On the set of ‘Ghostbusters’: Secret villains, cameos and one super scary spirit
By Mashable – WEYMOUTH, Mass. — Kate McKinnon keeps throwing herself to the ground.
She gets back up, churlishly grins, then throws herself again. Paul Feig, her director, comes and shows her a different method. Soon, she’s up again and her next fall is goofier, limbs flailing.
At another point, Melissa McCarthy dangles upside down from a wire. She shouts over to Feig, asking if it’d be funnier if she lost her glasses. After more dangling scenes, she’s brought back down. A small crew applauds.
Welcome to the set of the new Ghostbusters — an all-female reboot of Ivan Reitman’s 1984 classic, which starred Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson as a squad of ghost-fighting New Yorkers. The film was nominated for two Oscars, nabbed well over $200 million worldwide at the box office, spawned an box office-smashing sequel and is generally considered one of the best comedies of all time.
So. No pressure here.
The new version is directed by Feig, written by Katie Dippold and stars a murderer’s row of comics: McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and current Saturday Night Live stars Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.
Though the story still takes place in New York, a lot of shooting has been done in Boston, and later at this giant set in Weymouth, Massachusetts.
The project came together after Reitman and former Sony chief Amy Pascal reached out to Feig, in search of someone to pick up the dormant franchise.
“I had a lunch with Amy and she was like, ‘Why doesn’t anybody wanna do this?’” Feig says.
But a straightforward remake didn’t appeal to Feig. He brainstormed. Maybe they could be the children of the original Ghostbusters? Still, he didn’t like doing “a movie about a world that’s already been through two giant ghost crises.” He wanted an origin story.
Then it came to him: Why not a reboot with an all-female cast?
Pascal loved it immediately. He and Dippold got to work.
One of their main goals was to “make the science seem as real as possible,” Dippold says. She consulted with scientists at Columbia and MIT — but also wanted to keep original’s silliness, because “Dan Aykroyd was so good at that fake science mumbo-jumbo.”
The original Ghostbuster even sent her suggestions and ideas for the script, “which was really a wonderful email to get,” she says.
“It’s chipping time!”
The Weymouth set is huge space — a few airplanes could fit comfortably in here. By the door sits a shiny white Ecto-1 in all its glory. Pascal mills around in a little black fedora.
The main focus of the room is a giant circle of massive green screens, huge enough to project a convincing backdrop of Times Square in New York City. Feig is on the other side, shouting “Action!”
At his behest, each of the film’s stars, dressed up in their ghostbusting uniforms – the new ones, with the bright orange stripes — fight off dozens of “ghosts,” a.k.a. actors dressed up in costumes from different eras. There are Victorian ghosts, hippie ghosts and ghosts in zoot suits.
There’s only about a week of filming left. This scene is a big climactic one, and you can see a peek of it in the film’s official trailer.
Of course, filming the scene requires each actress to do the same thing, over and over. Jones is repeatedly thrown against a van. McKinnon falls. McCarthy dangles upside down.
Time after time, Jones gets to whip out her character’s signature tool, a chipper, and say a catchphrase: “It’s chipping time!’
One thing becomes obvious pretty quickly – it’s not easy being a Ghostbuster.
“It’s pretty brutal.”
“I have lost 27 pounds with the [proton] packs and the running and everything,” Jones later says. “It’s pretty brutal. I take a lot of Epsom salt baths. I get a lot of massages. I go to the chiropractor twice a week … I’m old, everything is breaking. I’m like Humpty Dumpty.”
Plus, the packs are “heavy and they’re hard, sharp metal,” McCarthy says, “so we’ve learned to, like, negotiate around those without destroying the other people.”
“Every time we put those metal packs on, we all look at each other like, ‘Baby Jesus is gon’ help us today. Baby Jesus is gon’ help us,’” Jones says.
“I think the amount of action and the level of it in this is gonna surprise people,” says McCarthy. “It’s a lot more badass.”
Yates, Gilbert, Holtzmann and Tolan
The new film is no remake. It’s got “different characters, different story,” Wiig says. “But similar spirit — and we are wearing tan jumpsuits and busting ghosts.”
The plot for Feig’s Ghostbusters goes like this:
Abby Yates (McCarthy) and Erin Gilbert (Wiig) are best friends who believe in ghosts. As they grow up, Gilbert decides to leave that behind and become a science professor. Yates stays firmly in the ghost world, which causes a falling out.
“She’s full-throttle,” McCarthy says of her character.
Eventually, they’re brought back together, and Gilbert meets Yates’ new friend Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon), a kooky genius and gadget whiz.
“She only goes by Holtzmann,” McKinnon says. “She’s the machine expert of the gang and she is a crazy genius — ‘crazy’ being the operative word.”
McKinnon is also wearing a necklace that’s unique to her character: a pendant with a little screw and the letter U.
“I think the character is like me, and that is kind of upsetting,” she jokes.
McKinnon read physics books to prepare for the role, though she’s also been reading physics “since I was young.” Plus, she’s always been fond of gadgets and “used to really love electronics and taking apart broken stuff and looking at circuitboards.”
Later on, the Ghostbusters meet Patty Tolan (Jones), an MTA employee who sees a ghost and decides to join the team. Her character is the one who comes up with their jumpsuits, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland says.
Speaking of the jumpsuits: The outfits went through numerous stripey iterations, Kurland says. Overall, their costumes are practical – they’ve got pockets for carrying grenades, rubber gloves to deal with slime, shin guards. He made about 65 suits to use over the course of filming.
When asked what went through her mind the first time she put on the jumpsuit, McKinnon delivers what might be a very Holtzmann response: “My crotch can breathe. I love that.”
Don’t expect anyone to be a replica of a character from the original movies.
“There’s never gonna be a new Venkman like Bill Murray’s Venkman,” Dippold says.
Then there’s Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin — the team’s secretary — who’s the boneheaded opposite of Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts. McKinnon calls him a “Ken doll with the insides scooped out.”
Hemsworth is best known for playing superheroes and muscly leading men. During filming, though, he got everyone to break character “more than anybody,“ McCarthy says.
Which is a bit unfair. “Don’t you have enough?” she jokes, riffing on his good looks and star status. “Haven’t you been given two scoops to begin with?”
Hemsworth’s character also wears thick glasses, which was Hemsworth’s own idea, Kurland says.
Jones adopts a jokingly meditative state when asked about Hemsworth’s time on set.
“Let’s just take a moment and give Chris his due right now. Goddamn,” she says. “That’s a good-looking man.”
“He’s too normal for how good-looking he is,” she adds. “I’m so serious. Just seeing him talk to his kids … it’s just like, how are you this beautiful and this normal? He’s awesome. And he’s so funny in this.”
Cameos on cameos
The film’s villain is a tight secret, but Dippold does give him a name — Rowan — and a small description. He’s a “genius” who’s also adept at science. But “whereas [the Ghostbusters] wanna do good, he does not.”
Is there maybe, possibly a hint of old villain Zuul in the movie as well?
“There’s not,” Dippold confirms. “It’s a new story.”
As far as cameos, everyone’s keeping their mouths firmly shut — though Bill Murray has confirmed he’ll be making an appearance.
Initially, the original Ghostbuster was hesitant about appearing in the reboot. But eventually, “I started to feel like if I didn’t do this movie, maybe somebody would write a bad review or something thinking there was some sort of disapproval [on my part],” he tells Vulture.
Akroyd, Sigourney Weaver and Ernie Hudson will all appear as well.
Someone you won’t see? Rick Moranis, who played nervous, lovesick neighbor Louis Tully.
Moranis wishes the new film well, he told the Hollywood Reporter last October, “but it just makes no sense to me. Why would I do just one day of shooting on something I did 30 years ago?”
His words rattled around the Internet, disappointing fans hoping for a more complete reunion. Later on, Jones’ own role as an MTA employee would spark Internet backlash. She’s the only black woman on the team — as well as the only Ghostbuster who doesn’t seem to have a scientific background.
Those factors combined sparked worries that Jones would be the Ernie Hudson of the group. Hudson’s role was much smaller than those of his costars in the original Ghostbusters.
This set visit was conducted before the trailer was released and the backlash began — but when things erupted, Jones responded to critics on Twitter, asking, “Why can’t a regular person be a Ghostbuster. I’m confused. And why can’t I be the one who plays them I am a performer. Just go see the movie!”
During the set visit, Feig heaps nothing but the utmost praise on Jones, exalting her for her “giant personality.”
“When I saw Leslie for the first time, it was just like, that’s that thing I need … it was just like a hurricane, a comedy hurricane blew through my television.”
Here come the trolls
The film has also been plagued with undue scrutiny from more sexist corners of the Internet, populated by those who simply can’t believe that Feig would dare recreate this iconic comedy with an all-female cast. The director “didn’t expect this level of vitriol.”
“It was purely misogynistic,” he says.
Haters thought the film would be about bunch of women who “trip in their high heels,” Dippold jokes.
Don’t worry: It’s not. The film also won’t revolve around romance, which Dippold is proud of.
“I feel like girls are raised on a certain kind of movie,” she says. “For so long, I was always just obsessed with, like, finding my love interest … it’s really kind of an empty feeling.”
Instead, she hopes this film will inspire young girls to be scientists or go on more adventures.
For their part, the cast is mostly focused on making a good movie. They’re brushing the sexist comments aside.
“It’s a beloved franchise, like we were saying, so it’s not a male-female thing,” Wiig says. “It’s just we wanna do a good job and we all love the first movie so much.”
“It’s, like, not a man thing, not a woman thing,” Jones says. “It’s a Ghostbusters thing.”
In order to feed hungry fans, Feig has been unveiling bits and pieces from the set on Twitter — like the first photos of the team’s new uniforms.
“When we released the pictures of the uniforms, I got so many tweets from women saying, like, ‘Thank god you didn’t try to make them tight and sexy,’” he recalls. “[That] never even crossed my mind.”
Twitter is also a useful way to head off rumors and swarming paparazzi. The minute filming steps outside, all bets are off, so he’d rather people see “good images.”
“Plus, there’s stuff I don’t wanna hide,” he adds later. “I mean, a proton pack’s a proton pack, and we made our own design … I wanted to share it.”
Despite the barrage of sexist harassment Feig also faces online, he’s not going to stop. He’s also, miraculously, never blocked anyone on Twitter.
“It’s the same thing that the women went through on Gamergate,” he says. “They were just getting hammered, and everybody was wondering ‘why don’t you just go offline?’ But it’s like, no. It’s like getting chased out of your neighborhood or something … I love the Internet. I think it’s the greatest tool we’ve ever had.”
IRL, the director also avoids the rumors of an all-male Ghostbusters spinoff starring Channing Tatum — which Tatum’s own rep has denied. “For me, it’s just this movie and these four ladies,” Feig says.
But Feig is open to the idea of a Ghostbusters multiverse — though he declares that if there is one, “it’s based off of this universe we’re doing right now.”
That universe, by the way, is going to be really scary. Feig’s a horror fan — and it’ll show.
Sometimes, it’s scary to the point where the actresses actually get freaked out during filming — as when an actor dressed up as a ghost chased the team down a subway-like set.
“He was glowing with blue lights … I mean, he was above us, and we sort of had to run away from him,” Wiig says. “There was one take where he went, like, faster than normal.”
She and McCarthy start giggling, remembering that day.
“We’re like, ‘oh my god,’” Wiig says.
“Leslie was really like, ‘Aaaah!’” McCarthy adds. “She really lost it.”
The new class
Calling this film a bonding experience might be putting it lightly. Many of the actresses knew each other before shooting — but now they’re in a special, insane little club that only they understand. It’s particularly special for McKinnon and Jones, both current Saturday Night Live members, who had no idea they were going to be cast in the film.
“I think I was getting fitted for something at Saturday Night Live,” McKinnon says. “My agent called. I was pretty surprised, in a very good way. I truly had no idea.”
The group finally got together for the first time as the official Ghostbusters team at the 40th anniversary of SNL in 2015. “I knew I loved them all as performers and I guess I didn’t know quite how much I would end up loving them as people,” McKinnon says.
“I don’t know if I can say this, but Kate has literally become my bitch,” Jones says later. “That is my bitch for life. Like, she is my heart and soul. Kristen is one of the sweetest, open people that I have ever, ever encountered, and Melissa is like a mother. She’s just, like, really very nurturing … I’ve taken a lot of love from this group.”
Ghosbusters hits theaters on July 15.