Ever since Ghostbusters 2 premiered in 1989, there's been talk of a third movie. For nearly 20 years, various scripts and ideas and rumours circulated until Paul Feig's new reboot, opening July 14, finally put the possibility to rest. We spoke with original film's director Ivan Reitman, as well as Feig, about what actually happened with Ghostbusters 3. "I was working on a more traditional pass-the-torch sequel," Reitman said. "I was working on it with Harold [Ramis], Danny [Aykroyd] and Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, two very funny writers. We had a great script. We actually had a script in which Bill Murray dies in the first five minutes because that was the only way he was going to do it. And he was a ghost character for part of it. They're passing the torch on to a group of younger Ghostbusters, one of which was Oscar, Bill's supposed son from the second movie. It's not clear if its his son or not. And it was very funny."
Things we were looking good. Sony Pictures greenlit the film and everything was progressing, but then tragedy struck.
"Unfortunately in sort of the last half year of development or so, Harold got really sick and about a year later he passed away," Reitman continued. "And I realised there was no way I could do this film. If I was going to do Ghostbusters, I had to do it with the Ghostbusters. I was not interested in doing another Ghostbusters movie without Harold and with Bill sort of dragging his heels."
With Reitman's desire to make the movie gone, he made a deal with Sony to allow the studio to continue pursuing things in the franchise. Which is when Ivan Reitman called one of the best comedy directors out there, Paul Feig.
"Paul came along with an idea to basically reboot it and still pay tribute to the original," Reitman said. "And he already had Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig interested in doing it. So I said 'This is a no-brainer. These are two of the funniest women in the world,' much in the way Bill and Danny were when I did it. So we started working with Paul."
This is where Ghostbusters 3 becomes the new Ghostbusters, which in recent weeks has been officially (but quietly) retitled by Sony as Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, to differentiate it from the original film.
"When Ivan first contacted me there had been two scripts written, one by friends of mine, Lee and Gene, and then Etan Cohen had done one and they were really good scripts," Feig told us. "The problem for me creatively was I didn't like the idea that the Ghostbusters had been forgotten. I love Ghostbusters 2 but I always bumped on that at the beginning. They're disgraced? After saving New York? It felt like you have to crawl out of the morass to do that in a way. I didn't respond to [it]. And also I didn't want [the new characters] to be handed the keys to the kingdom in a kingdom that had already seen these ghost attacks."
Feig's comedic and dramatic sensibilities simply didn't connect with the plans Reitman, Ramis and Aykroyd had been working on all those years. He pitched something different.
"I can only get inspired by stories of underdogs," Feig continued. "The idea of, 'Wait, if we start this again in today's world where we've never seen a ghost... that would be a much different experience. Then on top of it, I know how to tell a story about people who are undervalued. Who don't know their place in the world and who people think aren't worth their weight. So a story about those people who are right and end up proving that they're right by saving the world? That I have juice for."
The result is a Ghostbusters that pays tribute to the original film in numerous ways, but has a different, more epic story, with a more modern sense of action and humour — all things that Ghostbusters 3 may not have had.
"I couldn't figure out how to do [that movie]," Feig said. "[Maybe] somebody else could've. When people get mad at me about it, [I say] 'They came to me.' That's all I can tell you, 'They came to me.' So I'm sorry."
But if you're hoping to get a peek at what Ghostbusters 3 might have been, there's still hope. We asked Reitman if there was ever a way fans might get to see that original script — perhaps as a book?
"That's an interesting idea," he said. "We've not talked about it. I think it's a complicated rights issue. But I guess Columbia owns them so it would be up to them."
Ghostbusters open July 14. We'll have much more on the film soon.