Jason Reitman says he thought about Harold Ramis “constantly” while making Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Jason Reitman the director of Ghostbusters: AFterlife

After 30 years or so, the original Ghostbusters are back to see if bustin’ still makes us feel good. Yes, Ghostbusters: Afterlife – a continuation of the story began by Ivan Reitman in 1984 – is finally in theatres. Picking up his father’s director’s proton pack is Jason Reitman, the filmmaker behind such classics as the comedy movie Juno, Up In The Air, and Thank You for Smoking.

Set in 2021, the film opens in a world that’s forgotten all about the Ghostbusters and the madness that happened in Manhattan in the ’80s. Even worse, we find that the team has disbanded after Egon fled to a farm in Summerville, Oklahoma, where a familiar figure killed him. Broke and with nowhere to go, his estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) moves her two kids Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Fin Wolfhard), to her dad’s old farm.

While there, they go on an adventure that slowly reveals what Egon was doing in the small town and what Ivo Shandor was so interested in. We loved Ghostbusters: Afterlife and wrote in our review we thought it was a throwback to Amblin movies of yesteryear with a dash of bustin’ ghosts. So when we were offered the opportunity to speak to the younger Reitman, we were on the phone quicker than Ray on a fire pole. We talked about the pressure to get the film right, his hopes for the franchise’s future, and if he considered reprising the role of ‘Brownstone Boy 2’.

The Digital Fix: It’s undeniable that Ghostbusters has a passionate fan base who adore the series. I’m sure you hear this a lot but the original means a lot to me personally, as it’s a film I used to watch with my dad. How does it feel when fans share how much they love your dad’s film?

Jason Reitman: You know, it means the world to me. I grew up with Ghostbusters the way everyone else did. It occupies a part of my heart, I think the way it does for most of the world.

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It’s been a thrill to pick up the baton and try to pass the torch. And I felt this huge responsibility because this is the first film I’ve ever made that never belonged to me. My other films, I feel like they belong to me and then I hand them to the audience. This is one that I just got to drive the car for a little bit.

Jason Reitman interview

You say that they don’t belong to you, but your father was such an integral part of the success of those original movies. They’re certainly family heirlooms! In that respect how much pressure did you feel to get this right for your dad?

JR: 100% I made this movie for my father. He’s the first person to read the script first person to watch the first cut. And I did not want to let him down.

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We were at the same IMAX screening…

JR: How great was that screening!?

Incredible. I was absolutely blown away by it and I loved the audience reaction to it. How did you find watching the film on the biggest screen in the UK?

JR: Seeing [Afterlife] in IMAX was unlike anything I’ve ever done. I’ve never watched one of my movies in IMAX. I saw incredible detail I’d never seen before. I saw deeper into the shots than I’ve ever seen before.

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The car seemed to somehow move even faster last night, the sound was incredible. I mean, I really want to go back and watch every one of my movies and IMAX.

Phoebe and Podcast i Ghostbusters: Afterlife

We’ll see if they’ll put Juno on for you!

JR: [Laughs]

Now you’ve been quite open in the past about not wanting to make a Ghostbusters movie. You’ve spoken about how the death of Harold Ramis helped you change your mind, but I want to know how your dad reacted when you told him what you were planning.

JR: I think it’s no secret that my father wanted me to make a Ghostbusters movie. He was honoured that I wanted to make an attempt and he was moved when he finally read the script.

Pauk Rudd in Ghostbusters

We’ve already spoken about the fans, but there’s definitely a section of the fanbase who feel ownership over the series. Were you worried about upsetting factions within the fanbase when you first decided to make the movie?

JR: Certainly, I mean, people protect this movie because they love it. It occupies a part of their childhood and a part of their heart. And I didn’t want to let them down. But this is a movie that was made by Ghostbusters fans across the board.

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The cast, the crew, the artisans, the creature creators, everyone who worked on Ghostbusters: Afterlife wanted the kind of movie they dreamt about also as a kid. This is a movie about the rest of us who always wanted to be Ghostbusters, who wanted to put on the flight suit, don the proton pack [while] hanging out the side of Ecto-1, and bust a ghost.

Phoebe and Trevor in Ghostbusters: Afterlife

You mentioned the flight suits, proton packs, and Ecto-1 there. Something I liked about the movie was the way it connected to the original ‘84 film while also telling its own story. How difficult was it as a filmmaker to walk the line between necessary fanservice and Ghostbusters iconography while also pushing things forward?

JR: We certainly wanted this to feel like the next chapter in the original story with connective tissue that goes all the way back to 1984. At the same time, [we wanted to] introduce the audience to new characters, a family, a family with three generations that was struggling.

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Much like in my other films, it’s about parenting, and it’s about forgiveness. And it’s about how you’d speak to someone when they’re no longer there.

Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler

Speaking of that person who’s no longer there. No spoilers but the shadow of Harold Ramis looms over the film. What are the challenges in approaching a movie like this where one of your central characters has passed away?

JR: You know, Harold Ramis was an essential element of the original Ghostbusters, and his voice carries throughout this film as well.

Gil Kenan and I constantly thought and thought about Harold. What he would think of this movie? How we can get his voice into this film? And we worked with the Ramis family throughout the entire production.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife poster

I don’t want to ruin things for people, but I think you pulled that off. I got a little choked up watching the film. I’m not ashamed to say I got quite emotional.

JR: I really appreciate you sharing that with me. This has been an emotional journey for me. And it always means a lot to me when it was an emotional journey for others.

The film really is a love letter to not just fans of the series but also the original movie. I don’t think I saw any Ghostbusters 2 references though…

JR: [Laughs] I think you need to check your fandom because we find Ray stands working behind the counter of Ray’s Occult which was introduced in the 1989 film.

Muncher from Ghostbusters: Afterlife

I am mortified. Here I am in my Ghostbusters hoodie with my poster and I missed the most obvious reference you could probably have made. I thought I saw some jars of mood slime at one point, but it was just Egon’s moulds, spores, and funguses.

JR: Egon’s 1989 PKE metre can also be found in his basement as well, and the 1989 toaster’s in the farmhouse.

See, I was looking for the toaster the whole time! Were you not tempted to make a cameo yourself, by the way? You could have reprised your role as the kid from Ghostbusters II who tells Ray ‘his dad says he’s full of shit’.

JR:[Laughs] You’ll have to wait for future Ghostbusters films for another appearance by Brownstone Boy #2.

Ray Stantz versus the Brownstone boy

So you’ve thought about the future of the series then? I know you’re probably can’t say too much about it. But if there were to be a sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife, or Ghostbusters 4, whatever you call it. Do you have any ideas what that film might look like? And would you like to direct?

JR: I think it’s no secret that my father and I would love Ghostbusters mythology to keep growing from Afterlife. We wanted to make a movie that would set the table for all kinds of Ghostbusters films.

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I don’t know what they are, and I can’t tell you what they are. But every culture has a relationship with the supernatural. And we would love to see Ghostbusters continue to expand.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is in cinemas now.

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Tom Percival

Editor

Updated: Nov 18, 2021


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