Movies

In Which We Talk To Jason Reitman About Almost Everything Except ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’

Jason Reitman has been on, what seems like, a never-ending press tour to promote his new movie, Ghostbusters: Afterlife. What you’re about to read is an interview that took place Thursday of this week, near the end of this tour. And, yes, Reitman is exhausted and, frankly, seems very interested in talking about anything that’s not something he’s been asked multiple times over the last couple of months. (At one point, after talking at length about the Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling movie Over the Top, Reitman joked, “Don’t you want to know what it was like for me to work with my dad?”)

About eight years ago I first interviewed Reitman and, strangely, 1987’s The Garbage Pail Kids Movie was brought up and, since then, it’s been a recurring joke. Reitman would talk about specific scenes (he saw it in a theater) and my contribution was usually, “I saw it when I was 13 and don’t remember it very well.” Well, for the special occasion of Reitman’s press tour finally coming to an end, I hunted down The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (which is hard to find, I had to buy the DVD) so I could, finally, engage with Reitman on this important topic. (I might, now, be in the top 10 of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie experts; for the record: it’s an unpleasant movie.) Though, it’s interesting, even with a movie like The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, Reitman can’t help but reflect that making movies is hard and, even a movie like that, a lot of people tried their best to make something worth watching. (I will concede, it is a big swing.)

So, ahead, Reitman does his best to talk about anything that’s not about Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which we did for just under an hour. Though, I did manage to get a couple of plot questions in that I was curious about. (And, of course, I picked one of them he can’t answer because they plan on addressing it in a future project.)

Over the last eight years of our interview series, every time, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie gets brought up…

Yes. That’s our thing.

My contribution every time is usually, “well, I haven’t seen it since I was 13.” First of all, this movie’s very hard to find.

Garbage Pail Kids?

It’s not streaming anywhere. The Blu-ray is like 100 dollars.

Wait. They made a Blu-ray of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie?

I think it was Shout Factory. It’s now out of print.

Okay. Just so you know, what I just learned is that there is no Blu-ray for Thank You For Smoking, but there is a Blu-ray for The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. That is my walkaway information from this phone call.

There’s no Blu-ray for Thank You For Smoking?

Nope.

How is that possible?

Well, I mean, what is more astonishing is that there is a Blu-ray for The Garbage Pail Kids. The fidelity of those puppets will never go lost.

I did not buy the Blu-ray, but I bought the DVD and I watched it this morning. It’s unpleasant.

I have not seen that movie since it was in theaters. How different was it from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie?

Oh, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would win a Nobel Peace Prize compared to this movie. The plot is very confusing. The Garbage Pail Kids are from outer space, but that’s never mentioned again. And one of them just pees his pants the whole time. Another one throws up all the time. Another one farts all the time. And McKenzie Aston is the main character and he likes this girl who is trying to get into fashion, so he decides to enlist the Garbage Pail Kids to help him make a clothing line so she’ll like him.

This tracks. Look, making a movie is so hard. I really don’t want to shit on anyone.

Here’s the other interesting thing about this movie. The guy who directed it, if he were still alive today, he’d almost be 100.

Wow. He was born before the sound era. That’s fascinating. You’re expanding my brain right now. It’s so hard to make movies. And it’s so hard to make anything that I really admire anyone who attempts to tell a story of any kind. And that actually also goes for The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, as misguided as it is.

It’s a big swing. He wrote it, produced it, and directed it. The other thing I found interesting was The Garbage Pail Kids as a group were nominated for a Razzie, and they lost.

Who did they lose to?

They lost to the kid in the Sylvester Stallone movie Over the Top.

I actually really love that movie. I found that movie to be strangely moving. I remember as a kid really liking that movie. Does it not hold up or something?

Over the Top is awesome. It is about Sly who is an arm wrestler who is also a truck driver and him trying to reconnect with his kid.

Yeah, I remember the father-son story being really moving in Over the Top. Where do you think, in the process of developing Over the Top, did they say, “Okay, I just watched The Karate Kid. It’s really good. We need our crane kick. What is it going to be?” And they’re like, “What if we just adjusted his four fingers, but like with music?” It’s like, why is this a move that no one else can do?

I mean, there’s only a limited amount of things you can do in arm-wrestling.

And this was an actual thing, right? An actual competition. People were actually competing in arm-wrestling at the time?

I think they still do.

Maybe that’s what you and I need to go do. I think we need to go visit one of these.

This is what this press tour has done to you? Do you want to give it all up and join an arm-wrestling league?

Oh, no. I’m not going to compete in an arm-wrestling league.

Oh, I see. You just want to go.

I would love to. I mean, come on. If there was an arm-wrestling tournament happening tonight, and I said, “Hey man, I have tickets.” You’re there, right?

If you’re inviting me, yes, I’m going to go. You’re a famous director. If someone I don’t like very much invites me, then I don’t know. That’s probably my answer. I wouldn’t go by myself.

Oh. I 1000 percent would go by myself. It’s funny, I have a movie night at my house, and we traditionally watch art films that I missed out on by not going to film school. I think I’m going to have to make Over the Top our next movie night.

You won’t be disappointed. Sly is not just fighting the evil arm wrestlers. He’s also fighting his father-in-law who doesn’t want him with his son.

Wait a second. The father-in-law is the antagonist in the arm wrestling as well?

No, no, he’s a separate plot point. Because what happens is the kid’s mom is dying…

Oh my God.

And Robert Loggia plays the father-in-law and offers Sly money to stay out of his grandson’s life.

And Robert Loggia is very wealthy in this movie?

Yes. Because his kid goes to an expensive military school.

Oh, I remember the military school part of it. God, they really nailed it with that. What I remember is a lot of smoke, a lot of sweat, and I remember the hat. I remember him rotating the hat.

Yeah, he does. And the prize for winning the tournament is a new big rig.

That tracks because it’s also his home, right? He lives in the back of it? Karl Malone used to drive a big rig. Karl Malone, the basketball player.

The Mailman drove a truck?

The Mailman would drive a big rig in the off-season. I always really admired that. I’m a Winnebago guy, and I daydream. On my roughest nights of filmmaking, when I can’t imagine anything working out, that’s what I fantasize. I fantasize about long-haul driving. How much of a fan base do you think there still is for The Garbage Pail Kids Movie?

I think they are all on this call.

It’s you and me? Wait, do you think that the Garbage Pail Kid puppets are somewhere still and available? Like, will they come up for auction? Who has one?

Would you want one? They’re gross.

I mean, yeah. I think in my own version of building one of those Guillermo del Toro prop museums in my home is having a horrific Garbage Pail Kid puppet. Okay, so, again, you pull up to the Academy Museum and they’re having a show and you can either see all the original puppets from The Secret of NIMH or all the original puppets from The Garbage Pail Kids

Well, The Secret of NIMH is a cartoon…

Sorry, not Secret of NIMH. Dark Crystal. Or Labyrinth. Okay, they have everything from Labyrinth in one room, everything from Garbage Pail Kids in another room. Which one are you going in?

Well, today I’m going in the Garbage Pail Kids room because I just watched that movie. I am probably the wrong person to ask because I probably watched this movie more recently than anyone on Earth right now.

Not to be too heady, but what happens to these things that we work so hard on? Have you ever listened to Patton Oswalt’s routine about Death Bed: The Movie? It’s just a shit show of a film, apparently. Patton’s routine, though, is about all the people who worked on this film and how hard they worked, because they worked just as hard as anyone who worked on any other movie that was ever made. But it speaks to a general truth, which is that anyone who ever sits down to make a movie, it’s an extraordinary thing to decide. If you think about how much planning you put into anything – Christmas presents, a surprise party for somebody – it doesn’t even come close to the years that are put into trying to make a two-hour film experience palatable and enjoyable and maybe something that’ll stay with you. And that went into this Garbage Pail Kids movie.

Sure, but you know as well as I do that there are people that sometimes take movies for paychecks and they’re not into it and they don’t really care what happens to the movie. I don’t believe that’s what happened with Garbage Pail Kids.

But they’re still waking up at the crack of dawn and not kissing their kid on their forehead on the way out because their kid’s still sleeping. They’re all still making crazy human sacrifice to make these things. And there’s a question of what happens to these movies, and particularly we hold onto them in the digital realm and you don’t even have a physical copy of it anymore, you wonder what happens to something like The Garbage Pail Kids Movie or anything like it.

Well, it’s gone because it’s not on streaming anywhere. You can’t even rent it. Since the pandemic started, I have found a lot more movies than you think are nowhere to be found on streaming. Cocoon is impossible to find.

Is that true? Cocoon is not on iTunes?

Disney owns Cocoon now and they told me it’s something to do with music rights.

That’s insane. Do you know the joke about Wilford Brimley in Cocoon?

That a few years ago Tom Cruise was the same age as Wilford Brimley in Cocoon?

Yes. Wilford Brimley was 50 years old when he made Cocoon.

I started that. I tweeted that in 2011. It went viral, back when you had to manually retweet people.

Is that yours? Oh my God.

I don’t get credit for it anymore. There’s a whole Brimley Line Twitter account I have nothing to do with.

Well, aren’t you happy it just came up? You can now put in this article you’re about to write the fact that we talked about it and give yourself the credit you deserve.

It has been taken from me and now the world owns it.

What is this article? What is this conversation going to be about on paper?

I don’t know. But you ask that every time.

Does anybody read these?

Probably not. I actually do have two Ghostbusters questions.

Let me guess. Is one about what is it like to work with my father?

Jason, what is it like working with your father?

I have plenty of canned answers for your canned questions.

I actually do want to know, at what point before the events of this movie, when Egon’s living in Oklahoma, did he look at the Ecto-1 and decided he needed to remove the Ghostbusters II logo with the ghost holding the two up and go back to the original logo?

I wish I could talk to you about that.

That’s actually a secret?

Well, I’m just saying that’s a plot that is not in this film and we have ideas moving forward.

I see.

And Ghostbusters II is canon.

People keep wondering if it is or not.

No, Ghostbusters II, definitely canon. There are references to Ghostbusters II in Afterlife. We meet Ray working at Ray’s Occult. The toaster from Ghostbusters II is in the kitchen in the farmhouse. There’s actually lots of lost of Ghostbusters II details but nobody knows Ghostbusters II outside of Vigo the Carpathian and the Ghostbusters II logo. So there’s this assumption that it is not canon but it is definitely canon.

The second plot question, when we see the pictures of young Carrie Coon they are from the late 1980s. So Egon has a kid in Ghostbusters II?

Oh, yeah.

Okay. We just don’t know that at the time when we’re watching Ghostbusters II.

Correct.

And what is it like working with your father, if no one’s asked that yet?

Well, let me give you the scoop.

Yeah, give me the scoop.

The scoop is it was wonderful making a film sitting next to my storytelling hero and the world’s foremost Ghostbusters expert. That is something I haven’t said to anybody. You’re the first person to hear that.

That answer is going to get its own separate article because this is such an important quote.

You brought up Disney now owning Cocoon earlier, and all my recent letters that I’ve gotten about Juno and Thank You for Smoking have had Mickey Mouse on them, and that’s bizarre.

Predator is a Disney movie now.

You’re right. That’s insane.

John McTiernan is getting Predator letters with Mickey Mouse on it.

Where is John McTiernan now?

I think he’s around? Martin Brest is the one who is really hard to find.

No kidding? Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run, Scent of a Woman. That’s a strong three in a row. Wait, hold on. In 2021 he appeared as a featured guest at a screening of Beverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run and he was interviewed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It is actually interesting sometimes as a director to look at that and be like, okay, what’s the career? What are the movies? How many are there? And it’s like, that’s it. Three greats. That’s fucking solid.

What’s the best three-movie run by any director? I go Coppola with the two Godfather movies and right smack in the middle The Conversation, that’s hard to beat.

I mean, there’s a bit of personal preference here. I love Alexander Payne, so Election, About Schmidt, Sideways run is kind of insane to me. And the Rob Reiner run…

Rob Reiner has, sneakily, one of the best runs of any director who has ever lived.

So Reiner, it’s a five-movie run. That’s the crazy part. Stand By Me, Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men.

And then soon after that is The American President.

And if you take out The Sure Thing, it goes Spinal Tap, Stand By Me, Princess Bride, Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men. Any one of those movies gets you into the hall. And if all you ever did in your life was direct Stand By Me, you have my heart. It’s just a work of genius. Any time I watch that movie, River Phoenix dissolves and I’m gone, I’m crying, I’m done.

I’m trying to do your dad’s best three in a row. I think it’s Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters.

Yeah, it has to be Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters

Because right after that is Legal Eagles before Twins. We just rewatched Legal Eagles a year ago and it’s fun but also strangely confusing. But after that he does Twins, Ghostbusters II, Kindergarten Cop

And Dave. I think you have the Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters run and then the Twins, Ghostbusters 2, Kindergarten Cop, Dave run and both of them are exceptional. And Dave in particular is a killer. Who else has runs like that? Hold on, I want to look up Andrea Arnold for a second. I think she would fall in this category for me. Yeah. I love Red Road, Fish Tank. I love American Honey. American Honey is genius. Or, you know who? Sean Baker.

I just saw Red Rocket yesterday.

Oh my God, how is it? I need to see this.

Oh, it’s fantastic.

So, if you put him on it, it’s Starlet, Tangerine, Florida Project, Red Rocket. That’s also an insane run…So, with that said, I unfortunately have to go.

Look, I tried wrapping this up like 15 minutes ago and then we keep getting on tangents.

I hope you get something out of this conversation. This does not seem like something easy to write.

I know you’ve had a long press tour so I hope you found some enjoyment answering questions about Over the Top and The Garbage Pail Kids Movie.

Yeah, I need to go watch that movie. I will find it. I’m going to be the one who buys that stupid expensive Blu-ray.

It’s on eBay if you want it.

Just don’t try to outbid me.

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ opens nationwide this weekend. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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