Was digging through some old files the other day and came across some interviews I’d done with “Ghostbusters” stars Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler) and Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore) back in 2009. The purpose of these interviews was to discuss the then soon-to-be-released “Ghostbusters: The Video Game.”
While I was skimming through the interviews, I realized that less than a quarter of the content had been used in the article I wrote for a now-defunct magazine.
Then I realized that “Ghostbusters” fans might get a kick out of them even though they are nearly three years old.
Then I realized that the magazine became defunct before I was paid.
So, screw the magazine, here’s the first interview…
Gordon Holmes: How happy are you with how the game turned out?
Harold Ramis: It looks really cool, but I don’t do games, those kinds of games anyways. I do like word games and stuff. I told them when we were recording the dialogue that my things are mainly Shanghai and Solitaire and Scrabble online.
Holmes: That’s a bit of a departure.
Ramis: Yeah, but my kids play all kinds of interesting games, sports games, first-person shooters.
Holmes: Are they excited to be playing as dad?
Ramis: Are they excited? (Laughs) They couldn’t be less interested in my career. No, the young one is excited, I’m sure.
Holmes: How do you feel about how the Egon Spengler character is looking? Is he doing you justice?
Ramis: No, he looks better than I looked. That’s for sure. Nowadays the voice still fits, but the suit certainly doesn’t.
Holmes: I told them if they make a Gordon Holmes character they’d better suck in the waist and buff out those shoulders.
Ramis: (Laughs) There’s going to be some toy merchandising too. There never were Ghostbusters action figures that look like us because they were based on the cartoon. So, I’m now seeing models for realistic-looking Ghostbuster toys that do resemble us quite closely.
Holmes: What’s it like to see a little you? I know there was never a “Stripes” action figure.
Ramis: It’s kind of cool, the action figure. I always remember Dan Aykroyd saying when we were working on the first “Ghostbusters” script that when he did “Blues Brothers’ he resisted a lot of merchandising because he didn’t want to have his face on every lunch box in America. But then he said, “Now I do want to have my face on every lunch box in America.” It’s fun and just odd. It’s odd enough to be known as an actor or a public figure, but having a toy it’s a little weird.
Holmes: As an actor is it tough to translate a character from the big screen into a video game?
Ramis: The games are so action based so there’s a lot of calling out instructions and warnings and tracking the characters through those environments. And for some reason, probably because Egon wears glasses, I have tons of technical dialogue in the game. I’m the one who has to explain in paragraph-sized blocks of jargon what the new devices are, or what the procedures are going to be.
Holmes: I think some of that is your fault.
Ramis: I know. One of the great pleasures of writing the first one was coming up with the tech talk. All of the stuff that Danny and I were tossing back and forth and he’s really good at it.
Holmes: Free-roaming, full-torso, vaporous apparition.
Ramis: (Laughs) Yes. And he had been pre-realizing “Ghostbusters” for years before I got into it and also has some psychic history in his family. And I’d done some very superficial reading about the paranormal, well more than most people, but not like Dan. And, I was not a believer like Dan. And he came at it with so much enthusiasm and detailed drawings of what the devices should look like. He had the technological theories that made ghostbusting practical. And we also consulted with someone from JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) when we were in the final phase, getting the reality of what we’re doing.
Holmes: I was shocked when I heard Bill Murray was coming aboard for the game, were you surprised?
Ramis: Oh, me too. Absoultely. He’s so, not just publicity shy, but he’s been so incredibly selective about what he’s done over the last several years.
Holmes: He’s been doing some amazing stuff. I love “Rushmore,” that’s one of my favorites.
Ramis: Oh, yeah, I thought that was great.
Holmes: One of the ideas that I’m tossing around for this piece is the idea that video game technology has progressed to the point that the games can be spiritual (no pun intended) sequels to older franchises. Do you think we’re headed in that direction?
Ramis: That’s really interesting. The great power of film has always been as a visual experience, you really thought you were in the film, watching the movie in the dark on a big screen engulfs you in a certain way. And when people see movies they love, they love being in the world of the movie. And nothing does that like a video game. It puts you behind the wheel or behind the gun, it puts you in space or the vehicle, whatever it is. It’s the most accurate representation of a real experience that we have. For movies that people really love, the chance to participate, control characters, move through those environments, making choices as if they were characters themselves, I can see the appeal of it. I don’t think it will replace a great sequel. There’s a lot of talk about “Ghostbusters 3” as a sequel that’s in the works now. The guys who wrote my new film with me “Year One” (Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky) are working on it.
Holmes: What advice would you give to someone who’s working on something that you’ve written in the past.
Ramis: Well, it better be good. Even “Ghostbusters 2” was slightly disappointing to the audience. It’s hard to recapture the thrill of seeing something for the first time. I don’t know how you felt about the last “Indiana Jones”, but I would not want to come back with that.
Holmes: If you enjoy a franchise, it’s nice to see the people you know and love as the characters again, but there’s got to be more.
Ramis: Well, we tried.
Holmes: You’re not going to catch me bashing “Ghostbusters 2“ at all.
Ramis: (Laughs) There were things that I was never happy with, even conceptually, but that wasn’t my call. And I did a sequel to “Analyze This” and “Analyze This” was quite popular and “Analyze That” was not really popular. And yet, the movie was what I thought was a very logical extension of “Analyze That.”
Holmes: If you could have a mulligan on “Ghostbusters 2” what would you change?
Ramis: I was not in love with the slime metaphor. My original concept was bad vibes could collect under large population centers and New York was experiencing this kind of seismic level of paranormal activity because the city was about to blow, there was so much bad will. So, rather than see it materialize as slime, which was kind of a late add to that process, my idea was, there’s a line in the movie where the Mayor says, “What am supposed to do, go on television and tell everyone they’ve gotta be nice to each other?” And that was exactly my idea, the people of New York had to be nice to each other because the city could not stand anymore bad vibes. And I had several ways to dramatize that that I thought were funny.
Holmes: Where would you like to see the franchise go?
Ramis: I’d love to have someone with an original thought come to it. Not just try to copy the original. Bring a fresh generational spin to it. We were voices for our generation, popular voices, but this generation sounds different. This new movie (“Year One”) I’m doing with Judd Apatow made use of a lot of people from that world, who are a full generation, if not two, younger than me. Michael Cera’s in my movie and my son is not much younger than Michael. So, they sound different. Maybe the concerns are similar but I’d like to see “Ghostbusters” expressed in a more contemporary metaphor.
Holmes: There was talk of a new “Ghostbusters” in the 90s with Pauly Shore.
Ramis: Oh yeah, never. Dan tried to revive it in the 90s and actually wrote a script for Columbia, but then we were thinking…my dream team was Chris Farley, Chris Rock, and Ben Stiller, which I thought would have been funny.
Holmes: Was that the “Ghostbusters in Hell” script?
Ramis: Yeah, “Ghostbusters Go to Hell.”
Holmes: I thought it was interesting. I know the game has individual portals, I don’t know if that tied into the Hell concept.
Ramis: My concept there was that Hell is a simultaneous reality, it’s slightly out of phase with our reality. It’s like a strobe, when our reality is on, hell kind of blinks off. So what the Ghostbusters have to do is kind of a hitch step, you know when you try to get in step with somebody. The Ghostbusters had to technically skip one beat and then they’re in Hell. Dan’s original script had a Hell as a fantasy place, Dante’s and all that. But my thought was Hell is right here on Earth and looks just like the world we live in.
Holmes: Back in 1984 did you have any idea that you’d still be talking about “Ghostbusters” 25 years later?
Ramis: It might be the height of arrogance to say so, but we’d already before that been associated with some really big things that landed hard in the culture, starting with “Animal House” and “Saturday Night Live” and everything we’d done prior to that was successful. So we had no reason to suppose this wouldn’t be big. And everyone thought that we were creating a new iconography. That the concept was such a strong hook that it was going to hit land really hard.
Holmes: I spoke with Ernie Hudson and he was telling me about people approaching him and they’ve named their kids Winston…
Ramis: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s constant, it’s totally constant. It’s a feature of my life to be recognized and complimented for things I’ve done 30 years ago as if they’ve just happened. People talking about “Ghostbusters” or “Stripes” or “Animal House” or “Caddyshack.” It all fortunately continued after “Ghostbusters,” to some extent. But people love “Ghostbusters” in a really big way. Parents loved it for their kids. Teachers loved it. We got mail from teachers who said they loved that kids were playing Ghostbusters at recess because it was a non-violent game that didn’t divide the kids into good guys and bad guys and the games were very cooperative. It’s really had some power.
Holmes: When people bring up “Ghostbusters” to you, what do they bring up?
Ramis: Usually you just get the impact things. People love the combination of the things that were marginally frightening and the mundane comedy of it. I always thought that was what made the movie. Taking something that’s usually treated with awe or terror and laughing at it.
Holmes: Did you keep any mementoes from the set?
Ramis: I have a jumpsuit, which is faded, with all the patches, and then I also have Egon’s business suit that he wore before we became Ghostbusters. I also have boxes of Egon glasses.
Holmes: I’ve got to tell you, one of the saddest days of my young life was when I found out Ghostbuster wasn’t a real job.
Ramis: (Laughs) Well people made it a real job. Isn’t there some reality show?
Holmes: Yeah, but they don’t get proton packs, they don’t get traps, they don’t come home with any ghosts.
Ramis: And they don’t get to hang out with Bill Murray or Dan Aykroyd.
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