Here’s how to read between the lines of Ivan Reitman’s ‘Ghostbusters’ comment

07.30.15 2 years ago

Sony Pictures

Ivan Reitman just issued an official statement via Eric Reich, who handles publicity for The Montecito Picture Company, Reitman's company. It's very pointed, and I think there's a rock solid reason for him to make the statement right now. Here it is, exactly as it was sent over.

“There has been a lot of excitement recently about what is happening with the Ghostbusters franchise. As the producer of the new Ghostbusters film, I feel the need to clarify. There is only one new Ghostbusters movie and that is the Paul Feig directed version coming next July, presently filming and going fantastically.  The rest is just noise.”

First, what I see here above anything else is a producer standing behind his director. He is right. Paul Feig is the only person making a “Ghostbusters” movie right now. The more I see from Feig's film, the more I'm excited to see how it all comes together. I am already absolutely fascinated by Kate McKinnon's character's appearance, and I like that they've retained the handmade aesthetic of the original.

At this point, the entire gender conversation is the least interesting part of what he's doing. If you know Feig's work, you know that he's serious about making films that do not start from the standard default of “white guy lead character,” and that's all you really need to say about it. If anything, it's sad that Feig still looks like the outlier here. More than anything, Feig is a guy who loves comic voices, and takes genuine pleasure in bouncing different performers off each other in scenes. When he ends up on a set where you've got Matt Lucas, Rebel Wilson, and Kristen Wiig playing scenes together, he's in heaven because of just how insane a combination of voices that is. And what he gets out of his performers is unfettered because they know they're safe and that he's their first and biggest fan.

So it's important for Reitman to say that he is all-in on the movie that they're making right now. I think there's one line in there, though, that is a weird sideways cheap shot. When he says, “the rest is just noise,” that's not true. If “noise” is defined as “we know we want to get in on this shared-universe business that everyone else is chasing right now, and we've had writers generate material for us,” then yeah, I guess it's noise. But that is a dismissive way of talking about it, and part of what they're reacting to happened because Drew Pearce has been giving interviews about his work on “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.” While people have been seizing on the comments he made about “Ghostbusters,” it's what's going on between-the-lines that I find noteworthy.

Drew Pearce was one of the credited writers on “Iron Man 3,” along with the film's director, Shane Black. He was also hired to write a third “Sherlock Holmes” for Guy Ritchie, and he's one of the new guys who filmmakers are turning to when they're building a franchise movie. It's a good business to be in, but a weird one. It is entirely possible to make a healthy living as a guy working on movies right now who never actually has a script that he wrote from start to finish produced. In fact, it's more likely that most professional screenwriters will not have that experience. You have an idea, you turn that idea into a script, you interest someone in that script, you get someone to pay to make it, and then you watch the final film and it is that thing you wrote. That's a weird fantasy version of the scenario, at least within the studio system. Instead, ideas are apparently generated now by an algorithm that takes anything produced before the year 2000, the words “sequel,” “reboot,” “update,” “remake,” “prequel” and “homage,” and five different director's names, and spits out the tentpole title for the just-claimed release date of Memorial Day 2057.

Drew Pearce was brought in to do some stuff on “Ghostbusters.” That seems to be beyond dispute. One of the most important quotes from Pearce was in response to the idea that Sony immediately started developing an “all-male” version of the film as a response to people who disliked the female-driven casting in Feig's film. Pearce called that idea “gross,” and went on to say, “That's what's kind of vaguely appalling, is the idea of going, “Have to have a male one.' It wasn't like that at all. It was much more organic, just from conversation between me and the Russo brothers who are producing it and Channing and his people originally.”

So, he not only refutes the idea of the “all-male” overreaction, but he seems to be pretty specific about who was involved and in what way. And to me, that seems to be worth something other than a casual dismissal as “noise” from one of the key creative players in the world of “Ghostbusters.”

Sony, go ahead and embrace the idea that “Ghostbusters” is big enough to be a world. It is. Totally. We know you're doing it, and you know you're doing it. I get almost stupidly angry at conversations about more “Terminator” movies because I feel like that is a case of a franchise mirage. It looks like a franchise, but it's not. It doesn't have enough meat on the bones to genuinely carry a whole series of movies. “Genysys” is so weird as an exercise in franchise filmmaking that I sort of think they should teach it in schools. It's working SO HARD to try to make any of it interesting or fresh or fun, and it's just sweaty and dull, no matter what they try. “Ghostbusters” has always suggested an endless amount of potential. Once you accept that ghosts can be captured and quantified, then you can have localized casts from all over the world, telling stories that don't have to be about the end of the world every time. You can just have a big challenging fun case, with a mystery to solve at the heart of it, and a great comedy cast that will come ready to play.

What comedy performer working right now would turn down the chance to be a Ghostbuster? Sony doesn't have to rush to announce things, and I get why they want to keep all of the attention on Feig's movie right now. That's exactly right. Yes. They are making one film, and they are selling one film, and that's all they should do. But when making statements like the one Reitman put out today, there's no need to dismiss everything else you're interested in doing. It almost felt like they were punishing Pearce and the Russos and Tatum just for having the conversation, and there may well be contract language that makes the Pearce interview an indiscretion. Whatever the case, it seems to have bothered Reitman enough that he had to make an official statement about it. It's interesting that Sony hasn't issued a statement of their own, and it feels like this was handled in an odd way overall.

I am genuinely dying to see a trailer for Feig's movie sooner rather than later. I'm so curious and I have a feeling Feig's going to come out swinging. He loves the cast he's built, and the right trailer's going to silence a whole bunch of naysayers in one fell swoop. I still remember the first teaser trailer for the original “Ghostbusters.” I saw it for the first time in front of “A Christmas Story” in December of '83, and I was immediately hooked on the concept of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis fighting ghosts. I didn't care what the story was. I just wanted to see those people kicking some ghost ass, just like Bill Murray promised. I want the first glimpse we get of this cast to be that same sort of promise, an invitation to something big and crazy and fun next year.

We'll see when “Ghostbusters” arrives in theaters July 22, 2016.

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