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