All the Ghostbusters Films That Could Have Been

Movies


The Big Picture

  • The Ghostbusters franchise faced setbacks in making a third film as the original cast aged.
  • Dan Aykroyd’s
    Ghostbusters III: Hellbent
    script included a parallel dimension adventure with new Ghostbusters.
  • The Russo Brothers and Phil Lord and Chris Miller were supposed to helm new Ghostbusters projects around the time of 2016’s
    Ghostbusters.


Ghostbusters has given rise to a strange, strange film franchise. The first film was a major success and even received a sequel, but for years a third film remained as elusive as the spirits the Ghostbusters are paid to catch. A Ghostbusters remake in 2016 drew mixed reception as well as outright vitriol from certain corners of the internet, due to having an all-female cast. Finally, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire gave the franchise a jolt of life by introducing a new cast of characters while bringing back the veteran Ghostbusters cast. Prior to Afterlife‘s release, there were a number of attempts to revive the Ghostbusters franchise by different filmmakers. What, exactly, were the visions of these films?


Ghostbusters: Afterlife

When a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind.

Release Date
November 19, 2021

Director
Jason Reitman

Runtime
124 minutes

Writers
Gil Kenan , Jason Reitman , Ivan Reitman , Dan Aykroyd , Harold Ramis


Dan Aykroyd Wanted a Third ‘Ghostbusters’ Film To Train a New Generation

The original Ghostbusters sprung into life thanks to Dan Aykroyd, who plays Dr. Raymond Stanz, in addition to writing the original film treatment, and the late, great Harold Ramis, who played Dr. Egon Spengler and co-wrote the final script with Aykroyd. Aykroyd attempted to write a third script in the early 1990s, titled Ghostbusters III: Hellbent. True to its name, it would have sent the Ghostbusters to hell — or rather a parallel dimension that resembled hell. But the biggest twist would involve the Ghostbusters themselves; Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) would have pursued a serious relationship with Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), while Ray, Egon and Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) trained a new squad of Ghostbusters. Ivan Reitman, director of the first two Ghostbusters films, showcased interest in returning to direct Hellbent, while Ben Stiller was rumored for one of the new Ghostbusters.


Hellbent did run into a major problem: Murray was disinterested in reprising his role as Venkman. This led to several stops in production, where Aykroyd tried to re-write the script so that it would focus on a new crew of Ghostbusters — with a tongue-in-cheek approach to the original crew growing older. “My character, Ray, is now blind in one eye and can’t drive the Cadillac. He’s got a bad knee and can’t carry the packs. …Egon is too large to get into the harness. We need young blood and that’s the promise. We’re gonna hand it to a new generation,” he told ComingSoon.net in 2011. The third Ghostbusters film finally halted in its tracks when Ramis passed away in 2014, though Afterlife would keep the idea of a new generation of Ghostbusters, as the film focuses on Egon’s granddaughter Phoebe (McKenna Grace).


Another screenwriter would take a crack at his vision of a Ghostbusters film in 2015: Max Landis. The son of John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Animal House) Landis had risen to prominence through a combination of co-writing the sci-fi thriller Chronicle, and a prolific number of writing projects, including the Superman: American Alien miniseries from DC Comics. Following the release of the 2016 Ghostbusters trailer, Landis wrote his own treatment for a third Ghostbusters film. He took great care to express that he wrote the treatment as a fan and never pitched it to Columbia Pictures; nevertheless, it gained traction on news sites.


Landis’ treatment featured a new generation of Ghostbusters, including Egon Spengler’s daughter, Veronica. The Ghostbusters have fallen on hard times; despite expanding to other parts of the United States, the lack of actual ghosts has sent them spiraling into bankruptcy. Very soon, a blunder from the slick yet not entirely professional Los Angeles Ghostbusters tears open a hole in reality, sending ghosts barreling into the real world. Once again, Landis’ treatment featured elements that would land in Afterlife — the Spengler family legacy as well as the return of the Ghostbusters’ first foe, Gozer (who turns out to be the herald of something much worse). Landis became persona non grata after his horrific history of abuse came to light, meaning that this pitch will forever remain just that: a pitch.

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The Russo Brothers & the ‘Spider-Verse’ Filmmakers Each Almost Directed a ‘Ghostbusters’ Project


Perhaps the most intriguing of the would-be Ghostbusters films concerns a project that was being developed around the same time as Ghostbusters (2016). It would have featured a powerhouse collection of talent, including Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) as the screenwriter, Channing Tatum as a producer and/or potential star, and Joe and Anthony Russo tapped to direct. On paper, this was an interesting hook for a Ghostbusters film; Tatum had proven his comedic chops in the 21 Jump Street reboot (which was also a Sony production), and before their work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Russos had cut their teeth on several sitcoms, including Arrested Development and Community. Ivan Reitman envisioned this and Ghostbusters (2016) as the beginning of a new wave of Ghostbusters projects, telling Deadline, “We want to expand the Ghostbusters universe in ways that will include different films, TV shows, merchandise, all things that are part of modern filmed entertainment… This is a branded entertainment, a scary supernatural premise mixed with comedy.”


One of these Ghostbusters projects would have had Phil Lord and Chris Miller stepping in behind the camera. The duo briefly touched upon this when they appeared on the Happy Sad Confused podcast,confirming that they had met with Reitman to develop a Ghostbusters film. “I don’t know what we can or should say, but we can say we had a friend who had an idea for a Ghostbusters thing that was great, and we developed it for a little bit with Ivan,” Lord said when asked about the project. “Then we put it to the side for a bit and I don’t know if it will ever come back, but it was fun.”

Though it was a road filled with stops and starts, the Ghostbusters franchise finally made it back to the big screen. Given the success of Afterlife, one can only hope that future filmmakers will get to put their own take on the supernatural comedy.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire drops into theaters on March 22.

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