After 27 years and countless stabs at mounting a comeback, a new Ghostbusters film finally made its way to theaters this weekend despite the caustic cries of a small contingent of fans who objected to the sex of the film’s main characters. Ghostbusters is being counted as a success thanks to a solid (but not jaw-dropping) $46 million opening, but the critical response has ranged from positive to mixed. While the gripes vary, many are centered on the belief that the remake found a way to both fail in its effort to match the chemistry of the original and that it tried too hard to get that result. But while some of those failures may have been inevitable, they may not have been in vain.
Looking to the original, producer/director Paul Feig clearly recognized the need to bring together a group that had a history in an effort to replicate the chemistry. Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Kristen Wiig are all current or recent Saturday Night Live cast members (though, Wiig left just after McKinnon arrived and before Jones) and Melissa McCarthy, no stranger to SNL herself, has worked with Feig four times. Two of those — Ghostbusters and Bridesmaids — teamed her with Wiig. This mirrors the bond shared by Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd as SNL compatriots for four seasons and Murray’s close working relationships with both Harold Ramis and producer/director Ivan Reitman, who directed him in Meatballs and Stripes. There’s a big difference, though: The original Ghostbusters group, for the most part, crafted the film’s story together, whereas Feig and his co-writer, Kate Dippold, more or less handed down their script to the cast.
Here’s Reitman, shedding a little light on the process of constructing the original in an interview with The Daily Beast:
“We had no time! From conception to delivery in a theater it was only 13 months. I think there was something about being forced to do it so quickly that we were totally relying on our instincts, complemented by a group of actors who were really my co-writers as well. So we were all sort of creating together.”
“At the same time we had all worked together before so there was a wonderful comfort in knowing you were working with family who had your back. I mean, I could turn to Harold [Ramis] at some point and say, ‘You’ve got to give me something better than this, we’re in real trouble here.’ People were improvising and doing funny things and I was working like hell to try to contain it into something that was tonally consistent for the whole movie.”
There was, of course, improv and last minute tweaking on the set of the new film. Chris Hemsworth’s best lines reportedly emerged as a part of that process and Feig is known for encouraging improvisation. But there was no hierarchy between writers and actors on the set of the original since they were one and the same in the case of Aykroyd and Ramis, with Murray pulling many of his lines out of thin air while filming. It’s that uncommon flexibility between Ivan Reitman and his frequent collaborators that had a hand in producing a tightly paced film whose story was enhanced by the unforced dynamic between actors who were in control of the story and reading lines that they authored. That level of collaboration might have benefited the remake considering the talent of the cast, even if would be highly irregular for a tentpole film with a $145 million budget and the weight of being a franchise reboot.