May 7 2012 5:00pm

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Original Ghostbusters

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Original Ghostbusters

Easily one of the most quotable films of all time, Ghostbusters haunts the zeitgeist with its wit, originality, and almost complete perfection. For massive Ghostbusters fans like myself, the animated series, and the second film count too, but nothing will quite match the total statement of the original.

But sometimes what happened behind the scenes on a great film like this is almost as interesting as what we ended up seeing. Derived from the excellent directors commentary track on the Ghostbusters DVDs, here are five things you might not know about the boys in grey and the strange things going on in your neighborhood.


1.) New York Outside, LA Inside

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Original Ghostbusters

The awesome New York City firehouse where the Ghosbusters set up shop is indeed a real, active firehouse located downtown in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan. However, the interiors of the firehouse were all shot in another firehouse in Los Angeles. Adding to the believability of this, both firehouses were built in 1912, making them eerie duplicates of one another. According the Harold Ramis, the enthuasism over discovering the pole was genuine on the part of Dan Aykroyd, so they just wrote the scene that way.

While the exteriors of the main branch of the New York Public Library are indeed the New York Public Library, and the interior scenes of the Rose Reading Room were really shot there (very early in the morning), all the initial scenes downstairs with the librarian being freaked out by the ghost were filmed in a library in LA. Finally, the interior of the Sedgwick hotel, where the Ghostbusters bag Slimer, is also in Los Angeles.

Ghostbusters is commonly thought of as New York movie, but often when the boys head inside, they are magically transported to Los Angeles.


2.) Ecto 1 Was One of a Kind

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Original Ghostbusters

In the movie, Peter Venkman is very disappointed in how Ray wasted a ton of money on an antique hearse that needs a new set of everything. In fact, the actual car was one-of-a-kind, meaning the entire production crew was extremely nervous about anything happening to it. According to Ivan Reitman, the car actually broke down once on the Manhattan Bridge while filming the famous scene in which Ray and Winston are traversing the bridge and talking about the end of the world. By the time Ghostbusters 2 came out, very little had to be done to the car to make it seem like it was on its last legs in the introductory scenes.


3.) Sigourney Weaver Made Up Her Own Lines, Barked Like a Dog

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Original Ghostbusters

Both Ivan Rietman and Harold Ramis say that Sigourney Weaver was desperate to do a comedy, and as such jumped at the chance to be in Ghostbusters. Apparently, because the script called for her transformation into a dog, Sigourney barked like a dog during her audition. She also considered herself to be something of the straight man in what was otherwise, in her head, a Marx Brothers movie. 

She’s also largely responsible for how Dana speaks. The line in the original script when Dana tells off Venkman was originally “you don’t seem like a scientist. You’re more like a used car salesman.” Weaver changed this on set to “you’re more like a game show host.” And we can’t imagine Venkman any other way.


4.) Filming Shut Down Traffic in New York and Offended Isaac Asimov

The famous finale of the film was (mostly) filmed on the real Upper West Side in Manhattan. Of all of the New York City shoots, this one caused the most chaos. Traffic was halted all the way down to Columbus Circle, Times Square, and then Union Square, as well as across Manhattan from Broadway to 9th Avenue. For those unfamiliar with the geography of NYC, this means half of midtown was shut down, including many major traffic arteries. (Maybe the Ghostbusters causing the blackout in the sequel is an homage to this?) In any case, while filming, New York resident Isaac Asimov visited the set with the express pupose of bitching out Dan Aykroyd. According to Harold Ramis, Asimov hated the whole thing because it prevented him from getting home and screwed up traffic to intolerable levels. Aykroyd is a huge Asimov fan, and in the words of Ramis “Danny was crushed.”


5.) “Cross the Streams” Was Made Up While They Were Filming

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Original Ghostbusters

Even a casual film aficionado will notice the famous climax of Ghostbusters is a little bit bullshit. Why is crossing the streams the solution to everything? Because Egon said it was destructive early in the movie, duh. (“Total photonic reversal!”) This kind of convenient plot device is evident in other 80s movies (“Don’t look at Marion!” Wait? How did he know that? What is it?) but as the Ghostbusters filmmakers reveal, this was literally made up while the movie was in production. They didn’t feel like they had a good way of defeating Gozer, so a concept was shoe-horned into the story to create a sense of continuity. (We all love this plan and are excited to be a part of it, but it is probably the one thing that sticks out as being a conveniently ad hoc in what is otherwise a perfect movie.)


There are tons of more little tidbits on Ghostbusters out there, but these struck me as the ones no one talks about. One thing is for sure, no one ever made them like this!

Ryan Britt is’s staff writer. He’s got two in the box, ready to go, he be fast and they be slow.

Genevieve Williams
1. welltemperedwriter
I just saw this movie again recently for Seattle's SF film festival. It's still great fun (and as an academic, I love the conversation between Venkman and Ray about what they're going to do now that the university has kicked them out).

Though part of the fun is that my best friend's name is Ray, and he is easily the sort of person of whom one asks "What did you DO???" on multiple occasions. :D
Joseph Kingsmill
2. JFKingsmill16
The top three quotable 80's movies to me in order are Ghostbusters, Airplane (very close second), & Johnny Dangerously :-)
wizard clip
3. wizard clip
ORIGINAL Ghostbusters? I think not. There's only one original Ghostbusters, and that starred Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, and Tracy the Gorilla.
Alan Courchene
4. Majicou
In the case of "Don't look at it, Marion!", I think Indy knew that in Old Testament tradition, to look upon the presence of God was fatal, and that the divine presence was connected to the Ark as it was kept in the "holy of holies" where only the high priests could go, and only at certain times. Not really spelled out in the movie, but plausible enough given Indy's field of expertise.
wizard clip
5. tree_and_leaf
@Majicou - agree completely. You don't even have to be a an expert on the ancient world, or know much about Biblical Studies, you just have to have heard certain bits of the Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament read out (not just the cultic restrictions; there's the story about the guy who touches the Ark to stop it falling, and is struck dead), and I bet Henry Sr. made Indy go to church as a kid. It was fairly obvious to me as a child, just from Sunday School knowledge that opening the Ark was a really, really bad idea.
wizard clip
6. wizard clip
@4 & 5: Yes, I feel ancient saying this, but I remember the same question coming up about Raiders when it first came out, but I think you guys nailed it, the concept that the face of God in its full glory is simply too much for a mortal man or woman to behold. And it's not an exclusively judeo-christian concept. Notice, for example, how Zeus typically appears before mortals in the shape of an animal or a ray of light, etc.
wizard clip
7. a1ay
6: there's actually a myth in which Zeus appears to a mortal in his true form, and she's immediately struck dead. (Semele, mother of Dionysius).
Ryan Britt
8. ryancbritt
One of the reasons I love writing for is that my post about Ghostbusters turns into a conversation of about Raiders of the Lost Ark. Wonderful. :-)
wizard clip
9. Eugene R.
wizard clip (@3) - Storch: "I'm Spencer, he's Tracy", Tucker: "I'm Kong", Both: "We're the Ghoooost-busters!" I love how the gorilla was not Kong.

As for Indy knowing not to look at/into the Ark, there is a certain amount of contradictory material in the Hebrew scriptures about the ability of humans to view the presence of divinity and survive. Exodus 33 simultaneously says Moses spoke to the Lord face-to-face and also includes the (in)famous passage with the Lord warning about no one seeing His face and living (and granting Moses only a glimpse of His "backside"). Personally, I believe that Indy was thinking more of Lot's warning to not look at the divine vengeance about to be wreaked all over Sodom and Gomorrah, a backward glance at which got Lot's wife zapped into pretzel coating.
wizard clip
10. Matt D
Raiders: Early on there is a scene where Indy shows the military an illustration of the ark being used on a battlefield. It's been a while since I saw the scene, but I'm pretty sure the people carrying the ark in the picture were blindfolded, and that this is what gave Indy the idea that a precaution could be taken against what was in the ark.
wizard clip
11. SueQ
My nephew had a hand-me-down 'Ghostbuster' T-shirt from a much older cousin. He was properly amazed when I pointed out Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray in the picture and told him about the day I cooked them lunch. When they were vacationing at the Ackroyd family farm, Dan and Donna were regulars at the little restaurant where I cooked: so much so that it got to be that who was with them was the question. One day it was Bill Murray -- another day it was John Candy (made my day!) Of course it was a friend of mine who ran into them a couple years later with SEAN CONNERY! Arghh!! He still had his ponytail from 'Medicine Man' -- and I missed him!

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