When you're at Sundance, it can sometimes feel like the entire rest of the world has disappeared. It was surreal watching the news about the big east coast snowstorms unfolding on random TVs while walking around Park City, and it sort of felt like there was a real-time disaster movie happening that we were just hearing about in passing.
It's also unusual for news about a future film to pierce the Sundance bubble, but when the news is that they've cast the new Ghostbusters for director Paul Feig, that's worth taking a break so I can offer up some thoughts and a little bit of context for what viewers can expect from the film.
According to the report filed today by Borys Kit, the central quartet will be played by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. Obviously Feig is comfortable with Wiig and McCarthy, so I'm not surprised to see the two of them as part of the team. I think it's awesome that Sony would be willing to cast Leslie Jones as a lead, since she's largely unproven as a lead, but has screen presence to burn. The same is true of McKinnon, and it feels like casting Wiig and McCarthy gives the studio room to try some actors who are right for the roles, even if they don't have guaranteed box office clout at this point.
One thing to keep in mind here is that they are not playing the characters from the original film. They're not meant to simply be female versions of Venkman, Spengler, Stantz, and Zeddmore. Instead, these are totally different characters in a similar type of situation. In the script, I think Wiig and McKinnon are playing…
[EDITOR'S NOTE: We originally had more plot and character details here. However, our good friends at Sony sent an actual ghost to the HitFix office this afternoon, and after several hours of being slimed repeatedly and being picked up and flown around upside down, we have come to believe that perhaps we would be better served by holding our description to broad strokes. Our apologies to anyone who missed the original report, and to Sony. Now please send someone to get this ghost out of here. Please? Seriously… please?]
If I was guessing, I'd bet Wiig is Erin, Jones is Abby, and McKinnon is Jillian. That's because I'm almost positive Patty, an MTA worker who stumbles across the main ghost in the film, is going to be McCarthy. Seems like a perfect fit for her, and I can see how all four of them will fit together as a team.
Ultimately, the reason the original Ghostbusters seemed to fit their roles so well is because the parts were literally tailored to them as the film came together. Peter Venkman is a perfect Bill Murray role. Egon Spengler fit Harold Ramis better than any other character he ever played. And I'm pretty sure Dan Aykroyd actually is Ray, the only difference being the name they're called. Dippold and Feig love these actors, and they're going to craft something for them that's not going to depend on the archetypes that the guys played in the original films.
There are some other major roles to cast, and based on conversations at Sony, it seems like they'e got some people in mind already. I'm curious to see if they land Peter Dinklage as the main bad guy, a creepy mechanical genius, but there's another role that, if they cast who they want, is going to be the most interesting part of the film. Like I said, these aren't direct one-to-one corollaries, but there is a character named Martin Heiss who is a professional supernatural debunker. When our new Ghostbusters post some videos of what they're doing online, Heiss becomes determined to prove that they are fakes, and he ends up at odds with the team for the whole film.
And who do they want to step into William Atherton's shoes?
[Again, I apologize, but the ghost just stole my pants and I'm afraid things are going to get really bad if I leave the name of the actor here.]
There's still a lot of work to be done by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig before they manage to start shooting, and I have a feeling what I saw was every early in the process. But it's clear that Fieg and Dippold have been given a very difficult task here. They've been asked to make something that is brand-new, but they also have to fold in the familiar iconography of the series, and it makes for something that feels very awkward. I don't necessarily need to see a major back story for the various elements that were part of the original film. Those things are great in the original film, but they weren't given this sort of weight, and it feels like they've shackled the filmmakers to things that they should be free to reinvent completely.
It'll certainly be interesting to see how the rest of the cast falls into place, and I certainly like Feig and Dippold and the cast. I'm just not sold yet on the idea of continuing this series in a way that tries to both play to nostalgia and do things differently. One or the other, folks, because trying to do both may be impossible.
“Ghostbusters” is currently set for a 2016 summer release.