35 years ago, Ivan Reitman’s iconic fantasy comedy Ghostbusters, made its debut in theatres. Released on June 5, 1984, Ghostbusters, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis, became an instant success, grossing over $295 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing comedy of its time.
Since then, the Ghostbusters franchise has gone on to produce a sequel in 1989, an awesome TV series, various comic books, and video games, and a less than popular all-female reboot film in 2016. A new Ghostbusters film, directed by Jason Reitman, is currently in development and scheduled to release in the July 2020.
In celebration of Ghostbusters’ 35th anniversary, here are 18 things you probably didn’t know about the original Ghostbusters film.
18. Sigourney Weaver’s Transformative Audition
A few years after her iconic portrayal of as Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), Sigourney Weaver had been eagerly wanting to do a comedy so the actress decided to audition for the role of Venkman’s love interest, Dana Barrett, in Ivan Reitman’s 1984 fantasy comedy Ghostbusters. As the story goes, rather give a traditional audition, the “Sci-Fi Queen” opted to do a wordless scene that involved her transforming into one of Gozer’s monstrous “Terror Dogs.”
During a conversation with Vanity Fair in 2014, Weaver recalled her unforgettable audition for Ghostbuster director Ivan Reitman, “I remember starting to growl and bark and gnaw on the cushions and jump around. Ivan cut the tape and said ‘Don’t ever do that again.’”
17. Second City Connection
Rick Moranis is well known for his portrayal of the nerdy accountant turned demon-possessed Louis Tully in Ghostbusters, but what some of you might not know is the role was actually intended for another SCTV’s alum. Dan Aykroyd had initially thought of John Candy for the role of the loveable geek but when Candy asked for a larger role and insisted that Tully be a stern German man with a heavy accent, the two decided to part ways and Moranis got the part.
Although it might have been interesting to see Candy’s take on the role, Moranis’ dorky and soft-spoken brand of humor ended up being exactly what Aykroyd and Ivan Reitman were looking for.
16. Filming The Ghostbusters’ HQ
The Hook and Ladder 8 building that served as the Ghostbusters’ HQ in the movie is a popular tourist location in New York, but what some fans might be surprised to learn is building is actually a fully-functioning firehouse and has been around for more than a century, so the interior was shot at an abandoned fire station in Los Angeles.
The Hook and Ladder 8 was built in 1903, which actually pre-dates the Fire Department of New York. It was established during a time when the firefighting forces were made up of loosely associated companies of volunteers.
15. The One of A Kind Ecto-1
The Ectomobile is without question one of the coolest and most iconic vehicles in movie history, but what some might not know is the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance outfitted with ghost-catching gadgets was actually one of a kind. Unlike Back to the Future, which used three different DeLoreans during filming, Ghostbusters only designed one Ecto-1 due to a busy and rushed filming schedule.
As luck would have it, the iconic vehicle actually broke down during the final shot of it driving across the Manhatten Bridge, but with production already wrapped by then, nothing had to be cut or reshot.
14. A Green Peanut…
The visual effects team for Ghostbusters was only given 10 months to design, build, and shoot every special effect needed for the film, so when the shot of Slimer floating around a chandelier in the Sedgewick Hotel wasn’t working out, animation supervisor Terry Windell came up with a clever yet crazy idea that involved spray-painting a peanut green in order to mimic the second-long shot of the hungry green ghost. Windell’s resourceful filming technique worked perfectly and ended up being included in the film’s final print.
13. Put Some Respect On His Name
Stephen Dane was hired by Ivan Reitman to design and oversee the development of the Ecto-1, along with the construction of various other items from the Proton Pack to the Slim Scooper. Unfortunately, during the final credits, it was discovered that Dane’s name had been misspelled (Steven Dane) and he was listed as a “Hardware Consultant.” Considering Dane is responsible for the design and creation of the Ecto-1, along with Particle Thrower, Giga meter, and Slime Blower, incorrectly spelling the man’s name and grossly under-appreciating Dane’s contribution to the film seems like a slap in the face, especially considering he finished everything asked of him in two weeks. Not cool.
12. Casper Cameo
Back in 1995, Dan Aykroyd made a notable yet small cameo as mustache-sporting Ray Stantz in the live-action Casper movie. In that particular scene, Stantz is called on to help rid the haunted house of Casper’s rowdy and troublesome uncles, but is unable to do so saying, “Who ya gonna call? Somebody else.”
Although the cameo was meant to be nothing more than some light-heart fun and a nod to the Ghostbusters franchise, Stantz cowardly portrayal and inability to defeat Casper’s uncles deeply angered fans. They were also quick to point out that Stantz breaks one of the most important rules of being a Ghostbuster, “never go solo.”
11. Michael Keaton Was Originally Cast as Peter Venkman
Dan Aykroyd was writing the script for Ghostbusters in 1982 when his best buddy John Belushi died of a drug overdose. While Aykroyd had Belushi in mind to play lead scientist Peter Venkman, his pal died before the script was finished and casting the film had begun. By the time the movie was ready to go into production, director Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd had settled on actor Michael Keaton to play Peter Venkman. They felt that Keaton’s fast-talking and sarcastic screen persona would be perfect for the role. Michael Keaton read for the part and was cast. However, when Dan Aykroyd’s other good friend and Saturday Night Live castmate Bill Murray expressed interest in the part, it was decided to retool and cast Bill Murray instead. It didn’t hurt that director Ivan Reitman had previously directed Bill Murray in the films Stripes and Meatballs.
10. Slimer’s Real Name is “Onion Head.”
The most popular and iconic ghost in the first movie is the fat green one that appears in the hotel hallway and “slimes” Bill Murray’s character Peter Venkman at the start of the movie. This ghost character, who only appears in the one scene in the film, has become known collectively by audiences as “Slimer,” and has become a de facto mascot for the Ghostbusters. However, the character is never given a name in the movie. It was audiences and the media that dubbed the ghost “Slimer” due to the fact that it slimes Murray in the movie. On the set, the cast and crew referred to the ghost as “Onion Head” because it was seen eating from a room service cart and was supposed to have really bad breath. Also on the set, actor/writer Dan Aykroyd jokingly referred to Slimer as the “ghost of John Belushi,” whose death was still raw for the cast at the time of filming in 1983.
9. Huey Lewis Sued Ray Parker Jr. Over Ghostbuster’s Theme Song
Ray Parker Jr. had a massive hit song (his only one) in 1984 with the theme song to Ghostbusters. The catchy line “I ain’t afraid of no ghost” could be heard everywhere in the summer and autumn of 1984. However, the song was not beloved by everyone. Fellow musician and hitmaker Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr. over the Ghostbusters theme, claiming that it was too similar to his hit song “I Want A New Drug” that had come out the year before. The lawsuit was acrimonious and dragged on for 11 years until a settlement was finally reached in 1995. Details of the settlement were not released publicly, but Ray Parker Jr. turned around and sued Huey Lewis in 2001 after Lewis publicly mentioned the lawsuit. Ray Parker Jr. claimed that Huey Lewis was contractually obligated not to discuss the lawsuit in public.
8. Sigourney Weaver’s Ghostbusters Poem Sold On eBay
Following the conclusion of Ghostbusters, Sigourney Weaver wrote a poem and then read it at the Los Angeles wrap party. The poem’s first stanza read, “I am a little Ghostbuster/Sigourney is my name/This picture cost a lot of bread/Let’s hope it makes the same.” The handwritten version of Weaver’s poem was later sold by Michael C. Gross on eBay for $490, along with a promise to explain all the inside jokes in detail to the winner.
To read Weaver’s entire poem (which we highly recommend), click here.
7. A Real 1-800 Number Was Created To Promote The Movie
The phrase “Who ya gonna call?” is central in the film, and is even mentioned in the theme song. To capitalize on the phrase and help promote the movie ahead of its release, producers of the movie established a real 1-800 number for people to telephone in the summer of 1984. The phone line featured a pre-recorded message by Ghostbusters stars Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. While producers initially viewed this as a promotional stunt, the 1-800 phone line became very popular and actually received more than 1,000 calls an hour for six weeks during the movie’s run in theaters. Eventually, the 1-800 number was canceled, and a non-functioning “555” number is featured in the film.
6. The Phrase “I’ve been slimed” is Never Said in the Movie
The most popular catchphrase from Ghostbusters is never actually said in the film. In 1984, t-shirts and baseball hats everywhere read “I’ve been slimed,” in reference to Ghostbusters. In particular, it referenced the scene in the movie where Bill Murray gets slimed in the hotel hallway by the ghost known as “Slimer.” However, in the movie, Bill Murray actually says “He slimed me.” Nowhere in the movie does any character actually utter the popular phrase “I’ve been slimed.” Yet it was that catchphrase that appeared everywhere after the movie was released and became a bonafide box office hit in the summer of 1984.
5. The Proton Packs Evolved Over Two Films
The Proton Packs that the Ghostbusters carry on their backs and use to zap ghosts into submission were never well thought-out ahead of filming and evolved over the course of the first two movies. In fact, the term “Proton Pack” is not actually used until halfway through the sequel, Ghostbusters II. The Proton Packs were originally just wands that the Ghostbusters used similar to the “sick sticks” featured in the movie Minority Report. The props department added the backpacks during filming. And the idea that crossing the streams of the Proton Packs would lead to an explosion was made up on the spot while the main actors were ad-libbing the final scene of the movie. This is amusing considering how associated the Proton Packs are with the Ghostbusters franchise.
4. Director Ivan Reitman is the Voice of Zuul
The deep and menacing voice of evil ghost/spirit Zuul is one of the most memorable things from Ghostbusters. And if you’ve ever wondered who performs the voice of Zuul in the movie, it is none other than director Ivan Reitman. During post-production on the film, Ivan Reitman was looking around for an actor to voice Zuul but was having trouble finding one. Out of time and with a release date for the movie fast approaching, Ivan Reitman decided to perform the voice himself. Using his best baritone, Ivan Reitman performs the voice of Zuul and did it so well that the cast and crew were blown away when they saw the final version of the movie. Many people involved in the Ghostbusters production didn’t realize it was Ivan Reitman performing the voice.
3. Eddie Murphy Was Originally Cast to Play Winston Zeddmore
Eddie Murphy was red hot in 1983 when Ghostbusters began filming, and he was actually cast to play the role of the black Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddmore, who joins the team halfway through the movie. Murphy, who has made his own attempts at sci-fi comedy films (see The Adventures of Pluto Nash), loved the script and was keen to work with fellow SNL alumni Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. Sadly, Eddie Murphy was contractually bound to star in another little film that came out in 1984 called Beverly Hills Cop. And when a scheduling conflict arose, Eddie Murphy had to bow out of the movie and was replaced by actor Ernie Hudson. This missed opportunity is made sadder by the fact that the criticism leveled at the character Winston Zeddmore is that he has no real personality in the film and, as played by Ernie Hudson, is not funny. Alas, fans are left to wonder what might have been had Eddie Murphy been able to take the role.
2. Bill Murray Made No Money From The Movie
Made on a budget of $30 million, Ghostbusters went onto gross nearly $300 million in 1984 – a then-astronomical sum. In fact, Ghostbusters was the highest-grossing comedy in movie history until Home Alone supplanted it in 1990. Yet despite the movie’s success, star Bill Murray didn’t make any money off, arguably, his most financially successful movie. This is because rather than take a paycheck for Ghostbusters, Bill Murray negotiated with Columbia Pictures to finance his personal pet project, a remake of the movie The Razor’s Edge, about a World War I veteran who goes searching for the meaning of life after being scarred by war. Bill Murray co-wrote the script for his film version of The Razor’s Edge and it was his first dramatic role. Released in October 1984, The Razor’s Edge was a critical and commercial bomb. Made for a budget of $12 million, it grossed only $6 million in theaters. Audiences and critics were not ready for a serious Bill Murray, especially after he cracked everyone up earlier that year in Ghostbusters.
1. The Movie Was Originally Called “Ghost Smashers” and Was Set in the Future
Dan Aykroyd started writing the screenplay for what would become Ghostbusters in 1981 and spent nearly two full years on it. The movie’s original title was Ghost Smashers and the screenplay was nearly 500 pages long. The original story was set in the future where there were many different teams of Ghostbusters competing against one another. Ivan Reitman found the screenplay way too long and convoluted, and he hated the title. Actor and writer Harold Ramis was then brought in to help Dan Aykroyd focus on the script. It was Harold Ramis’ idea to turn the movie into what he called “a going into the business film.” After much reworking, the script became much leaner and the title changed to Ghostbusters, and the rest, as they say, is history.