After months of dealing with all the Internet noise surrounding the lead-up to the new Ghostbusters, the reboot”s co-writer found herself in a peaceful, picturesque place as the movie hit theaters: Hawaii.
Katie Dippold, who co-wrote Ghostbusters with Paul Feig (her second feature with him, following The Heat), is in Oahu – though for work, not vacation, in the midst of production for her untitled mother-daughter comedy starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.
Dippold was en route to the movie”s first night shoot when I talked with her yesterday evening (late afternoon Hawaii time). “If I sound distant, I”m lost, trying to find my way to set on this island,” she said shortly after we got on the phone.
But she stayed engaged in the conversation throughout our 30-minute chat (and made it safely to set), recalling plenty of laughter-inducing moments from the Ghostbusters production, describing the some of the many scenes that were cut from the four hour-plus first cut (!!), and defending the creative choices that she and Feig got slammed for repeatedly.
Warning: spoilers ahead for the new Ghostbusters movie!
Read on to learn about the sad-funny alternative version Sigourney Weaver”s cameo, what Kevin”s dog looks like, and which Ghostbuster was originally supposed to play the role ultimately given to Leslie Jones.
HitFix: Well, congratulations! You made it to opening weekend.
Katie Dippold: Thank you. I know. I”m so relieved it”s finally out.
First thing I wanted to ask you: Once you knew which four women were set for your cast, in what ways did the script change? In addition to any ad-libbing on set, what kind of writing were you able to do that was geared toward each of these comedic talents?
You know, I don”t know that we actually changed the script that much. I think Kate McKinnon, we had in both our heads. I think we just knew that they would ad-lib and bring their own energy to it anyways.
You had Kate McKinnon in mind when you were writing Holtzmann?
A little bit… [Feig] said, “Let”s just write four characters and then see what makes the most sense.” He had talked about her for that character.
The whole cast is great, but Kate McKinnon is really the breakout star here. She”s just so wonderfully weird.
That's the thing. She“s just so different and unusual, but I think it really inspired a lot of that character. There“s something about her that's so different and one of a kind in real life.
That moment when she smashes the guitar and she says, “Sorry, I can”t buy you another one” – I gotta know whether any of that was ad-libbed.
I cannot remember for the life of me. I know I didn”t come up with that. I have to imagine that was planned with Paul. I can't imagine she just grabbed it and broke it, but she may have ad-libbed that line.
Good to know you guys were prepared with a smash-ready guitar, I suppose.
I assume! With Kate, you never know.
Chris Hemsworth leading the dance – was that cut from earlier in the movie and put in the credits?
That”s something Paul wanted to do since the very beginning. In editing he said that something about it was slowing it down. He was really torn about it, so he took it out. Then it was playing faster and better. Then he thought later, put it in the credits, which people seemed to enjoy.
I'm glad that he put it somewhere because the dancing coordinator – this guy was so awesome. Every time we would be shooting, you would look to the side and see this coordinator and Chris practicing this dance. It was so fun.
Has there been any talk of putting that dance routine on the DVD as its own deleted scene or featurette separate from the credits?
I'm pretty sure he's going to. There”s just so much stuff that was cut from the movie. Paul said the first cut of the movie was four hours and 15 minutes long.
Paul Feig and Katie Dippold, who also appeared in front of the camera in Ghostbusters as a real estate agent. Photo credit: Columbia Pictures
What else was particularly difficult for you to let go of in those cuts?
There”s a lot of stuff with Rowan, with Neil Casey. I don't know if you”ve ever seen him perform at Upright Citizens Brigade, but he”s the best improviser in the world. He's so goddamned funny. Every time we would do a take, he would do something that was so funny, and he would make everyone die laughing.
Every character just has moments. When Holtzmann goes and knocks on the door when Abby”s possessed in the bathroom, there are so many different takes of that. Right now she sings a little bit about a sandwich, but there was one take where she sings from beginning to end the whole walk. She just belted out this song – it was amazing – about it being sandwich time.
There better be tons of great content on the DVD.
I really think the DVD is going to be fun.
I realized we never got to see Kevin“s dog, Mike Hat. He never actually brings his dog to work, does he?
We actually talked a lot about ways to see Mike Hat. There”s even a version written where they”re on the roof having that beautiful moment, and Erin looks out of the corner of her eye and she”s like, “What is that? Is that Mike Hat?” and you just see this crazy looking dog sitting there.
What kind of dog is Mike Hat?
Oh, I forgot! You know what else was another thing that was cut that I really loved, another Kevin moment: We also had this thing where Kevin realizes at a certain point in the movie that he just didn”t pay attention to what they did there, and there”s a moment after the Martin Heiss ghost incident that he realizes, “Oh my god, this is crazy. Ghosts are real. This is insane.” He”s having a big freak-out.
Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, and Melissa McCarthy in Ghostbusters. Photo credit: Columbia Pictures
That”s one thing that”s definitely different about your movie. In the original, everybody is believing in ghosts pretty quickly and the Ghostbusters are recognized as heroes. Why did you decide to have your Ghostbusters dealing with the skeptics for pretty much the whole movie?
There”s a couple reasons. When we first started thinking about it, and the main thing is that no scientist believes in the paranormal anymore. Scientists scoff at a ghost hunting-type show. You”re not going to find a parapsychology department in college now. That led to thinking about the character Erin, who is trying to make it in a prestigious university and doesn”t want to anyone to know about this past that she”s embarrassed about where she seems like a crazy person. For me I just feel like today everyone is always looking for this validation and is always trying to prove something. Like with social media, putting up these appearances. We both really wanted the message: People, just being your authentic self, no matter how weird that may be.
It gives us a nice element to Abby and Erin”s friendship where Abby”s the one who stood by Ghost Girl when no one else believed her.
Yeah. Abby was the type of friend, or just the kind of person that I would aim to be. That kind of confidence of not caring what people think about you and just looking like a lunatic and being fine with that. I wish when I was in high school that I wasn”t more caught up in things that I was caught up in. How much fun would it be if I had these three strange friends and we would just do weird things together. We”d go ghost hunting together. I probably would have had a much better time.
Just seeing Paul, who is so amazing at doing friendship stories – I”ve learned a lot from him. I tend to avoid anything that could feel overly sentimental or mushy. He”s always pushed me to tap into it, which I”m grateful for. I”d [otherwise] try to undercut something with a joke.
There was once a version where you do see Erin can”t quite be okay with being made a fool of, and she has an argument with Abby about it, then rejoins the team again. There”s something about it that didn”t quite feel right. I don”t know if it”s just the spirit of Ghostbusters, that you don't want to break up this team that”s working together
Tell me about the part when Abby and Erin are looking at those YouTube comments – how did you figure out how to wink at your detractors?
Before we even started writing, we”d already been given a hard time online. We didn”t start off like, “We're going to show them.” It totally was woven into the story that Erin is looking for people to believe in what she”s doing, and she”s just not going to get that validation on the Internet. The original line was a little bit more crass. Erin reached a comment that says, “I want to slap dem with dis dick.”
Of the many criticisms you guys got before the movie came out, there”s one I want to ask about. Having Leslie Jones, your one black Ghostbuster, be the one Ghostbuster who”s not a scientist (unless you count Kevin). She has a historian”s knowledge of New York, but she has a blue collar job. Some folks saw that as problematic. What”s your response to that?
It all came from a good place. If you read the very first draft, I always had Melissa in mind when I was writing [the Patty character]. Just because Melissa is so funny when she”s baffled and annoyed and put up-against, being pushed her into something that flusters her. The idea of Melissa being scared and being chased by a mannequin is very amusing to me. The idea of scientists talking to Melissa and her being frustrated with them – I thought she”d be really fun. Paul thought it was a little too much like Mullins, [McCarthy“s character] from The Heat, which is probably true. Paul really wanted to have a powerhouse role, and he loved Leslie, and I also love Leslie. So it”s truly written organically. Not having a black scientist – I totally understand why people are bummed about that. I get it. All I can say is that it truly did come from a good place.
Chris Hemsworth, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, and Melissa McCarthy in Ghostbusters. Photo credit: Columbia Pictures
The movie notably lacks any kind of romantic storyline, nothing more than Erin ogling Kevin. Was there ever any pressure to give these ladies a love story subplot? Why decide not to?
I love the Bill Murray-Sigourney Weaver storyline in the original. It felt like the real love story [in the new film] was this friendship story between Abby and Erin and the four of them coming together. It was four lonely weirdos becoming a family, so that”s the love story. Also, just for me, growing up, every movie with females in it was a love story angle. I personally just wanted to break from that. I just want to shake it off for a while. I just want to let these four women be just badass and on their own. Just to be heroic and strong and not even look particularly hot while doing it.
They have very practical ghostbusting attire.
Of all the cameos with actors from the 1984 movie, which one took the most finessing, the most work to get right in the writing?
Sigourney Weaver”s, actually. We wrote the most different options for her because most of the parts were kind of already in the script. Paul was trying as much as possible to let it all service the story, not feel like we”re trying to jam these cameos in there. He wanted them all to service the story. We had a bunch of different versions for Sigourney Weaver. Then we started talking about her being Jillian”s mentor, and it just made us very happy.
Kate was so psyched when she realized. I think she saw that there was this bit with Dr. Rebecca Gorrin, and that on the call sheet it said Sigourney Weaver. “Is Sigourney Weaver my mentor?” She so panicked.
Aww. So she didn”t find out that was Sigourney Weaver”s cameo until she saw the call sheet the day of her shoot?
I”m pretty sure it was the day of. I just remember her eyes were wide with excitement when she saw the call sheet.
What were some other versions of Weaver”s cameo that you wrote?
I hate to even say this one out loud because I feel terrible – there was a moment in the middle of the movie when no one believes [the Ghostbusters], and they”re in traffic in Times Square. A woman sees their car and walks up to them and is like, “Hey, I want you guys to know that I think what you're doing is great work, and I thank you for it.” They”re like “Wow! Thank you so much. That means a lot.” Then they see her walk up to another random person on the street – “I want you to know that what I think you're doing is great work…”
You just see their faces fall as they drive away.
The post-credits sequence left things very sequel-ready. Where do things stand with that?
Oh, man. I have no idea. I can't let myself think of that too much. I just hope that this one works and that people like it and they want to see more. It would be really fun to do a sequel. We”ve set everything up, and it would be really cool to now just take these characters and now go off with it. Do something totally crazy and new. We”ll just have to see.