In honor of the supernatural romance turning 30, director Jerry Zucker explains how they possessed the Oscar-winner.
Credit: Everett Collection

Each month in the pages of EW, we’re chatting with the filmmakers, actors, and others involved in capturing an iconic shot in movie history. This edition of The Shot examines Ghost taking possession of Whoopi Goldberg.

Upon Ghost's release in 1990, the rest of Hollywood had reason to be scared.

Between becoming the year's highest-grossing film and scoring five Oscar nominations (including a Best Supporting Actress win for Whoopi Goldberg), the supernatural romance was an unqualified smash. But there was plenty of skepticism prior to production.

“A lot of people wondered how we were going to mix the comedy and tragedy,” admits director Jerry Zucker, who made his solo debut with the Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore-led Ghost after co-helming hit parody films like Airplane! “I had to learn to trust the actors a little more.”

Thankfully, he had a "brilliant comedienne and actress" in Goldberg to “hold the movie together” as psychic con artist Oda Mae Brown, whose (fake) talent of speaking to the dead turns real when the recently murdered Sam (Swayze) pays her a visit. His arrival opens the floodgates in the above image, prompting another spirit soon to possess Oda Mae.

"There was an air pipe connected to a cylinder that would push a huge gust of air up that gown to puff it up,” says Zucker, who says it took a few attempts before Goldberg wouldn’t either laugh or jump. “It's memorable because of her expression and her energy. Even though the scene was humorous in ways, she still played the fear. Whoopi [being] able to play that so believably just made the whole film work.”

And like Oda Mae did for Sam, Whoopi did for Oda Mae. "The character really was her creation," declares Zucker. "Whoopi made it come to life."

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