Mark Gallagher is a brilliant comedian and a friend of mine. He’s also a die-hard Ghostbusters fanatic. So when it was announced that WikiLeaks had all the Sony hack emails and provided a search function, the first thing he did was begin looking for anything regarding the planned Ghostbusters reboot he could find. And boy, did he find a lot.
I woke up this morning to see Mark posting some leaked emails on his Facebook profile. I decided to interview him about what he found:
What is Ghostbusters to you?
Ghostbusters is the first thing that I can remember being a fan of. I was between 2 and 7 years old during the run of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, which is what first grabbed me.
How much Ghostbusters memorabilia do you own? Which item are you most proud of?
Over the years I’ve had everything you would expect, the original firehouse, proton pack, action figures. A lot of which I still have. On top of that, I’ve collected a good portion of recently produced merchandise like the PKE Meter and Ghost Trap replicas. I’m most proud of the homemade proton pack replica and suit I put together around 9 years ago.
Did you follow the Sony email drama last fall?
I was captivated by the Sony email leaks. Being obsessed with the film industry, I wouldn’t want to lose the insight I got from the information that came out of the leaks, however I do understand how destructive it was for the studio and I can certainly feel for them in that regard. Also, the politics behind the leaks on behalf of North Korea were insulting at best.
Did you see The Interview?
I saw the interview on Christmas night and I very much enjoyed it. It was the kind of hard satire you don’t see enough in comedies these days.
Paul Feig’s reboot pitch (worst ideas in bold):
Here’s my take on it: It’s a reboot of the franchise in a world (our world) that has never actually had any legitimate contact with the ghost world. Our villain ghost is an executed murderer, a Ted Kazinski type (think Peter Dinklage) who has left behind a manifesto of how he wants to change and destroy the world. When his execution is hit by a supercharged electrical storm, he is turned into a powerful ghostable to rouse other villainous spirits from the ghost world to carry out the ever-expanding plans of his manifesto. Our four new female Ghostbusters come together in an origin story that sees them forming a team based on their diverse skills and plays with the invention and trial-and-error of their various Ghostbusting technology and techniques as they try to stop the villain and his ever growing force of evil ghosts, which is a boring way of saying that we’ll see four very different women come together and figure out in funny, scary and action-packed ways how to save New York City and the world.
This first film will deal with this one mission and the formation of our team and the evolution of their hardware and by the end result in them forming their actual Ghostbusters business, versus starting a business mid-film like the original movie. However, I would like to keep their business as a secret government agency in a world where the government has worked hard to cover up the events of this first reboot in order to keep the public from knowing that there is now a possible reoccurring ghost threat over our country. (I’m playing with the idea that, a la Close Encounters, the government stages an evacuation of mid-town Manhattan to keep the public from knowing about the ghost threat, so that even though most of mid-town Manhattan is a mess after the final battle, they are able to explain it away as a gas explosion or something to that effect. This will keep the franchise from having to denounce the Ghostbusters in a sequel or drop them back into a world in which the public is now fully aware of ghosts. This will give the franchise much more longevity. There’s a funny dynamic we want to play with where the government eventually starts working with the Ghostbusters but has to keep denouncing them publicly, having a Cecily Strong type character always saying terrible things about them in press conferences and then apologizing to them behind the scenes, even though her public attacks on them get more and more personal. “I’m sorry, I just have to make it sound convincing.”)
Tonally, the movie will be a bit scarier and more hi-tech than the original and the set pieces will be bigger, while still being very funny. For example, I want in the third act to have the entire police force and army accompany the Ghostbusters to the final battle but since our villain only wants to deal with the Ghostbusters and wants to make the government look ridiculous, he possesses the entire police and army forces and makes them do a big ridiculous dance number in the middle of Fifth Avenue, thus neutralizing them (and delighting himself). I think that having our main villain be both evil and funny in the ways screws with our world as he’s trying to carry out the points of his manifesto (get revenge on everyone who slighted him, humiliate and take down Wall Street, make the United States look ridiculous to the rest of the world and eventually destroy NYC, which to him is the brain of the US), as well as have fun with the ghosts he picks to carry out various tasks (could be all dead villains and famous criminals he recruits from the ghost world and – in what I think could be a billion dollar idea – recruits the ghosts of evil beings from other parts of the universe – yes, ghost aliens! “Our world isn’t the only place in the universe with bad and dangerous beings that have died, you know. There’s a lot of bored dead monsters out there who are just looking for something to do.”)
What was your reaction when you heard about the all-girls Ghostbusters reboot? What about the all-male one they announced later on?
I love the casting choices, but am still confused as to why they chose to advertise and produce a Ghostbusters movie with a focus on gender. I’m not sure what purpose that serves seeing as how the original movie had nothing specific to do with gender. It seems like the wrong target for that kind of thing. The main female characters in the original Ghostbusters were strong and represented women in a positive light. I obviously have no problem with the premise of a female Ghostbuster. It’s been done very well in the cartoons and comics. Just not sure why they’re spotlighting gender in this instance.
The following announcement of a purposefully all-male Ghostbusters was even more disappointing. It seemed like they were responding to the negative reaction of their first announcement in the worst possible way. The fans don’t want either. They just want a good story and I couldn’t imagine someone who thinks it’s a good idea to insert gender bias into a Ghostbusters movie is going to have much to offer in the way of a worthwhile plot.
The most disappointing element to all this news, however, is that they chose to scrap the already established universe for a reboot. I know Harold Ramis has passed and Bill Murray’s not interested (rightfully so), but Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson, and potentially Rick Moranis have still expressed interest. It’s a crime to not build a movie around the great roles they played respectively.
What possessed you to go searching for these emails?
When I caught wind that wikileaks made a searchable archive of all of Sony’s email’s, the first thing I did was type “Ghostbusters”
A lot of info in these emails has been made public over the past few months due to the leak. However until yesterday, I was only able to learn what media outlets chose to report on. Since then I have read a lot more interesting material.
What was the most surprising thing you found? What was the most disappointing?
The most surprising thing I found was how nonchalant it seemed major decisions and even suggestions are made between executives and those who communicate with them. It feels as though there is a lot of the same kind of spitballing I do with my friends, only they have the resources to make these things come to life. Yet, some of the things they want to bring to life maybe don’t deserve to be.
The most disappointing things I discovered when reading these emails are the in-the-moment decisions they seem to make when it comes to hiring writers and directors. We’re talking about Ghostbusters, one of the most popular and well recognized comedies of all time. It seems to me, Sony isn’t thinking broadly enough in terms of who to hire, but rather reaching out to whomever wrote or directed the highest grossing comedy of the past year. That kind of short term thinking is poisonous and certainly part of the problem with the glut of lackluster stories that have been presented to us. I, for one, am a big supporter of sequels, remakes, prequels, reboots, whatever – I always want to see more of what I love on the big screen, but it needs to be done right and you don’t see a lot of that, unfortunately.
Will you keep searching through these emails? What were you hoping to find?
Yes, I will keep searching through these emails in the same way that, as a Ghostbusters fan, I eat up anything I can get my hands on.
The holy grail for me would be to get my hands on one of the early drafts of the Ghostbusters sequel that will likely never see the light of day. One with the entire original cast. Aykroyd wrote one way back that would have cast possibly Ben Stiller, Jack Black or Chris Farley as a new recruit wherein the Ghostbusters travel to hell. Who wouldn’t want to read that? There’s allegedly a draft out there where Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman is a Ghost, as he claimed he would only star in a Ghostbusters movie if he could play a Ghost, so they met his demands. None of these movies are going to get made at this point, but in reading about them over the years, I fantasize about getting a hold of one of these scripts.
Will you be seeing the new movie in theaters?
Here’s my rule. All girls, all guys, whatever, if they are wearing the original Proton Packs, dressed in the original flight suits, driving the original Ecto 1, working in the original GBHQ firehouse, no matter how bad the movie may look, I’m all in. If they go for anything else, then who cares? Because without the dynamic between the characters in the first movie, the only value that movie has are the iconic visual elements. Throw that out the window too, and what’s the point?
Do you have an idea for a Ghostbusters film? What would you do differently than Paul Feig? Who would you cast?
I do have an idea for a Ghostbusters film. It’s a bit of a long story – THAT I WILL TELL.
As I mentioned, I have a replica Ghostbusters outfit. A while back, without my permission, an artist from IDW Publishing used my image on one of their comic book covers. I reached out to them and we agreed on settling privately ($500 if I gave up my rights to sue).
You settled for just $500?
I went with this because all the lawyers I contacted me wanted cash I didn’t have to go forward. Another term of our agreement was that the artist would propose my idea, which was originally for a third Ghostbusters movie, as a pitch for one of their stories. He told me that the arc was mapped out for the year and they wouldn’t even be able to consider this for an entire year, but yes, he would forward it to his editor.
My basic premise was that the Ghostbusters have been doing this for decades now, they’re tired, old and sloppy, but they’re the only game in town. We all remember the ballroom scene in the first movie. Imagine what would happen to your kitchen if you hired them to take care of a paranormal pest at home? They’re grumpy because their isn’t much money in Ghostbusting anymore seeing as how business only does well when the world is about to end. As though from out of nowhere, a competing company cracks the code and offers a cheaper, friendlier, more efficient Ghosthunting service. They call themselves the Ghostsmashers (which is the title of the original Ghostbusters screenplay). We learn that this team is funded by Walter Peck, their former adversary from the EPA. The Ghostsmashers effectively put the Ghostbusters out of business. However, they use a different technology. Instead of using a proton pack to catch ghosts ( theoretically made out of negatively charged energy) they use a neutron pack which overcharges ghosts with negative energy and makes them explode. The problem is, there is a dangerous level of negative energy in the atmosphere, which opens our world up to a paranormal invasion. The Ghostsmashers only have one group of people to turn to to save the day – The Ghostbusters. They team together, yadda, yadda yadda. This idea would have made the studio happy because they were always looking for an excuse to bring on young recruits.
So I pitch this. Hear nothing. Then a year later, IDW releases their Ghostsmashers storyline which is basically everything I pitched. So there’s that.
Alternatively, you can still make a Ghostbusters sequel within the same universe and bring on anyone from the original cast who still wants to participate. They already did this with Extreme Ghosbusters. Egon is a college professor, he notices an increase in paranormal activity, and recruits some of his paranormal studies students to work for him. It’s pretty simple, just replace Egon with Ray and you have yourself a satisfactory premise.
Sony execs discussing the possibility of legally twisting Bill Murray’s arm into appearing in the film:
In order to more fully evaluate our position if Bill Murray again declines to engage on “Ghostbusters”, AG requested that we identify “aggressive” litigation counsel with whom we can consult to evaluate our alternatives and strategize.
What do you hope happens with the information you’ve dug up?
Ideally, people catch wind of the poor thought process going into this new Ghostbusters film and the studio has second thoughts. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Movie studios make decisions based on initial public reaction all the time.
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