Doing a new Ghostbusters movie is a terrible idea. It’s been a terrible idea since a script for Ghostbusters 3, penned by Dan Aykroyd, first started making the rounds 12 years ago. It’s a terrible idea because even at that time the original stars of the 1984 comedy classic and its lesser sequel had aged out and Bill Murray had already promised he wasn’t willing to step into the role of Peter Venkman again anyway.
Sure, you could reboot the movie with entirely new people in front of and behind the camera — or a combination of old faces to avoid a Gen-X revolt and new ones to put Millennial asses in seats — but there was simply no way to ever recapture the special magic of the 1984 film, which was a flat-out comic masterpiece by any standard. Harold Ramis died before production on a third Ghostbusters could even begin; Ivan Reitman subsequently gave up the director’s chair; Murray still swore that doing another film would be “a nightmare.” In other words, despite Aykroyd’s seemingly unshakable faith in making a new Ghostbusters movie a reality, development on this thing has been, somewhat appropriately, haunted from the beginning.
But when there’s a surefire pile of money to be made mining a legendary property, no Hollywood executive worth his Bentley Continental GT is going to roll over and tap out. So Sony is pushing on with a script by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who worked on The Office and Bad Teacher, but the real story may be who the studio is looking at to direct and what it would almost certainly mean for the Ghostbusters as we currently know them.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sony’s first choice to direct Ghostbusters 3 is Paul Feig, who helmed Bridesmaids and The Heat — and who would reportedly move the project more in the direction of “a reboot focusing on female Ghostbusters.”
Now as box office numbers guru Scott Mendelson over at Forbes says, reimagining the Ghostbusters as a female ensemble is both interesting and, from a political and cultural standpoint, significant. As somebody who also balks at the notion of a Ghostbusters reboot, he says that a studio potentially having the guts to turn something so deeply ingrained in the public’s imagination so drastically on its ear at least makes him care about the project. It makes it suddenly “matter.”
A girl-powered Ghostbusters film won’t necessarily be better or funnier than a male-centric one. And it can be argued that Hollywood should be doing more than taking known properties and switching the gender or the skin color… But a female-skewing Ghostbusters film, if it’s successful, is a good start to Hollywood hopefully crafting new properties that don’t default to the “four dudes to every one pretty girl” template. That Sony seems willing to go for it is encouraging, even if I’d imagine part of their willingness is a desire to keep Ghostbusters alive at any cost.
Feig’s a good director and Bridesmaids was a damn funny movie, one that shouldn’t have been as groundbreaking as it was simply because Hollywood should’ve understood years ago that a female cast can carry a comedy just as handily as its male counterparts. But at the risk of having to duck the inevitable accusations of sexism, Ghostbusters might be too beloved and too culturally pervasive a property to completely reinvent, at least not without a backlash. I don’t want to sound like some fanboy who’s rending his garments over casting rumors he believes would be an unforgivable violation of canon; I’d hope that the cast of any new Ghostbusters movie would bring some high-profile female comic talent into the fold. If Feig were to propose turning Ghostbusters into Bridesmaids, though, it’d amount to a hell of a risk for Sony.
No, suggesting that more women appear in Ghostbusters or as Ghostbusters isn’t stunt casting and it’s insulting to claim as much, but if the whole thing were upended and recreated as a female ensemble piece the result may be so far detached from our collective memory of the original Ghostbusters that it would alienate audiences. This isn’t a brand new property like Bridesmaids we’re talking about, with brand new characters; this is one of the most iconic comedies in Hollywood history. And if Feig is being looked at to do what he’s very good at, this might not be a case of a popular character reimagined as a different gender — like Katee Sackhoff’s awesome portrayal of Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica — but a good portion of the cast of a formerly male-centric film being switched up. That might be a tough sell for the very first element in a franchise relaunch.
This is obviously all speculation right now, although Feig is already going on the offensive against some of the naysaying buzz the Hollywood Reporter story has generated. On Sunday he tweeted this:
Interesting how making a movie with men in the lead roles is normal but making a movie with women in the lead roles is a "gimmick." #its2014
— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) August 3, 2014
One thing you can pretty much take to the bank: If Paul Feig does wind up directing this thing, get ready to see Melissa McCarthy in Ghostbusters gray. Not only was she in Bridesmaids and The Heat, Feig’s directing her in the action comedy Spy, which is slated for next summer. In other words, barring some truly revelatory writing, her shtick will have to somehow remain fresh for a full year more and potentially beyond — all the way to a brand new Ghostbusters movie.
Or maybe we’ll get lucky and Sony will just send this ghost back to the land of the dead once and for all, for the good of everyone.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.