If you hadn’t noticed, it’s unofficially Ghostbusters week around these parts, because the most beloved ghoul-hunting film ever is turning 30 years old and heading back to theaters. Yes, it’s actually been three decades since Bill Murray proclaimed the horror that would come with Gozar’s rule: “cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!” If you haven’t already read Burnsy’s official ranking of the Ghostbusters ghosts, get on it! (And don’t even pretend like that three-armed monster chair doesn’t still make you squirm.)
Continuing on with the celebration of all things Ghostbusting, here’s some trivia you might not know about the creation of Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd’s supernatural comedy classic.
1. The Ghostbusters’ hotline was operational. One of the classic fake commercials of film is the Ghostbusters ad, but the ad wasn’t entirely fake. The 555 number on the screen was bogus, but as part of the movie’s promotion, Ivan Reitman produced a trailer with a real 1-800 number where people could call the Ghostbusters and get a recorded message with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd saying they couldn’t make it to the phone because they were out busting ghosts.
2. The original script included John Belushi and a ghost named “Onionhead.” The original story didn’t include Bill Murray or Harold Ramis, but instead a three-man team of Dan Aykroyd, a rumored Eddie Murphy, and John Belushi (playing Venkman). Slimer was called “Onionhead” and the guys didn’t use proton packs to catch the specters, but undoubtedly inferior hand wands. After Belushi’s death, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd rewrote the script, scaling back the character of Winston and adding Egon.
3. The basic concept came to Dan Aykroyd after reading a story about trapping ghosts. Aykroyd told Vanity Fair that he was reading a parapsychology journal in his family’s farmhouse when the idea of doing a comedy about ghost hunting hit him.
“And I thought, I’ll devise a system to trap ghosts . . . and marry it to the old ghost [films] of the 1930s,” Aykroyd says. “Virtually every comedy team did a ghost movie—Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope. I was a big fan of [them.]”
4. The story was also set in the distant future. The reason the Ghostbusters make their base in an old firehouse is that Ivan Reitman and Aykroyd’s original story took place in the future and there were teams of ghostbusters all over the place, just like paramedics and firefighters. It was quickly decided that such a high concept would cost too much money and the film could only be done if set in the modern era.
5. John Candy turned down a role in the movie. If you missed the John Candy facts piece from earlier this year, the Canadian comic was offered Rick Moranis’ part of Louis Tully. The project was offered to Candy after he had already had success working with Harold Ramis and Bill Murray on Stripes, but declined the offer to focus on starring roles and a bigger paycheck. According to Ramis, Candy also wanted Louis to have a German accent and be a dog owner, Ramis and Aykroyd felt this wouldn’t fit well with the hell hounds that ultimately go after Louis.
6. Pee Wee was supposed to be Gozer. Paul Reubens wasn’t yet known as Pee Wee Herman when Dan Aykroyd approached him about playing ghost god Gozer. In fact, the Gozer that Aykroyd had in mind was originally intended to first take on a human form as Ivo Shandor, the ghost building’s architect. After Reubens passed, Aykroyd rewrote the role to be the punk-esque woman that we see in the film.
7. Ron Jeremy plays an extra. Jeremy plays an extra behind the police barricade as the Ghostbusters arrive just before the ghost containment unit explodes. Jeremy later revisited his Ghostbusters’ fame — only with far less clothing — playing a librarian in the porn parody, This Ain’t Ghostbusters XXX
8. William Atherton had a lot of Walter Peck haters. Some people don’t seem to realize the role of an actor, and believe that actors are the characters they play. Unfortunately, people hated Walter Peck so much that on more than one occasion actor William Atherton was accosted by strangers who were angry over the way Peck treated the Ghostbusters.
9. Using the Ghostbusters name provided some problems. Reitman and Aykroyd discovered that “Ghost Busters” had already been used by a 1970s children’s television show, making for some clearance issues. The names “Ghoststoppers”, “Ghost Smashers,” and “Ghostbreakers” were tossed around before they were finally given clearance to use “Ghostbusters.”
10. The film didn’t impress industry insiders. Columbia chairman Frank Price described to Vanity Fair that the response from his colleagues at the screening was less than enthusiastic:
“In any industry audience, everyone roots for failure,” says former Columbia chairman Frank Price. “I sat there laughing in this audience which was deadpan.” Adds Michael Ovitz: “When the film came on, the reaction was horrible. A studio executive came up and put his arm around me and said, ‘Don’t worry: we all make mistakes.’ I was nauseous . . . [but] when the movie came out, it just exploded.”
11. Some of the Ecto-1 scenes were done illegally. Some of the footage from the Ecto-1 montage sequence were filmed without permits, and in one scene Dan Aykroyd is chased down the sidewalk by an actual security guard.
12. Ivan Reitman is Zuul. It’s director Ivan Reitman that provides the voice of Zuul, the demon that possesses Dana.
13. The library scene included both special effects and random accidents. The part with the card catalog drawers sliding open and exploding was done by stagehands behind the catalog, pushing the drawers out and the cards being blown out through a copper tube in the drawer. The bookcase that falls over was simply an accident caused by moving crew members. The scene was kept though because it added to the paranormal mystery and Ivan Reitman enjoyed Bill Murray’s ad-libbing about the incident.
14. The test audience never saw the dimension in Dana’s fridge. According to Ivan Reitman in the DVD commentary, the special effects for the dimension in Dana’s fridge weren’t ready yet at the film’s test screening. The shot simply said “scene missing” before Dana slammed the door.
15. A deleted scene included Murray and Aykroyd as park bums. A scene with Murray and Aykroyd playing bums in the park during Louis’ terrorizing ordeal with the demon dogs was cut. Reitman felt the scene with Murray and Aykroyd playing different characters might be confusing for the audience. It’s a pretty solid scene with Murray channeling his groundskeeper character from Caddyshack.
*Bonus* The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was supposed to rise up alongside the Statue of Liberty. Three suits — each costing a hefty $20,000 — were used and destroyed during the Marshmallow Man scenes. Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis originally wanted the marshmallow menace to rise out of the sea alongside the Statue of Liberty, but the special effects to make that happen would have been too expensive. The falling gobs of marshmallow was actually shaving cream.