Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
"Who you gonna call?" If you had shouted that anywhere in the country during the summer of 1984, a multitude of voices would've screamed "Ghostbusters!" back at you.
The paranormal comedy starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and directed by Ivan Reitman was an immediate smash with its mix of broad humor and special effects hitting a home run with kids and their parents. You probably remember the giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man that nearly destroys New York, but here are some fun facts that you might not know.
When Aykroyd was originally writing his script for the movie he intended for John Belushi and Eddie Murphy to play Peter Venkman and Winston, the roles that eventually went to Murray and Ernie Hudson. Belushi died while he was still working on the script and the shooting schedule for Beverly Hills Cop forced Murphy to drop out.
John Candy was cast initially in the role of Louis, who becomes possessed by the Keymaster. Candy quit after Reitman wouldn't let him do the character his way, which included speaking with a German accent. He was replaced by Rick Moranis, who was Candy's longtime costar on SCTV.
It's all in the marketing. The initial advertising for the movie was simply posters with the "No Ghost" logo, followed by the Ghostbusters' car (Ecto-1) being driven around New York City without explanation.
After the movie opened, Reitman created a trailer out of the commercial in the film which gave a working 800 number. The number led to a message of Murray and Aykroyd saying that they were out catching ghosts. It reportedly received an average of 1,000 calls an hour every hour for six weeks.
Stay-Puft Marshmallows is not a real product, but in the movie there's a pack of them in Sigourney Weaver's apartment as well as a billboard on the side of a building advertising them.
Rietman was originally planning on doing a film version of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. When the director and his producing partners contacted Aykroyd about being part of the project he instead pitched them his ghost movie.
The famous theme song by Ray Parker Jr. was number one on the Billboard charts for three weeks. Parker has said in interviews that he was inspired to write the song as a jingle in line with the commercial in the film after he saw a TV spot for a local plumber while trying to overcome a bout of writer's block. Huey Lewis apparently disagreed with that version of events since he sued Parker claiming that the melody plagiarized his song "I Want a New Drug." The dispute was resolved by an out-of-court settlement.
On the DVD commentary, Rietman confirms that Aykroyd's original script was set in the future where there were teams of Ghostbusters all over the world, with sci-fi touches like the Ecto-1 flying, and would've been too expensive to shoot. Ramis, who co-wrote Animal House and Caddyshack, was brought in to tone down Aykroyd's vision.
Ramis originally wasn't going to act in the movie, even though he had previously starred with Murray in Reitman's Stripes. He joined the cast after he formed a close association with the character while writing the script.
Ramis' character Dr. Egon Spengler was named after German philosopher Oswald Spengler who wrote The Decline of the West, which argued that all civilizations eventually break down.
Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman) was originally offered the role of Gozer the Destructor. After he declined, the role was reworked and went to Yugoslavian model Slavitza Jovan.
Michael Keaton was in discussions for both the Venkman and Louis roles but turned them both down. Chevy Chase was also considered for Venkman, while Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Walken were among those talked about as possible Egons. Comedian Sandra Bernhard was offered the role of the Ghostbusters secretary that eventually went to Annie Potts, while Michael McKean was one of the other actors considered to replace Candy in the Louis role.
A real jail was used for the scene where the Ghostbusters are locked up, and Aykroyd believed the location to actually be haunted.
The exterior for the Ghostbusters headquarters is the real Hook and Ladder No. 8 Firehouse in the famous Tribeca neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. The location was almost closed as part of the city's budget cuts in 2011, but was one of 19 firehouses saved in a restructured plan by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The movie was the first to have veteran broadcaster Larry King appear as himself, while porn actor Ron Jeremy and pop songstress Debbie Gibson were both extras during the filming.
The scene where Weaver levitates was done in the same manner as a magician uses in a stage show. Reitman had worked with illusionist Doug Henning on the Broadway show Merlin and was familiar with how the trick was done.
Actor William Atherton, who plays the Ghostbusters' nemesis Walter Peck, has long claimed in interviews that for years after the movie was released he would have people yelling at him on the street for his treatment of Murray and company. He said that it even led to physical altercations in bars. Atherton went on to play sleazy reporter Richard Thornburg in Die Hard and Die Hard 2.
The ghost that wreaks havoc on the Sedgewick Hotel didn't have a name in the script. The model that was used on set was nicknamed "Onion Head" because of its smell and Aykroyd joked that it was the ghost of Belushi. Fans of the movie started calling it Slimer and the name stuck, eventually being used in the animated series that the movie spawned.
Unbeknownst to the producers, Filmation had made a short-lived animated series in 1975 called The Ghost Busters. Heading off a potential lawsuit, Columbia paid Filmation a fee for using the name.
Murray agreed to do the movie only if Columbia Pictures would provide the funding for a film version of the W. Somerset Maugham novel The Razor's Edge that he would star in. Murray's pet project was released later in 1984 and made $6.6-million at the box office. Ghostbusters grossed more than $238-million in the United States alone.
This period piece takes place amidst the gossip of aristocrats in fascist Italy where the characters search for freedom passion love and self-identity. This is a straightforward tale and much like a good play it has plenty of witty dialogue and a well-paced story. The film opens with a bit of history but we soon enter a world of lust death blackmail and escape. It's an odd love story to be sure but it works. The chemistry between a beautiful English aristocrat (Kristin Scott Thomas) and an American playboy (Sean Penn) lights up the screen.
Scott Thomas and Penn are brilliant together utterly believable as romantic partners. Thomas' elegant demeanor combined with Penn's grittier charms will certainly keep audiences interested. Anne Bancroft's over-the-top princess is full of zest and wit much like her Miss Havisham was in the recent remake of "Great Expectations."
Philip Haas brings together a rich and sensuous blend of settings and characters. He skillfully combines the lushness of a Merchant-Ivory film with bristly more muscular storytelling.
The Painted Veil is based on W. Somerset Maugham’s 1925 novel about British colonialism in China. The film's cohesion is largely helped by a user-friendly script from Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) who tackles amorphous movie-unfriendly themes like emotional longing. We meet Walter Fane (Edward Norton) a lovesick middle-class bacteriologist who spots Kitty (Naomi Watts) an upper-class socialite approaching the upper limits of marrying age at a party. Walter not smooth with women woos Kitty with his intensity and persuades her to join him in cholera-stricken China. With a wandering eye Kitty is soon caught in a lusty affair with a local British diplomat Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber) but Walter eventually forgives her but imprisons her in the desolate green south China countryside. The film's crucial problem is its setting of a Western-centric love story on top of a palette of Chinese human death and disease albeit framed beautifully and exotically. Norton and Watts take producers' credits as well. The actor pushed for years to get The Painted Veil made painstakingly and authentically co-produced with the China Film Board. These facts hint at the commitment and intelligence Oscar nominees Norton and Watts bring. Norton always impresses and surprises. Each role in his resume is tasty in its own way a wholly new creation and never derivative. In Norton's previous film The Illusionist he was a similarly powerful opaque character from a far away time and place. Although sometimes seeming she’s on autopilot Watts is also brilliantly underrated as the conflicted Kitty who doesn't love the man she married even though he loves her as much as she loves herself. Her tricky darting eyes mixed with uneasy body language tells us we don't know what to expect other than that she'll probably sabotage herself. Toby Jones--who played Truman Capote to critics' acclaim in Infamous--does a provocative turn as the mysterious opium-smoking neighbor. The Painted Veil falls short of greatness when the second half crumbles into laziness right when the emotional impact should be the strongest. Director John Curran is relatively untested ( We Don't Live Here Anymore) especially with difficult material and he stumbles a bit in this ambitious drama. Veil's storytelling meanders with a few unnecessary scenes. Lame mini-montages lapse into TV movie territory. Attention to detail however (minus Norton's highlighted hair) is superb. Four exquisite wisely picked Chinese locations were used in concert with local actors and crew to produce an internationally representative work of Chinese/American art. Interior sets are post-WWI prudish and upper-class underlying the movie's "painted " hidden ideas. Old-world rickshaws and water systems are true to the time. The haunting soundtrack feels postmodern and contemporary. But overall like last year's disappointing Memoirs of a Geisha the mish-mash of American and Asian story themes doesn't quite work.