Ghostbusters' Script Was Saved By A Major Change From Harold Ramis

"Ghostbusters" is a classic. This 1984 film is one of my all-time favorites and I quote it to an annoying degree. My only solace is that you likely do the same. With the recent film "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" bringing back the classic characters (even Harold Ramis' Egon Spengler as a ghost), many fans are taking a look into the past to do a rewatch of the first film.

But the first film could have looked very different from the one we all fell in love with. Ramis, who wrote the "Ghostbusters" script with Dan Aykroyd, did an interview with NPR's Terry Gross on "Fresh Air" back in 2005, and spoke about something in the script that changed the feel of the film.

Orkin Man

In the interview, Gross asks Ramis about some of the changes he made to the script. He said that at the beginning of Aykroyd's script, the Ghostbusters were already a business. He compared them to the Orkin man, referencing the pest exterminators who are all over New York City. In this script, the Ghostbusters were supernatural pest removers, which to be fair, they sort of are. 

"So there were a lot of Ghostbusters," he said. "There were already a lot of ghosts in New York, and that's why there were Ghostbusters." 

Having lived in New York City, it's sort of hard to argue with that, honestly, but taking the audience of that time into a world where this sort of thing was already established would be asking a lot at the beginning of a comedy. It's not that you couldn't do it, but keeping things simpler is a much easier way to connect with an audience than trying to establish a complex world. If you think about the first "Star Wars" film, it's far simpler than the later ones. Same thing goes for the very first "Iron Man" film, and even that had a comic book history with fans already established.

I ain't 'fraid of no ghost

Ramis told Gross more about how that evolved. He said:

I thought, 'Well, it might be more interesting to take the audience through the process of how the Ghostbusters evolved, the idea of starting with us as paranormal academics, you know, at Columbia University and showing our first contact with the supernatural ... I thought, 'Well, a lot of the audience will start from a place of skepticism, and if we start the film from a place of skepticism and then bring them to belief, you know, then they'll take the trip with us.' And I think that's kind of the way it worked.

It certainly did. It's much more interesting, I think, to watch people struggle to become good at what they do, and fail along the way, than to have them already established as successes. Plus, it allows the audience to connect to these guys who believe that there is something else out there that we just can't explain, and then try to explain it. We've all felt like that at one time or another, whether it's a belief in the supernatural, or a feeling that there is an explanation for something that we just haven't put our fingers on yet. Watching their business go from being laughed at, to getting customers, to gaining a new member in Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) is far more fun than seeing a bunch of other busters of spirits competing for jobs. 

If you haven't seen it in a while, "Ghostbusters" is worth a rewatch. While I have you, "Ghostbusters II" also deserves some love. Yes, yes, I'll see myself out.