The Behind The Scene Stories Of 1984's "Ghostbusters"

Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson (background) and Bill Murray in a scene from the film 'Ghostbusters', directed by Ivan Reitman, 1984. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)

1984’s “Ghostbusters” combined the comedic powers of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ivan Reitman to create an indelible classic that still resonates, “Who ya gonna call?” The movie became a reality thanks to Aykroyd’s paranormal family history along with the cache of Murray and Reitman who had just come off the success of “Stripes” and “Meatballs.”

Columbia Pictures gave a green light to the film entirely on the back of Reitman’s one-sentence pitch: “Ghost janitors in New York.” Of course, with the buy-in from all those comedy heavyweights, you’d have to be stupid not to support just about anything they came up with. Here’s the backstory of the ‘80s classic “Ghostbusters.”

A smiling Rick Moranis looking up at Sigourney Weaver in a scene from the film 'Ghostbusters', 1984. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)

Family History And The Guiding Hand Of Reitman

Reportedly, Aykroyd grew up in a family of parapsychologists. His great-grandfather was a noted “psychic investigator,” known for conducting séances with mediums in the family barn. That hobby was passed on to his grandfather, who attempted to make a ghost radio using his expertise as an engineer for Bell Telephone Company. Apparently, all that rubbed off when Aykroyd conceived of “Ghostbusters.”

The SNL star’s original idea envisioned John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, and dozens of ghost-fighting groups battling across space and time. When Aykroyd pitched Reitman on his idea, the writer/director told him it would cost over $300 million before helping whittle it down to a realistic concept.

Casting What Ifs

Unfortunately, Aykrod’s casting dreams fell apart with the tragic death of John Belushi and the ascendance of Murphy into a mega-star. Before Murray and Ramis were pulled into the fold, Michael Keaton, Chevy Chase, Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow, and Christopher Lloyd were all considered for the other two members of the Ghostbusters.

Even Louis Tully, perfectly portrayed by Rick Moranis, was originally slated to be John Candy. However, the hefty comedian wanted to play a German who kept dozens of dogs, not to mention, be the star of the movie. The only original choice for casting was Sigourney Weaver who barked like one of the Hounds of Hell during her audition to prove she could act possessed!

The crossing of the streams was actually a genius ad lib by the skit comedy geniuses. laughingsquid

Physical Effects

While “Ghostbusters” did utilize a number of “special effects” for the ‘80s, much of the movie’s charm derives from its physicality. For instance, for the Godzilla-like Mr. Stay-Puft who was a cross between the Michelin Man and the Pillsbury Doughboy, a real actor stuffed himself into the voluminous suit.

Also, when William Atherton, aka bureaucratic asshole Walter Peck, gets smushed by the remnants of Mr. Stay-puft, the crew planned to dump 500 gallons of shaving cream on him. Atherton expressed concern about that much shaving cream landing on him, so the crew tried dropping 75 pounds worth of shaving cream onto his stunt double. Apparently, that was enough to knock him to the ground, so for the actual shot, they used just 50 pounds.

The creativity of the effects extended to Slimer, the churlish green ghost which haunts the Sedgewick Hotel. In one particular scene, a green spray-painted peanut served as Slimer. According to animation supervisor Terry Windell, his team was “totally serious about making it stupid.”