At $30 million, Ghostbusters cost much more than your previous hits. That was a lot for a comedy in 1984. How hard was it to get a green light?
Ivan Reitman It took me half an hour. I said it was going to be [Dan] Aykroyd, [Harold] Ramis, and of course Bill Murray. I made up the budget off the top of my head. Stripes had cost $10 million; I figured this was going to be three times as much. And they said yes.
NYC is a huge part of the film, and the city really seemed to embrace the cast.
Reitman Bill and Dan, having been on Saturday Night Live for a number of years, were really beloved in that particular city. People felt comfortable with them. I made another film [1986’s Legal Eagles] with Robert Redford, who’s beloved in a whole different way. People stayed away. They were almost diffident with him. But guys like Bill and Danny, there was a sense people could go up to them, like they were buddies. If we started a scene with 100 extras that we had hired, two hours later there would be 400 people on the scene, people just showing up.
How did Sigourney Weaver, a Yale graduate, fit in with the cast?
Reitman It was, frankly, a lovefest. She’s very sophisticated, very smart, very elegant, and could trade punches with anybody. I think Murray really adored her — adores her. I auditioned a ton of people, and she knew immediately how to play it. It was her idea, by the way, for Dana to be a terror dog. She said, ”I should get possessed,” and then she got on my coffee table on all fours and started howling like a dog.
Did you ever imagine that National Review would name Ghostbusters one of the best conservative movies?
Reitman I never knew that. I’ve always been something of a conservative-slash-libertarian. The first movie deals with going into business for yourself, and it’s anti-EPA — too much government regulation. It does have a very interesting point of view that really resonates.
Murray has slagged the 1989 sequel for years. Do you wince?
Reitman Yeah, I think he’s unfair. He was very nervous about doing any sequel, like sequels were an artistic sin of some kind. He keeps saying we sold out to the special effects. I just think we never got the last act right, with the Statue of Liberty. We couldn’t top the ending of the [first] movie, but I thought it was a worthy sequel.