At first, Paul Feig didn’t want to make a Ghostbusters movie at all. When Ivan Reitman, the co-writer and director of the original film, called him to discuss directing a new one, he was flattered… and he was still ready to say “No.”
“Your mind kind of blows up,” Feig, the director of Bridesmaids and Spy, told us. “Because I’m such a fan of the original movies and was there opening weekend. You start to go, ‘Oh, God! The stuff that they couldn’t do,’ or the stuff that, watching it again and again, you wish they could have done. Then you’re like, ‘Ooo, this will be fun,’ even though it took a while for me to find my way into it.”
But even then, Feig realised that a more traditional sequel to the original movie didn’t interest him. There were already two scripts that took that approach and he didn’t connect to either. But he had another idea: Something new. Something more modern. A reboot about underdogs played by some of the funniest, most famous comediennes on the planet. At the same time, a film that was still inherently Ghostbusters.
“What do we love about the first Ghostbusters?” That was the question he and co-writer Katie Dippold asked themselves as they approached the challenge. “Very quickly, we said the Ecto-1. We want to see the slime, all those trappings. So then you take those and go, ‘Well, now we have to tell a new story.’ We don’t necessarily want to tell an entrepreneurial story which, if you look at the first one, it’s really about starting a business and that kind of thing. Government regulations. That was such a Reagan-era story. That’s why it’s so great.”
But that approach wouldn’t work in 2016. Instead, Feig and Dippold wanted to make a film that celebrated the original while being a bit more grounded in reality (so to speak). It’s a world where ghosts exist, so they wanted to come up with an explanation for them that made sense.
“It was important to go, ‘OK, I don’t want it to be about the gods got angry and sent their minions down,'” Feig said, referencing the original. “What I want to do is [create] a potential terrorist who’s smart enough to come up with technology that can [bring back ghosts]. That’s scary to me… a science[-y] way that these ghosts would come back, and we just kind of let it run from there.”
This was a major difference from the original Ghostbusters, but it wasn’t what first attracted a small, very vocal, minority who have hated and denigrated the movie since it was first announced that the new film would reboot the franchise with women as the stars.
“I wasn’t prepared for the scale of commentary,” said Reitman. “[However], when you look at it from my point of view, it’s kind of a tribute and compliment. It was a tribute to the importance of the first movie to their movie-going lives. [People] saying that Ghostbusters is a seminal film experience for themselves. I said, ‘Wow, that’s cool. I’m not going to get in the way of that.'”
It’s a compliment of sorts, but not one helpful to Feig or his cast. Once you’ve actually seen the film, it’s obvious that every decision Feig made, from the new villain, to new characters and especially all the references, all came from a singular desire: Reintroduce the Ghotsbusters to a new generation, an audience that likes things bigger, brighter, but also more clear-cut and connected. But he didn’t do it without acknowledging and respecting what came first.
Of course, Feig also realised it’s not enough to just put the Ecto-1, Slimer or the firehouse HQ into the film. There has to be a reason for them beyond being an Easter egg for the fans.
“There are just so many [references] that were fun,” Feig said. “And the fact that we did an origin story, it was fun for us to go, like, ‘Oh, let’s show how this came into being.’ You know, with the logo and the Ecto and even the proton pack.”
Even the Proton pack has a bit of an evolution in Feig’s film. “In the original one, it’s great. Here it is, it’s all set,” said Feig. ” [In our film it’s] yeah, this would start as a giant thing and I want to see Holtzmann [Kate McKinnon’s character] learning from her field tests how to miniaturise. Then we worked with a guy from MIT who was vetting all our fake technology so it could at least be in a science world as accurate.”
Whether or not that thinking works in practice once the film is out, it’s not something you can’t possibly show in a trailer. Both Reitman and Feig look at the release of the first Ghostbusters trailer as the jumping point for the bulk of the hate.
“I don’t make movies to make trailers,” Feig said. “My movies have always had problems trailering. It’s just my style of comedy. My style requires that you sit with these characters and you get in the rhythm of what they do.”
“A trailer is a selling tool, but the only thing I put all my energy into was making this experience,” he continued. “That’s my area of expertise, giving you a complete movie. Whether I do it effectively or not that’s for people to decide. But, at the same time, I’m human. I get very insulted and angered by stuff.”
To punch back at the online haters, there is a scene where the Ghostbusters make fun of angry online comments, and the scene was something Feig simply felt he had to do.
“There was always going to place where we had some mean comment from the internet.” he said. “But we played around with what it would be and wrote a bunch of [alternate dialogue] that day. [The joke in the film] was the one where it just says it all. We hit it and we moved past it. I don’t want to wallow in that and I don’t want to take revenge on people, so you just want to have your one little shot across the bow.”
Despite that jab, the co-writer and director really hopes people give the film a shot. If they don’t like it, he’s cool, but he just wants a shot.
“Let’s see what happens,” Feig concludes. “I just want to see if this movie does well, because who knows? All the controversy around it, I don’t want that to cloud the fact that we made a movie and the only goal was to make people laugh and have a good time. So I hope they just give us our day in court.”