Thu
Oct 25 2012 12:30pm
No One Ever Made Them Like This! 7 Little Known Facts About Ghostbusters

7 Little Known Facts About Ghostbusters

Though it is Ghost Week on Tor.com all week, our not-so-subtle ulterior motive is to actually make it Ghostbuster week. In our view, it's still one of the most perfect films of all time, and easily the best science fiction comedy. 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 director's commentary track on the Ghostbusters DVDs, here are seven 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 to Harold Ramis, the enthuasism from Dan Aykroyd over discovering the pole was genuine, 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.) Venkman’s Electric Shocks Were Based on a Real Experiment

Ramis and Reitman reveal that the scene in which Venkman ruthlessly gives electrical shocks is based in part on the infamous Milgram experiment, a social psychology experiment which measured how far individuals will obey authority, even if they are actively doing harm to others. Ramis says the purpose of this scene in Ghostbusters was to test the audience’s ability to accept their hero unfairly giving electric shocks to someone else. 

 

5.) 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.”

 

6.) Ghostbusters Relied on Many Low-Budget, Practical Effects

Discussions of awesome movies frequently incorporate the phrase “special effects” which is really a misnomer. “Special effects” in the olden days referred to what is now called “practical effects,” which really happened on the set. Wires to make things fly, actual pyrotechnics, etc. Early in the commentary, Reitman asserts that most people might assume things like the floating books at the beginning of the film were done “optically” when in fact they were simply books suspended on wires. Further, when the card catalogue drawers start popping out on their own and swirling around the poor librarian, Ramis lets us know that there were just some technicians behind a wall blowing air through copper tubing in order to make the cards swirl around so creepily. Harold Ramis says “picking up the cards after every take” got a little old.

 

7.) “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 it, 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.)

 

Honorable mention: Slimer is the ghost of one of the first settlers of New York City.

A companion handbook to the Ghostbusters DVD set mentions that Slimer was born in the year 1500, which either makes him one of the Lenape tribe that were living in the region or makes him one of the crew of the original Spanish voyage that discovered the land New York City is built on today. (Settlement didn't begin until a century later, which rules him out as Dutch.) Since Slimer seems like such a quintessentially New York City joker, we think he was one of the European discoverers, choosing in death to live in a land he became enchanted with in life, but never got to properly settle.

 

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!


Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com and is ready to believe you.

This article is part of Ghost Week on Tor.com: ‹ previous | index | next ›
11 comments
james loyd
1. gaijin
I hate to be like this, but if I don't say it somebody else inevitably will. Wasn't it an ambulance instead of a hearse?
Bethany Pratt
2. LiC
Well, by the picture it's a hearse. They added the sirens after.

If you have a Wii, I strongly recommend picking up the Ghostbusters game. It's straightforward and a lot of fun catching ghosts waving the Wii remote around.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
4. Lisamarie
Wow...I used to have a VHS with this movie recorded on it when I was little and I watched quite a bit, and eventually it wore out. So I haven't seen this movie in YEARS, although I have certain scenes that still really stick in my head. But all these screenshots totally brought back memories. I also had a crush on Egon, haha.

I LOVE the Asimov story - I do feel really bad for Dan Akryod, but there have been so many times I've wanted to bring down heck on somebody for disrupting my day by disrupting traffic (usually due to some stupid Badgers game) and price gouging the parking ramps.
Will_J
5. Will_J
Actually it was an ambulance/hearse combo model that the Ecto-1 was built off of.

Also, to the writer of the article, it's not "photonic reversal" it's "protonic reversal."
rob mcCathy
6. roblewmac
I don't know "Don't look at it Marion" Counts as bullshit. I remember SOMETHING in the old Testament about not looking god in the face and surely Indy knows better than I.
Chuk Goodin
7. Chuk
I second that Ghostbusters game recommendation -- played it mostly with my seven year old but I enjoyed it enough that we finished it. Quite a Ghostbusters feel to it, too.
Will_J
8. lakawak
I think some Native Americans might want to talk to you about your ignorance of how long ther have been people on this continent.
Will_J
9. chumlee
I have an issue with the honorable mention: Harold Ramis says in the DVD commentary Slimer is the ghost of John Belushi. Belushi was supposed to be in the movie, but died. They wanted to work him in somehow....and they picked Slimer, the over drinking and over eating ghost. It's obvious, actually. What happens the first time you see Slimer? He chugs a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Slimer isn't a random settler. He's John Belushi.
Will_J
10. JasonD
I think I remember hearing somewhere that there was an extended/deleted scene in Raiders, where the old man who translates the headpiece of the Staff of Ra also warns Indy to not look inside the Ark or at anything that comes from it.

We've also seen things like Don't Cross The Streams/We Have To Cross The Streams very recently, like at the end of Avengers (I won't spoil it). Bescially, anytime the heroes have anything horrifically destructive at their disposal, they avoid using at at all costs until the climax, where the drama comes from it being the only thing powerful enough to defeat the Big Bad but it might destroy the heroes as well. Balefire from Wheel of Time comes to mind in a big way. I wonder if it's been codified as a Trope yet...
Will_J
11. MistyMassey
"Didn't you guys ever go to Sunday school?"
-- Indiana Jones

God was well-known for smiting people who looked into the Ark when they weren't supposed to, and for touching it without permission. Closing his eyes was a logical assumption for Indy to make, under the circumstances.
Harry Burger
12. Lightbringer
@10 - Its called "The Godzilla Threshold."
RE: the Avengers, I don't think Hulk is much of a spoiler.

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