In 2014, I did some work on a book for Insight Editions about Ghostbusters, and I was in charge of interviewing many of the people involved with the making of 1984's biggest hit and the 1989 sequel, as well as the cartoon spin-offs. I had a lot of interesting conversations about the film and did things like spend the day with Ray Parker Jr. at his house in his Ghostbusters room.
What was clear when doing the interviews was that there are many versions of Ghostbusters history, and the participants in the first two films all had their own stories, and they all took credit for the same things. It was both revealing and very confusing. It's revealing because it says a lot about the person recounting their version. In some cases, people credited others with a particular moment of inspiration, but mostly, people told versions in which they were the heroes of every moment.
And why not? The original Ghostbusters was an accident, and when you look at it carefully, you can see how it is held together by sheer force of will. Restructured radically in the editing room, with tons of digressions that were filmed and then abandoned, Ghostbusters is kind of a miracle. One thing I'll say about the new film is that they started production with a much firmer grip on what kind of film they were making than the 1984 team did. Paul Feig is not just a comedy filmmaker; he's a guy who grew up soaked in the comedy that built up to Ghostbusters. If you read his books or you watch Freaks and Geeks, you'll see who Feig was as a kid, and you'll see why it makes sense that he's the one responsible for taking what we remember about Ghostbusters and translating that into a new film that sets up a new world for ongoing storytelling. His sense of humor was built in no small part by the men who made Ghostbusters the first time, and having those people all pass the torch in a very direct way has been a key part of making this new movie.
I can't imagine how carefully all of that must have been coordinated. And one of the strangest things I've seen in a trailer in a while is one of the few public signs of what must have been thousands of billable hours of conversations in the years since 1989.
Here's the actual credits block from the trailer and from the behind-the-scenes featurette which Sony also released via a “secret” website that was allegedly discovered when someone paused the trailer on the whiteboard in Kristen Wiig's classroom, discovering an equation that translated to a website address:
The final three lines of the credit block are fairly simple. Written by Paul Feig & Katie Dippold, Produced by Ivan Reitman and Amy Pascal, Directed by Paul Feig. Boom. Clean. But check out the credits that have to do with the original 1984 film. Is this the first time we've ever had both writers and director credited like this? I can't think of any other time we've seen it, and it's certainly not a standard guild-mandated credits block.
I'm curious to see what happens after Paul Feig's film. I'm glad that, no matter what, he got to make the version that he set out to make, and I think he's earned my full confidence as a viewer. Even the film of his I like the least, The Heat, is a fully-realized comedy world, and that's what I like about him. He doesn't do things in half-measure. I love the way he casts around his lead actors, and he seems determined to give everyone a chance to score in his scenes. When I look at the trailer for his Ghostbusters or I look at this behind-the-scenes piece, I like the world. I like the approach he's taken to the details of Ghostbusting, the tech and the science, and I like his casting. I think his sense of humor depends largely on context. From the trailers for Spy, you would never know that Jason Statham is basically starring in this insane Pink Panther movie that's running parallel to whatever is happening to Melissa McCarthy's character. That was something that only really played when you watched the entire film. Same thing with the running thread about Peter Serafinowicz's character Aldo. I don't know how you put him in the trailers in a way that communicates why he's funny and how his scenes play and what a weird and hilarious relationship they have. I look at this one short feature, and I'm already sure that Feig's world is going to look cool. I like the color palette he's using, which feels like Ghostbusters to me. There's a certain look and feel that the 1984 film defined that is important to me above and beyond whether they use the original cast. Because I like the look of the ghosts and the bold reds, blues, and greens of this footage so far, I'm onboard for whatever it is that Feig does with this terrific cast.
But after Feig's movie. I'm curious to see what else Ivan Reitman does with the property, and whether Feig's movie kickstarts a direct franchise or a broader-umbrella situation where filmmakers are invited to open different offices in different cities or both. Right now, Sony reminds me of Universal about five years ago, when they were seemingly unable to post a win. Ghostbusters is as big a big deal as they have going at the studio, and it's taken them a long, long time to get to that trailer release. That was a defining moment for this particular Sony regime, and it's important for Amy Pascal and for Ivan Reitman, and for whatever that particular relationship is at this point.
All i know is that credit block speaks volumes about how important it is that Ivan Reitman feel well-tended during this process. That credit block makes his authorship of the original film seem more explicit than ever, and I'm curious to see if this is something other directors insist on in future credits blocks for remakes as our remake culture gets ever more industrious.
Ghostbusters is in theaters July 15, 2016.