Strap on your Proton Packs: After years and years of troubled production, Ghostbusters — a franchise many concluded was deader than the ghosts busted in the first two films — is finally headed back to theaters. This week, director Paul Feig confirmed that he'll helm a Ghostbusters reboot starring four comediennes: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon.
It's the end of a seemingly endless road for the franchise. Over the past two decades, Ghostbusters has gone through more ups and downs than almost any other franchise in Hollywood. Hopes of a third installment were raised (and dashed) many, many times before this last project came together. Here, a chronological guide to the long, troubled history of the push to make a new Ghosbusters:
IGN acquires a 1999 draft of a screenplay called Ghostbusters 3: Hellbent, written by Ghostbusters star Dan Aykroyd. The script is reportedly about the chaos that ensues when a hellish version of Manhattan — dubbed "Manhellton" — becomes so overcrowded that the devil starts evicting its residents into the world of the living. The script also introduces a series of new ghostbusters, including Franky, a "tough New Jersey punker," and Moira, a "pretty but uptight gymnast and science grad."
Franchise star Ernie Hudson (who played ghostbuster Winston) says that "Bill Murray isn't interested" in making a new Ghostbusters film because "he doesn't do sequels." (This was, incidentally, two years before Murray reprised the role of Garfield in A Tale of Two Kitties.) Hudson continues: "I'd love for it to go ahead, but it'd have to be soon, or we'll all be too old to bust anything! I doubt it'll happen."
Harold Ramis (who played ghostbuster Egon) tells In Focus magazine that Ben Stiller is his first choice to star as a new ghostbuster in the revised, Murray-less version of Ghostbusters 3: Hellbent, which is now tentatively titled Ghostbusters in Hell. A newly-rewritten script "transports the bumbling ghostbusters into a parallel dimension via a portal in a New York warehouse."
Video game developer Zootfly begins early work on an unlicensed Ghostbusters video game sequel. Though Sony has the teaser videos taken down, the early footage is impressive enough that several studios eventually come together to collaborate on a Ghostbusters video game.
Atari releases Ghostbusters: The Video Game, which features the voices of Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Hudson reprising their roles as the original four ghostbusters. In an interview with Now Gamer, Aykroyd says that the game, which is set two years after the events of Ghostbusters II, "is essentially the third movie" that he'd originally devised. Ghostbusters: The Video Game goes on to sell more than one million copies.
The video game's success means that "something's going to happen" with Ghostbusters 3, Ramis assures Heeb Magazine. The old script has been thrown out in favor of a version by The Office writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg that will introduce new, younger ghostbusters, but will also feature "all the old guys." Ghostbusters 3 is slated to be filmed in the summer of 2010 and be released in 2011.
Vulture reports that Columbia would like a younger director to take over the franchise, but that original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman's contract won't allow his replacement — and worse, that the contract also stipulates that Reitman, Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis each have the power to "singlehandedly veto and kill the project" for any reason. More troubling news: In an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, Murray says that making Ghostbusters 3 is his "nightmare," and dismisses the idea of a third film as "crazy talk."
Murray tells GQ that recent, hopeful reports about him agreeing to star in a third Ghostbusters movie are "all a bunch of crock." He goes on to disparage screenwriters Stupnitsky and Eisenberg, saying that he'd been told by friends that Year One, the writing duo's previous film, was "one of the worst things they had ever seen in their lives."
Aykroyd defends Stupnitsky and Eisenberg's Ghostbusters 3 script, saying that the pair "wrote Bill the comic role of a lifetime."
Ghostbusters 3 reverts to focusing on "the new generation of ghostbusters." Aykroyd floats Anna Faris and Bill Hader as two possible contenders for the roles.
Aykroyd raises other casting possibilities, including Matthew Gray Gubler and "that guy in (500) Days of Summer" (presumably meaning Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
Aykroyd announces that Stupnitsky and Eisenberg's script has been thrown out, but there's "a new writing staff working on [Ghostbusters 3] now," and that he won't make Ghostbusters 3 unless it's "perfect."
In an interview with Collider, Reitman backs away from the idea of directing a Ghostbusters sequel, saying that the original Ghostbusters should be remade instead.
Deadline reports that Reitman "is expected to finally get the long-gestating Ghostbusters reboot in front of cameras next summer for Sony Pictures." The "remake" idea is apparently off the table again.
In an interview with Larry King, Dan Aykroyd reveals the overall story for Ghostbusters 3. "It's based on new research that's being done in particle physics by the young men and women at Columbia University," says Aykroyd. "The world or the dimension that we live in, our four planes of existence, length, height, width and time, become threatened by some of the research that's being done. Ghostbusters — new Ghostbusters — have to come and solve the problem." He confirms that Murray is not scheduled to appear but adds that if Murray "wants to walk in the door and be in the movie, [they] will find a place." ComingSoon.net reports that this version of Ghostbusters 3 would likely hit theaters in 2014, to mark the 30th anniversary of the original.
Harold Ramis dies at age 69.
Ivan Reitman, who directed the first two Ghostbusters movies, steps down from the director's chair for Ghostbusters 3. In an interview with Deadline, Reitman confirms that Ramis' death was a deciding factor: "With Harold no longer with us I couldn’t see it."
Nevertheless, Sony pushes forward with Ghostbusters 3, with Reitman attached as a producer. The studio is seeking "a really good director" for a script that "has the originals in a very minor role."
"I'm hoping we can get started by the fall, set in New York," says Reitman, "but given the logistics and the stuff that happens, the beginning of 2015 seems more likely."
Sony Pictures reaches out to Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo behind The LEGO Movie, to mount a Ghostbusters sequel. They turn the offer down.
Variety reports that Bridesmaids director Paul Feig is in talks to produce and direct not a sequel, but a reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise with four women in the starring roles. "The script will be written from scratch," says the story.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Bill Murray expresses his enthusiasm for the idea of a femme-centric reboot of Ghostbusters, and even identifies a few actresses he thinks would be ideal for the starring roles. "Melissa [McCarthy] would be a spectacular Ghostbuster," says Murray. "And Kristen Wiig is so funny — God, she's funny! I like this girl Linda Cardellini a lot. And Emma Stone is funny. There are some funny girls out there." When asked about Ghostbusters, McCarthy calls the idea "daunting," but says she "would do anything with those ladies, anything at all."
Paul Feig confirms that he'll be making another Ghostbusters, co-writing the script with The Heat screenwriter Kate Dippold. "Yes, it will star hilarious women. That's who I'm gonna call," he tweets. A femme-centric reboot is "a bad idea," says original star Ernie Hudson in an interview with The Telegraph. "I hope that if they go that way, at least they'll be funny, and if they're not funny, at least hopefully it'll be sexy." In an interview on The Late Show with David Letterman, Bill Murray reiterates his support for a femme-centric Ghostbusters reboot, throwing out the same actresses he suggested in September. "I'd go watch that one in a second," he says.
Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon are announced as the leads of the Ghostbusters reboot. Paul Feig posts a celebratory tweet:
— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) January 27, 2015
Barring any further setbacks, the Ghostbusters reboot is slated for release on July 22, 2016.
The article was originally published on Oct. 18, 2012, and last updated on January 29, 2015.