NEW YORK (AP) – For decades, the quest for another “Ghostbusters” movie was as elusive as an ectoplasmic phantom.
Various iterations for a third “Ghostbusters” movie cycled through countless rumors and possibilities that had one thing in common: Bill Murray just didn’t want to do another one.
Eventually, the proton pack was passed to Paul Feig, the “Freaks and Geeks” creator turned de facto filmmaker of female comics (“Bridesmaids,” ”Spy”). Amy Pascal, then-Sony Pictures chief, convinced Feig to take on a reboot of the 1980s comedy franchise.
“I was like: OK, how would I do it? I don’t want to compete with the memory of those guys, but if I got the funny women that I love working with, that, to me, I have ideas with,” Feig says. “In my mind, it would avoid comparisons going: ‘He’s not as funny as Bill Murray’ or ‘He’s not as funny as Dan Aykroyd.’ And the main reason being: I love my funny ladies.”
“Ghostbusters,” which opens July 15, stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as the ghost-fighting foursome. Of all the summer’s blockbuster-hopefuls, none has had more eyes on it than “Ghostbusters.”
It’s the rare big-budgeted comedy (reportedly costing more than $150 million to make), so the stakes are as high as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And “Ghostbusters” has proven a curious kind of lightning rod to some, in part for nothing more than the gender of its paranormal pursuers. When the film was announced, some on social media decried it.
“This is the first time I’ve actually done something where right out of the gate, people cared so much that it just brought all this extra scrutiny on it,” says Feig. “Truth be told going into it, I kind of thought: This will be fun and didn’t realize there would be a small segment so vocally against it.”
Feig understands those who simply didn’t want to see a beloved classic remade, but not those who object to his female-led cast.
“Look, I totally understand the fear of somebody touching something you love. I completely get that. That’s kind of why I wanted to do a reboot because that’s almost the more respectful way to do it,” says the director. “Then there’s a small, tiny segment that have a problem with it being women, and that’s a nonstarter for me. That just is ridiculous.”
More controversy followed, though. When the film’s trailer debuted in March, some questioned why Jones, the lone black star in the leading quartet, wouldn’t play a scientist like the other characters. She plays a subway worker.
There’s some history of “Ghostbusters” and stereotyping. Ernie Hudson, who played Winston in the first film, has lamented the relative insignificance of his character.
“I put people in the roles that they are going to be funniest in, and that’s the only way I cast them,” says Feig. “We had this role and it’s the exact, perfect showcase for Leslie’s comedy. Personality-wise, it matched what I knew she was going to be the funniest doing.”
Jones, the “Saturday Night Live” standout, earlier took to Twitter to defend her role. Feig encourages fans not to “pre-judge” from a trailer. “You’ve got to see the movie,” he says. “She’s awesome in it.”
Feig’s track record of putting funny people in the right position – from “Freaks and Geeks” to “The Heat” – makes “Ghostbusters” one of the year’s absolute most must-see comedies. Feig, who’s currently finishing the edit and doing test screenings, promises his cast’s chemistry is excellent and that co-star Chris Hemsworth proved an equally talented comic performer.
“It’s just the greatest idea in the world to have funny people fighting the paranormal with technology,” he says. “There’s too much there for it to have just been two movies.”