Perhaps no reboot or remake or sequel has come under as much scrutiny lately as Ghostbusters, not only because director Paul Feig has taken on the challenge of remaking a classic film, but he’s gender-swapped it as well, trading the four original characters for a group of female Ghostbusters played by Melissa McCarthy (a Feig regular in Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy), Kristin Wiig (also from Bridesmaids), Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones (the latter two both from Saturday Night Live).
The outrage about the change in gender is pointless, but the concern about remaking such a beloved film is real, and Feig understands that — which is why he got four very funny women to play his squad of paranormal investigators. Does it work? You can find out for yourself later this week, but in the meantime Feig spoke with us about the challenge of taking on Ghostbusters, putting together his cast and understanding why his movie makes fans nervous.
What was, for you, the biggest challenge creatively in making a new Ghostbusters film?
Paul Feig: Well, just paying off the expectations of what came before. I mean, you know, when you’re rebooting something that was so beloved and worked so well, you really want to make sure you get that same kind of chemistry and math, and so what I had to do was just go, “Okay, why did that first one work?” And outside of the story and the idea of that, it was really because of the people in it — that cast was so amazing. So it was like, if I can assemble my own dream team of the funniest people working today, that’s the glue that holds it all together.
Melissa’s been sort of your comedy muse in the movies you’ve done, so getting her seemed to be a no-brainer. How about getting Kristin, Kate and Leslie? How easily did everyone fall into place?
I mean, it took me a couple of months to figure out who I was going to put in this, including Melissa. I mean, I really came to this with a really blank slate when Katie (Dippold) and I wrote the script. But we kind of had Melissa possibly in mind for the role that Leslie Jones ended up in playing, and Katie I think always had Kristin in mind for the Erin role. But it was when we finished and I — the first person I really decided to cast was Kate, because I read an interview where she said she wanted to be a ghostbuster. I knew her from SNL and got to hang out with her and really loved her, but she had the energy that I thought was sort of a great starting-off point because she’s kind of the weirdo in the group.
So from there, I could kind of figure out, “Okay, I’ve got that, now let’s take Melissa and move her into the sort of defiant nerd character.” And then when I saw Leslie for the first time, I was like, she’s the one who will be so great kind of coming in and looking at everything and, you know, kind of having the outsider take on it, but also being an insider because she’s had this experience too. Then it really just kind of fell into place.
Let’s talk about the backlash that was reported in the press. What do you think touched a nerve with a small portion of the public?
Well, there’s two portions. One, the people that had a problem with it being all women, which is very, very micro, and that’s kind of just a non-starter for me because that’s just like, “You’ve got issues, go work them out with your therapist.” But there’s a bigger group within that minority that are just trepidatious about the rebooting of a classic, because there’s a lot of passion for a film that a lot of people grew up with and it’s really canon for them. And that I understand. You know, it’s been painted in the press that I said everybody who’s against the movie is a misogynist — and I never, ever said that, that’s just a quote they pull — but I completely get it to the point where if I wasn’t the one remaking Ghostbusters, I would be really nervous about it too. I think I might wait until I see the movie before I judge it, but at the same time I do understand the passion for it.
Without spoiling anything, there is some groundwork laid for further adventures. Do you have some in mind if you get the chance to do another one?
Oh, you know, when you’re working in a world this rich, you always go, “Oh, it would be cool if we could do this,” or “this could be fun, it could be fun if we could connect this up…” So yeah, our brains are always clicking and who knows what will happen. We’ve got to see how this one does first.
Ghostbusters hits U.S. theaters July 15, 2016.