If movie remakes, reboots and reimaginings are factories for fan complaints, Ghostbusters has become a cottage industry unto itself: Since plans were announced to create a new installment in the beloved comedy franchise, blogs, message boards and social media platforms have been filled with speculation, fear and vitriol. Is it a remake or a sequel? Who’s involved? What’s the story? And for God’s sake, what does Bill Murray have to say about all of this? And after years of “updates,” rumors and parsed quotes from those potentially involved, fans – much less detractors – seem no more informed than the first time they heard about the project.
But at the recent Los Angeles press day for Draft Day, director Ivan Reitman, who helmed the first two films, revealed why he thought the franchise deserved to be explored further. “I certainly think rebooting it is not interesting – i.e., tell the same story but with new guys,” Reitman told Spinoff Online in an exclusive interview. “But picking up a story that has a generational shift in it, yes.”
“I think there’s an appropriate story to tell,” he explained. “The world of ghost-busting, just as a concept in terms of its equipment and vehicles, and the sort of spirituality of it, and the metaphysical idea of it, and guys working together, operating like fireman, [those are] ideas there’s a contemporary opportunity for.”
Reitman said his participation was as much a byproduct of creative necessity as personal ownership. “I always felt it was important to tell a story that had the first two movies as predecessors that everybody involved in the movie recognizes,” he said. “I mean, all of the story recognizes, as opposed to well, let’s pretend nothing happened and let’s talk about the creation of Batman yet again. That’s sort of what my thinking was.”
But a number of factors adversely affected Reitman’s interest in helming the film, including his involvement in Draft Day, his advancing age and, as he revealed last month, the loss of franchise co-creator and star Harold Ramis. “With Harold’s death, and actually this movie and the joy I got from directing this movie, I thought up to this point when I’d been working on the script, I always felt I should direct it and was going to direct it, and God forbid anyone should touch my baby.”
“A number of things pushed against it – one, I wasn’t getting any younger,” he admitted. “I’d already done two of them, and I only had so many movies left. And then there was the philosophical approach of doing a film like Draft Day, which I loved and would like to continue doing.”
But he said that Bill Murray’s storied antipathy toward the project, and the death of Ramis, served as the one-two punch that confirmed he shouldn’t get back behind the camera for Part 3.
“Knowing the reluctance of Bill to be involved in any way, it had nothing to do with how good or bad the script was,” he revealed. “I spoke to him three years ago when there was no script, and he just didn’t want to talk about it. I don’t think he ever read drafts as much as he’s advertised that he has; I think he was embarrassed to say otherwise.”
“And mostly the death of Harold,” he continued. “You know, we started together, we made five movies together, and he went on to be a wonderful director in his own right. That just really focused all of those things, suddenly. And I just decided a few weeks ago – two days after I came back from Chicago for his funeral – that yeah, it’s time.”
Despite the change of heart he had about directing Ghostbusters 3 himself, Reitman said it galvanized his belief that someone else could take over that component of the project from him and create something new, interesting and worthwhile. “I suddenly felt OK with it,” he said. “I suddenly felt excited about producing a movie with other people directing about Ghostbusters, and seeing the opportunity for new ideas and kind of a fresh take for some of the things that we built into this draft.”
Whether the news of a new director quells skepticism about the forthcoming film or intensifies it, Reitman said he and his collaborators are only beginning the process of configuring the ideas from his script for someone else – and he’s confident that Ghostbusters 3 will eventually happen.
“So we’re just starting that process – we’ll see how it goes,” Reitman demurred. “But it’s certainly my expectation that it will happen – and Sony’s as well.”