9 Things We Learned About Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters'

The trailer for Paul Feig's Ghostbusters hit the web this morning, but I got a chance to attend a screening and question and answer session yesterday on the Sony studio lot. Ghostbusters fans from around the United States gathered (a couple dozen even flew in) to get a sneak peek at the new trailer and get a chance to meet the filmmakers behind the new film. You can watch the Ghostbusters trailer elsewhere on the site. In this post, I recap what we learned from the discussion that followed the trailer premiere with director Paul Feig, screenwriter  Katie Dippold, and producer Ivan Reitman (who, yes, directed the original two films in the 1980s).

Ghostbusters - group

No, This Is Definitely Not a Sequel -- Here's Why

The trailer for Paul Feig's Ghostbusters might lead some viewers to believe that this might be a sequel/spin-off that takes place 30 years after the events of the original 1984 film Ghostbusters, but that is not the case at all. Paul Feig explains why this is a reboot instead of a sequel:

I know some people are gonna ask why is it not a sequel instead of a reboot? I didn't like personally the idea of them being handed technology. Here's how to do this. I wanna see it developed.

Screenwriter Katie Dippold also said the world of the story was a big reason not to make it a sequel.

One of the reasons to do it this way is that it's just like today's modern times. Like science doesn't believe in ghosts anymore. So to say that [ghosts] had existed for the past 30 years, it's just a different world. And in the original it's so fun when ghosts unleash upon the city for the first time. It's just a fun thing, we didn't wanna skip over it.

Feig agrees, saying that he liked the idea of basing it in today's world "where there's all these ghost shows, Ghost Hunters and stuff and you're like are they crazy, are they not?" And if a ghost appeared today it would be "a phenomenal event," but it wouldn't be if this story were set in a world where ghosts have existed for the last three decades. Paul Feig explains why he came on to direct a Ghostbusters reboot in the first place.

This comes from such a pure place because this thing that you guys created, this idea is such a great idea. And when Ivan was talking to me about it and then Amy Pascal was talking about it, it's just like this is such an amazing franchise and had two amazing movies. But it could just keep going. There's so many things you can do with it. And it just seemed terrible to just leave it in a box. And yet at the same time, there's something exciting about the idea of like we're bringing it to a new generation, but let this team kind of see the origin story of them.

This also makes me wonder how the original Ghostbusters firehouse will be used in this new film. They use a shot of it in the trailer, and I'm betting this is footage that appears in the movie somewhere. It's obviously not the team's initial headquarters, but maybe they come to it at the end of the movie? My fun fan theory is that once the group incorporates their team, they go to the iconic firehouse trying to lease it for their operation and discover they can't afford it.


Ivan Reitman's Ghost Corps Now Lives in a Recreation of the Ghostbusters Firehouse on the Sony Lot

Last year, it was announced that Sony had created a new division of their company called Ghost Corps, led by Dan Aykroyd and Ivan Reitman, to control the future of the Ghostbusters universe (which includes movies, TV shows, games, books and probably much more). What we actually didn't know is that Sony recreated the exterior of the iconic Ghostbusters firehouse on the Sony lot to house this new division.

Below you can see some of the photos I took inside the Ghost Corps lobby, the production offices where the future of the Ghostbusters films are being crafted right now.

They had an ECTO-2 motorcycle prop from the new movie on display, and even had their own fake fire pole, as well as a Gozer head mounted on one wall between teaser posters for the original 1980s films. Very cool.


Ghostbusters Almost Had a Very Different Team Without Melissa McCarthy

While it seems obvious that Paul Feig would cast his Bridesmaids stars Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy in his Ghostbusters movie, he admits that when he initially tried to put the team together, it was very different. Paul Feig says they wrote the film without any actors in mind.

"We just wanted to get these characters right. And then it was about two months of me where I was like who are the perfect people for this? Melissa was never a shoo-in. Everybody thinks Melissa's a shoo-in. She was not. It was 'cause I was like I just gotta get four very distinct personalities for this. There are so many funny people. And especially funny women. And so it was a good two months of, I mean, if you saw some of the lists of people. It was crazy.

But in the end it comes down to "who complements each other?" He admits that "nothing is better in the movie than when your cast has a relationship with each other as we did on Bridesmaids — the cast and Kristen and Maya [Rudolph] as best friends 'cause they are friends."

And so by the time we arrived at this and Kristen's kind of this vulnerable comedienne and then Melissa's just a headstrong comedienne.  And then you've got Kate who's just the weirdo nut who just, you're like where did that come from?  And then Leslie is just this powerhouse who comes at you.  And the four is mixed so well, it was really fun even just figuring out what role they were gonna play."  ...  "In the movie, Kristen and Melissa's characters are old friends.  And then Kate and Leslie come in new and so it was actually fun, that dynamic, even though they'd all worked together before, Kristen and Melissa are very close.  And Kate and Leslie brought a new energy for them so it actually it just, it the actual dynamics from the script are portrayed in real life on the screen.

Ghostbusters - streams

Four Scientists Saved the World?

After the trailer screening, another colleague pointed out to me that the trailer is actually inaccurate: the original film had three scientists, not four. Winston was added as a fourth Ghostbuster in an effort to play the everyman, and this new version of the Ghostbusters has the same set-up. Feig says "it was really important to us to make them scientists."

Because that's what I love about the first one, it's a idea of that Ivan, Dan and Harold [Ramis] had of funny people fighting the paranormal with science that just really resonated with us. And so we really wanted to make sure that we treated them as scientists. So we have Erin's character played by Kristen Wiig is a, she's a particle physicist. And then Melissa's character basically she's an expert in the paranormal. She's studied her whole life. And then Holtzmann is a nuclear engineer who creates their inventions. And then you have Leslie Jones who joins the team because she knows New York really well. So she's kind of the guide to New York and she also is kind of ghost sighting.

So it sounds like Leslie Jones' character Patty Tolan is very much the Winston component of this team from the original film. Screenwriter Katie Dippold admitted that it was also "very important" for them to have an "everyman like in the original."

We talked to so many physicists to download us on science. And I would listen to people talk and just, so for me it's just like in the original in that it was so fun to see that person relate to the scientists.


The Old Ghostbusters Theme Song Will Be in the New Movie, Along With a New Version

In the new trailer we have a slow piano version of the Ghostbusters song, a la Jurassic World. And Feig loves it as much as you do.

Kudos to Sony. Mike and Susan really headed that up and did a great job. It's exciting. The first time I heard that especially with the orchestral version, I completely broke down. It just choked me up so much. Everybody's firing on all cylinders on this because everybody working on this has such a love and respect of this project and so there was no cynicism involved with this project at all. Trust me.

As for if we'll hear it in the movie, Feig says we're "definitely gonna hear the Ghostbusters song."

You can't do Ghostbusters without that song. But we're playing not only with the original one, which you'll hear that somewhere, but also some new versions of it.

As for the film's score itself, Paul promises that his composer Theodore Shapiro is "doing an amazing job."

He's one of the best composers I know. We're really playing with some of the different themes. I just want this to be a big, spooky, gothic, cool. So I think you'll be very pleased when you hear it.

Ghostbusters - ghost

Here Are What Kind of Ghosts to Expect in the New Ghostbusters

We'll see a bunch of different kinds of ghosts in the movie, but the early focus will be on dead human ghosts. Paul says this is because he is such a science nut and wanted the ghosts "to be what I always considered a ghost to be, which is dead."

And so even though we play with that and there's other types of ghosts in it and we have fun with sort of what comes up, I wanted the main ghost to be basically humanoid but again, you're gonna get every kind.  But especially from the early interactions with the Ghostbusters and the supernatural.

Another reason for this is because it gives the actors something real to act against.

It also comes from me wanting to on the set, I don't want my actors acting with tennis balls as they do in some of these CGI movies. And so like Beth Strauss who plays the first ghost, she filmed in this LED suit with that dress with these LEDs and it's kind of a thing that kind of picked her up and whooshed her forward and then with our CGI team, we go in and then play with that look.

Feig also teases that we'll be seeing "ghost imagery that I don't think has really been done before."

It's really scientifically based. On the science of ghosts. But just the idea of sort of exactly how the auras come off of them, the particulates that are coming off and how much of it is dissolving in air and in the real world... So we play with that a lot. But you're gonna see all types of ghosts. But it was really important to have that sort of real ghost quality to them.

While Slimer might appear again in this film, they are hoping to introduce some new ghosts to the Ghostbusters universe. And Ivan Retiman notes that they never expected Slimer to become iconic.

When Dan Aykroyd did the very first treatment of [Ghostbusters], this prior to me, he thought it was gonna be a vehicle for [John] Belushi and himself. And Belushi passed away while we were working on this draft. We just sort of humorously referred to him as this Belushi ghost. And at that point we didn't know what that meant, but we know he was gonna eat a lot. And but we never thought Slimer was gonna continue in like an iconographic character that would stick with Ghostbusters. But we also didn't expect the success that we had. So the fact that here we are talking about Slimer and being happy that he's in the new movie is kind of a wonderful surprise. And I'm sure there's gonna be characters like that, but none of us is thinking about that. Ghosts in this version of it will hopefully have the same kind of staying power.

As for future movies, Paul mentioned that any of the ghosts that appear in this film "can always reappear."

Ghostbusters - Slimer

What Other Homages to the Original Ghostbusters Films Can We Expect?

Slimer appears in the trailer, and Feig says he "makes a quick appearance" in the film "because you can't do Ghostbusters without Slimer." The trailer also reveals the old Ghostbusters HQ firehouse, which is possibly in the film, and of course new versions of proton packs and the ECTO-1. Feig says the film has more, but he's trying to keep some of it under wraps for now.

I don't wanna give some away because we do it in a fun way. But it's just you know the icon, you know the things that you love in this. Let's just say most of them show up in one way or another. But again, with in a way that hopefully you'll be surprised and when you're not expecting it.

While the movie pays some homage to the previous films, it's trying to do something new as well. Dippold said:

It was very important to both of us to make sure it captured the heart of what we loved so much about the original. And that was the most important thing.  Then it was important of Paul to still bring something new."

Added Feig:

Katie was very much like I'm gonna be bummed if I didn't see that... So we wanted to make sure that we did those nods but then we kind of make them our own. Give them their own original origin story. And then kind of play with that. So you'll see, when you see the movie there's a lot of things that you'll be happy you see that are coming at you in a slightly different way.

As for the new hardware, it got a loud cheer from the Ghostbusters fans that packed the theater for the event. Feig acknowledged it saying "I love that you guys gave me hardware," admitting, "I'm such a hardware nut. It's so cool." As for how to avoid a cheesy reference to the originals, Ivan Reitman says it was his job to make sure they didn't do that.

This was really their vision. And I thought it was my job really to just warn them when I thought they were going over the line one way or the other. Which is just to do something that I thought would be insulting to the original film. They did not do, but it was my job to make sure.

Ghostbusters - Ecto-1

Yes, Some of the Comedy Was Improvised

Like the original Ghostbusters, the comedy actors were able to play with the script during filming. Ivan Reitman notes that Harold Ramis "used to say the last draft of the script is written on the set." Screenwriter Katie Dippold was on set for every day of filming, and says it was a true collaboration.

Well, fortunately they're all amazing improvisers. As a writer, you can feel very good that you did as good a job as possible. And so I feel there's also like an energy like they would say something on set and then me and Paul would see what direction they're going in with their collaboration like even in the scene. You know, like and we'll try something. And like Melissa will throw something out there and ultimately find direction. So then we'll throw in an alternate joke. And then Paul would pitch jokes. And this is all happening in the moment.

Feig adds that while they filmed Katie would always scribbling new jokes onto post-it notes during the scenes.

So as I'm at the monitor doing stuff like post-it notes are getting handed to me. I'm like that's funny. Say this, say that. And it is it's a real free for all, but that's what's so great is you build this energy in the moment because we feel that the script is great going in, but again, it's just a blueprint. Even though it's funny. If everything fell apart that day, you'd still have that. But it's in those moments, that's when the magic happens. And as Ivan knows making comedies is all about capturing lightning in a bottle. You want things to happen for the first time 'cause that's the funny scene in there. [...] Whenever we can, we always try to shoot all people at the same time so when they surprise somebody else it's on screen for the first time. There's nothing worse than shooting one direction, somebody knocks out the funniest joke ever behind the camera. You're like can you do that again? And it's just never the same. So it's we just always try to capture that.

Katie thinks the director's relationship with the cast also improved many of the scenes.

You and Melissa tend to have a shorthand that's really magical to watch. And I had to imagine that was how it was with you guys in the original.

Ivan Reitman admits that having had worked with Bill and Harold on previous projects helped "create freshness in the moments" of the original Ghostbusters.


No, the Marketing Won't Address the Woman Ghostbusters Controversy

And finally, a fan in the audience asked if the marketing will address the controversy about them rebooting the franchise with women. Paul Feig was very quick to give the blunt response: "No."

Really the first movie worked because of the cast of the funniest people...  Honestly I just wanted the funniest people and the funniest people I happen to know are these women.  And yeah, so... it should never be about that. ...  Ghostbusters are for everybody.


Ghostbusters opens July 15.