It’s been three whole decades since everyone’s favourite parapsychologists first graced our screens. To celebrate thirty years of 'Ghostbusters' - and Sony’s special anniversary edition Blu-ray™ featuring both films remastered in 4k - we’ve collated thirty weird and wonderful facts you may not have known about the classic franchise.
Dan Aykroyd, who plays Dr Raymond Stantz, got the idea for the film when he read an article about quantum physics and parapsychology and thought it would be neat if there was a device that could trap ghosts.
Aykroyd intended it as a starring vehicle for himself and his 'Blues Brothers' co-star John Belushi. It was originally called Ghostsmashers and featured the duo travelling through space and time to combat spectres, but it was deemed too costly and the story had to be simplified.
After Belushi’s death from a drugs overdose in 1982 the script was rejigged again, then John Candy and Eddie Murphy – for whom Aykroyd and co-writer Harold Ramis (who also starred in the film as Dr Egon Spengler) had written roles – dropped out.
Bill Murray came on board as Dr Peter Venkman and Ramis later said that the three leading Ghostbusters were designed to add up to one person. Clever and rational Spengler was the brains, sweet and enthusiastic Stantz was the heart and fast-talking charmer Venkman (Bill Murray) was the mouth.
Director Ivan Reitman felt they needed a fourth Ghostbuster to balance the movie so Ernie Hudson was brought in to play Winston Zeddemore, the most down-to-earth member of the spook-fighting quartet.
Inspired by the androgynous styles of Grace Jones and David Bowie, the flat-topped Gozer was originally meant to be played by Paul Reubens aka Pee-Wee Herman but eventually the role went to Yugoslavian actress Slavitza Jovan.
Comedienne Sandra Bernhard was offered the role of bespectacled secretary Janine Melnitz but turned it down, so Annie Potts got the job instead. Spengler and Melnitz were meant to have a romance in the movie but it was cut from the script because the filmmakers felt there was already enough going on.
The New York firehouse featured in the film is the Hook & Ladder 8 station in Tribeca and is a big draw on tours of Manhattan movie locations, although only the outside was used in the movie. The interiors were all done at Fire Station No 23 in Los Angeles, which also pops up in 'The Mask' and 'Police Academy 2'.
The shot of a possessed Sigourney Weaver floating off the bed in her apartment, which would be done with CGI today, was achieved by putting the actress into a full body cast attached to a post that was concealed by the curtains.
Weaver had gotten her start mainly in theatre comedies but doing 'Alien' on screen lead to more dramatic roles. Keen to prove she could be funny, she lobbied for the role of Dana Barrett and when she did her audition she got up on a chair and barked like a dog. Dana was hers and the filmmakers also took her up on the idea that Dana become possessed. When Bill Murray first met Weaver he literally swept her off her feet, picking her up in his arms, carrying her down Fifth Avenue in his arms and calling her Susan (which is the actress’s real name).
The film shot for a month on NYC locations including the Public Library, Tavern On The Green and Columbia University and brought traffic to a standstill on Central Park West for the big finale. The rooftop temple,
meanwhile, was built at Burbank Studios at a cost of more than $1 million.
There’s a scene where Aykroyd, Murray and Ramis are running away from the Rockefeller Centre with a security guard chasing them. It was in fact a real security guard telling them to scram because they didn’t have a permit to film there.
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man goo that explodes all over Environmental Protection Agency inspector Walter Peck (William Atherton) was actually shaving foam - more than 50 gallons of it in fact and with such force it almost knocked him over.
Murray improvised calling Atherton “Dickless” in the mayor’s office scene. When Atherton bumped into Reitman a decade after Ghostbusters came out he said he wished he hadn’t done the film because people were still calling him “Dickless” in the street.
SFX visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund recalls thinking that if they’d followed the original script – with such tricky shots as having the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man emerge from the East River – the effects budget would have been $40 million rather than the eventual $5.6 million.
The voice of Zuul, the gatekeeper who possesses Dana, was done by director Reitman, as were the sounds made by the green Slimer and most of the film’s other unearthly characters.
The Ecto-1 vehicle the Ghostbusters race around New York in was a customised Cadillac chassis done out as a mash-up of a hearse and an ambulance. Once the film was in cinemas the now-famous vehicle was driven around Manhattan as part of the ongoing promotional campaign, causing a few collisions as drivers stopped to gawp at it.
'Ghostbusters' merchandise over the years has included the usual lunchboxes and action figures plus a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man piggybank, an Ecto-1 Christmas tree ornament that plays the theme tune, a replica of the firehouse that lights up, and an iPhone case with “Why Ya Gonna Call?” printed on the back.
In the Sedgewick Hotel sequence, when the Ghostbusters turn their Neutrona Wands on a chambermaid’s cart and she falls to the ground asking “What the hell are you doing?” her reaction was for real. She had no idea the cart had been rigged with explosives.
'Ghostbusters' boasts 200 special effects shots including stop-motion creatures, miniatures of the Central Park West apartment block, dyes injected into a water tank to imitate rolling clouds, and puppets of the Terror Dogs that took a team of ten to operate. There were also full-scale dogs with people inside them.
In the aerial shot of the penthouse none of the cars and cabs in the street below are moving because the majority of the shot was a matte painting.
The library ghost’s movements were filmed backwards to create a more spooky effect, which is why when she turns a page the page moves first, then her hand follows.
Huey Lewis was approached to pen the theme song but he was busy writing 'The Power Of Love' for 'Back To The Future' so Ray Parker Jr got the assignment, scoring a number one hit but later facing charges of plagiarism from Lewis – who reckoned it sounded very similar to his song 'I Want A New Drug'. The matter was settled out of court.
The backing vocalists shouting “Ghostbusters!” on the song were a bunch of Parker Jr’s mates and his girlfriend.
The accompanying video had a starrier cast list, with the likes of Chevy Chase, 'Fame' star Irene Cara, Danny DeVito and Carly Simon all making cameo appearances.
When the film was still in American cinemas a new trailer was made in the style of the 'Ghostbusters’ ads with a 1-800 number which people could call. The number got them through a Murray and Aykroyd voicemail saying they couldn’t come to the phone because they were out catching ghosts.
Released in the US in June 1984 and in the UK that December 'Ghostbusters' was a box office smash, raking in nearly $230 million in the States and more than $290 million worldwide. It was nominated for just two Oscars (for best visual effects and best original song) and won neither but it has the honour of being the most successful comedy of the 1980s and, when figures are adjusted for inflation, is in the top 30 highest grossing movies of all time.
Spin-offs included the animated TV shows 'The Real Ghostbusters' (which in turn had its own spin-off comic books and line of toys) and 'Extreme Ghostbusters', plus a string of video games and of course the 1989 sequel 'Ghostbusters II'.
For the scene in the sequel where Ramis, Aykroyd and Hudson emerge from a Manhattan manhole covered in slime the trio had to cram themselves into a tiny space and endure below-zero temperatures and bitingly-cold winds. They survived 12 takes, only to learn the next day that the camera had malfunctioned and that they’d have to endure it all over again.
German-born former boxer Willem von Homburg appeared in 'Ghostbusters II' as Vigo The Carpathian but the actor (who went on to appear as a terrorist in Die Hard) had his voice dubbed by 'The Exorcist' star Max von Sydow.
The Blu-ray™ Anniversary Editions of 'Ghostbusters' and 'Ghostbusters I and II' is available now.