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Ghostbusters (titled on-screen as Ghost Busters) is a 1984 American science fiction comedy film written by co-stars Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis about three eccentric New York City parapsychologists-turned-ghost exterminators. The film was released in the United States on June 8, 1984 and like several films of the era, teamed Aykroyd and/or Ramis with headliner Bill Murray. It was produced and directed by Ivan Reitman, who also directed Stripes, and stars Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson. With inflation adjustments, the film’s original release grossed over $500 million US dollars counting sales in just the U.S., making it domestically one of the highest-grossing films of 1984 and also domestically the 31st highest-grossing film.
The film’s theme song, “Ghostbusters”, written and performed by Ray Parker, Jr., sparked the catchphrases “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!” and “I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost(s)”. The song was a huge hit, staying #1 for three weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and #1 for two weeks on the Black Singles chart. The song earned Parker an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Song”.
The concept was inspired by Aykroyd’s own fascination with the paranormal and it was conceived as a vehicle for himself and friend John Belushi, fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus.
The original story, as written by Aykroyd, was very different from what was eventually filmed. In that early version, a group of Ghostbusters travelled through time, space and other dimensions taking on huge ghosts (of which the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man was just one of many). Also, the Ghostbusters wore S.W.A.T.-like outfits and used wands instead of Proton Packs to fight the ghosts. Ghostbusters storyboards show them wearing riotsquad-type helmets with movable transparent visors.
Aykroyd pitched his story to director / producer Ivan Reitman, who liked the basic idea but immediately saw the budgetary impossibilities demanded by Aykroyd’s first draft. At Reitman’s suggestion, the story was given a major overhaul, eventually evolving into the final screenplay which Aykroyd and Ramis hammered out over the course of three weeks in a Martha’s Vineyard bomb shelter in May-June 1982.
Aykroyd and Ramis initially wrote the script with roles written especially for Belushi, Eddie Murphy and John Candy. However, Belushi died during the writing of the screenplay, and neither Murphy nor Candy would commit to the movie, so Aykroyd and Ramis made some changes and polished a basic, sci-fi-oriented screenplay for their final draft.
In addition to Aykroyd’s high-concept basic premise, and Ramis’ skill at grounding the fantastic elements with a realistic setting, the film benefits from Bill Murray’s semi-improvisational performance as Peter Venkman, the character initially intended for Belushi.
Louis Tully was originally conceived as a conservative man in a business suit played by comedian John Candy, but with Candy unable to commit to the role, it was taken by Rick Moranis, portraying Louis as a geek. Gozer was originally going to appear in the form of Ivo Shandor as a slender, unremarkable man in a suit played by Paul Reubens. In the end, the role was played by Yugoslav model Slavitza Jovan.
Harold Ramis had no intention of acting in any role in the film as he planned on only helping Aykroyd write the screenplay.
Feeling he knew the character best since he created him, Ramis accepted the role of Egon. He credits this move in revitalizing his acting career, as Ramis had previously focused on off-screen work such as writing and directing.
Winston Zeddemore was written with Eddie Murphy in mind, but Murphy had to decline the role as he was filming Beverly Hills Cop at the same time. If Murphy had been cast, Zeddemore would have been hired much earlier in the film, and would have accompanied the trio on their hunt for Slimer at the hotel and been slimed in place of Peter Venkman. When Ernie Hudson took over, it was decided that he be brought in later to indicate how the Ghostbusters were struggling to keep up with the outbreak of ghosts