The Real-Life Moment That Inspired Ghostbusters: Afterlife

"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" is in theaters now, but it's been a long road to get there. Aside from being delayed nearly a year and a half due to the coronavirus pandemic, it's been over 30 years since the original "Ghostbusters" franchise has been touched. Aside from passing the torch to a new generation of younger Ghostbusters, the sequel also passed the torch from franchise filmmaker Ivan Reitman to his son, "Juno" and "Up in the Air" director Jason Reitman. However, even though the idea for "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" came from Jason Reitman's mind, it took a certain real-life event, unfortunately a tragic one, to truly develop the film we know today.

Jason Reitman's Vision

During Jason Reitman's publicity tour for "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," there was one story that he repeatedly told about the inception of the story. As relayed by Insider, Reitman recalled:

"A decade ago, I had this vision of a girl shooting a proton pack in a cornfield and suddenly popcorn flying up and her catching and eating it."

Reitman had this thought while enjoying his morning coffee as the sun shined through the backyard window of his office. While you might think this inspired a flurry of writing and creative development, Reitman said, "It was just one of those images where I was like, 'Well, I don't know what to do with that.'"

So this idea sat around in Reitman's imagination for 10 years. Why didn't he do anything with it? Jason Reitman never felt compelled to follow in the footsteps of his father by digging into the blockbuster comedy realm. Instead, he chose to tell stories that felt more at home in the indie or prestige drama circuit. He directed Oscar-nominated movies like "Juno" and "Up in the Air," not to mention "Young Adult" and "Tully" with Charlize Theron, and "The Front Runner" with Hugh Jackman. Something like "Ghostbusters" simply wasn't his speed. But then something unfortunate happened that lit a fire in his heart.

After Life

In 2014, Harold Ramis passed away. Not only was he one of the original members of the Ghostbusters, the brainy and dry Egon Spengler, but he also co-wrote the script for the 1984 hit and the sequel that followed in 1989. Along with a lack of interest from Bill Murray, losing one of the core pieces of the "Ghostbusters" franchise made it seem like we'd never see another sequel, despite the numerous attempts over the years to make it happen. But the death of Ramis actually inspired Jason Reitman to finally follow through on that vision that he had so many years ago. The director recalled, "I suddenly knew who the girl was when Harold died."

That girl became none other than Egon Spengler's granddaughter, the driving force behind a new generation of young Ghostbusters who pick up where her grandfather's work came to a tragic end at a dusty old farmhouse in Summerville, Oklahoma. Discarded and ignored as a crazy old dirt farmer, even by those who once knew him best, Egon Spengler became the very thing he used to catch: a ghost. Perhaps Egon Spengler would best be described as a spirit, since it's his spirit that lives on in (and beside) his granddaughter, and the two come together in an unbelievable, albeit ghoulish (no pun intended) fashion in the film's awkward and clumsy finale

But "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" wasn't just about paying tribute to Harold Ramis or bringing the original Ghostbusters back together, no matter how satisfying that might have been for longtime fans. As Reitman explained to Gizmodo:

"This is a movie about what is it like to become a Ghostbuster and in that way, it's about nostalgia inside and out. It's about the rest of us. It's about the group that grew up thinking about Ghostbusters and wondering what it was like to drive Ecto-1 and wondering what it was like to put on a proton pack. It is about the children of [Ghostbusters fans]. And certainly, I was going through a very personal story of my fears of picking up the proton pack and emulating that through the main characters."

The Saving Grace of Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Whether you shed tears of joy and nostalgia for "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" or walked away feeling betrayed and bewildered, there's one good thing about this sequel: It finally delivers the stepping stone to continue the Ghostbusters franchise without the need to bring original team back together again. Fans have been given the reunion they've been clamoring for, and Harold Ramis has been appropriately honored, at least in the eyes of the creators and those who knew him best. Now the franchise can continue, and at least one of the Ghostbusters might be sticking around to continue the legacy with a new team. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.