Jason Reitman Explains the Care That Went Into Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s Biggest Surprise

Jason Reitman Explains the Care That Went Into Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s Biggest Surprise
We're finally looking under the hood of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. (Image: Sony Pictures)

The third act of Ghostbusters: Afterlife is filled with huge reveals. Some of them, even if you haven’t seen the film, you probably know about — like the fact that Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson all appear, reprising their roles from the original. Others, however, have still remained relatively secret despite the film having been in theatres for over a month. The biggest comes right at the end, and in a new interview, the film’s co-writer and director Jason Reitman finally discussed the long, careful process that led to the surprising scene.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife leads up to a moment where the kids from the film are about to defeat Gozer and get help from the original Ghostbusters. But even the original Ghostbusters aren’t enough and that’s when the ghost of Egon Spengler, played by the late Harold Ramis, shows up. Now, whether you like this choice or not (we honestly did not), it was a big swing and Reitman acknowledged that fact in an excellent, expansive interview with Empire.

“The first person that ever read the script was my father, and after my father it was the Ramis family,” Reitman said. “It was Harold’s widow, Erica, and daughter Violet, who I grew up knowing — we were both on the set of the original back in ‘83. I talked to them about what we wanted to do, how we were going to do it. They came to set, and they viewed visual effects that came to the editing room. They’re the first people to ever actually see the movie. So they were part of this movie from start to finish and I think they were aware of how much I wanted to honour Harold. Egon was my favourite Ghostbuster. This is a Spengler story, and this movie is dedicated to him in every way.”

Even with the family fully on board, though, there still is the task of making the effect live up to that reverence. Plus, Reitman explained, there was even more pressure since they framed the entire movie around the reveal.

“So the real question was ‘how do we pull this off?’,” he continued. “Anyone who enjoys movies has now seen examples of virtual characters that really work and virtual characters that are difficult to look at. It’s one thing to see in the middle of a movie, where it kind of comes and goes. It’s another thing if the whole climax of the movie will be decided on whether or not you believe these two people are hugging each other, that a daughter is forgiving her father and saying goodbye to him. And that these Ghostbusters, who have gone through this misunderstanding and been broken apart, get to stand next to each other one more time and bust a ghost.”

On set, Egon was played by Bob Gunton, best known as the warden in The Shawshank Redemption, and the visual effects house MPC did the rest. You can read a detailed breakdown of that process over at the Wrap. Ultimately though, whether the reveal worked for you or not, knowing the care that everyone involved with Ghostbusters: Afterlife put into that moment is a testament not just to their characters, but their adoration for the fictional characters and profound love and respect for Harold Ramis.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is still in some theatres, but it’ll be available digitally on January 4 and on Blu-ray and 4K February 1.

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Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.