Comedies must be a difficult thing for studio executives to decide to green light or not. What was the pitch for Ghostbusters like? “It’s about three professors who save the world by shooting lasers at ghosts? It’s going to cost how much? And this is a comedy?” And given that almost none of the scenes were filmed as scripted and, in fact, almost all of the scenes had at least one or two ad-libs… how did those execs make up their mind? When you put together the mid-80’s comedic powerhouse of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis… well, that’s a pretty safe bet.
Ghostbusters was a monster hit. With a budget of $32 million, Ghostbusters earned over $200 million in two theater releases(1984 and later in 1985). The theme song hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks. Ghostbusters was a phenomena.
Bill Murray had by 1984 had done a starmaking three-year stint on Saturday Night Live and starred in two hit feature films: 1980’s Caddyshack and 1981’s Stripes. Dan Aykroyd had several successful and not-so-successful films by 1984: the 1980 cult favorite The Blues Brothers, the 1983 hit Eddie Murphy vehicle Trading Places, the 1981 turkey 1941, and a brief appearance in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Harold Ramis was a veteran of the Canadian comedy show SCTV, a writing credit on the classic college farce Animal House, a turn beside Murray in Stripes, as well as directing Caddyshack. On paper… you put these three men in a room and say, “Go write me a movie.” You’ll probably get something pretty good.
Add the lovely Sigourney Weaver and the twitchily awkward Rick Moranis, and the obligatory straight man Ernie Hudson and Ghostbusters was built for success. It garnered two Academy Award nominations. One for the title song, the other for Bill Murray for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical. Neither won. Murray would later win in the same category for the quiet cult favorite Lost in Translation.
Ultimately Ghostbusters is silly fun. The film is chock full of wacky quotable lines. And for people of a certain age… well, it’s a slice of our childhood up there on the screen.