

Michael Ovitz, co-founder of the Creative Artists Agency and who represented Aykroyd and Murray at the time, describes Aykroyd as  “[…]an idea factory . . . the Mount Vesuvius of original ideas.”

Aykroyd considered casting Eddie Murphy, but Murphy was already committed to playing the lead in Beverly Hills Cop.

He wrote in a fourth character as an “every man,” someone from the outside, not part of the original band of scientists, to bring a different perspective to the story— Winston Zeddemore. Ernie Hudson recalled fighting to get an audition for Ghostbusters. Hudson had just come from making a sci-fi film, Spacehunter, in which he played an intense action hero. He was initially told he wasn’t right for the role of Winston. However, after Aykroyd saw him, he was impressed.

Sigourney Weaver was instantly cast as Dana.

At the time, Weaver was known as a dramatic actress — not a comedienne.

When she came in to audition, Reitman discovered that as a student at Yale Drama School, she was known as a comedic actress. For the script, she suggested that Dana, originally a model in the script, should be a musician instead. She also suggested that, for the ending, Dana be possessed. She acted like a dog, growling, barking, and walking on all fours.

Reitman was so impressed that he instantly cast her.

John Candy was originally cast as Lewis Tully. The storyboard for the film even includes his likeness, but Candy doesn’t care for the writer’s vision of Tully. Candy wanted to play Tully as a German man with pet rottweilers. Unable to agree, Candy stepped down. Christopher Walken, John Lithgow, and Jeff Goldblum were considered for the role of Egon Spengler.

Ramis felt he understood the character and insisted on playing Spengler himself. Grace Jones turned down playing Gozer.

Casting aside, the script still called for special effects.

At the time, most special effects teams were busy working on other films such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Return of the Jedi.

Unable to hire an established team, Reitman decided they could start their own special effects house. It just so happened that Academy Award-winning special effects artist Richard Edlund wanted to start his own effects shop. Edlund’s impressive resume included the Star Wars films, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Poltergeist.

When Reitman called, Edlund was in the hospital recovering from back surgery but agreed to do the project. Columbia Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer agreed to fund Edlund’s company since they needed effects for 2010.

“I had to put a whole company together — and lawyers ate up a lot of time,” Edlund told Vanity Fair.

“[By the time] the contract was made out, we had more like 10 months to rebuild the studio, shoot all the scenes, and composite everything. We had to build elaborate equipment. It was an incredibly ambitious amount of work.”

Associate producer Michael Gross started a creative team to design Ghostbusters’ supernatural characters. The team worked to design characters for a movie that wasn’t completely written.

Filming with a cast of improv actors kept Reitman on his toes during filming.

“What I learned… is that I’d have to be nimble,” he told Vanity Fair.

“I’d set up the scene for how it had been written: lighting, blocking — and then [Bill] would have a brilliant idea. My job was to hold onto the brilliant [script] and [yet] work fast enough to take advantage of his brilliance.”

The iconic Stay Puft Marshmellow Man was part of the original script, but how the Ghostbusters defeated him wasn’t. The cast came up with the ending on the day they shot the scene. The idea of crossing the streams was discussed earlier, and they decided to use it.

As for the grand finale, after the Marshmellow Man is destroyed, the cream that covers everyone is menthol shaving cream.

The crew mixed 500-gallon batches of it and put it in laundry bags. They dumped it onto the people in New York and the Columbia back lot where parts of the scene were filmed. Aykroyd reportedly loved the shaving cream and asked for more poured on him.

Before the film’s release, the original title, “Ghost Smashers,” was changed to “The Ghost Busters.” Aykroyd had to tweak the title, dropping “The” and making “Ghost Busters” one word.

During the 1970s, the TV production company Filmation produced a live-action 1970s series under the same name. When the film spawned an animated series, Filmation wanted to produce it but lost out in favor of DIC. Filmation released a series based on their 1970s live-action series called Ghostbusters.

The DIC animated series based on the 1984 movie was called The Real Ghostbusters. Filmation’s Ghostbusters premiered five days before Dic’s The Real Ghostbusters.

After the film’s release, there was more controversy over Ray Parker Jr.’s theme song.