Despite years of false-starts, disinterest from a key cast member, and the saddening loss of co-creator Harold Ramis (who played co-founding Ghostbuster Dr. Egon Spengler), Sony remains committed to producing a third Ghost-busting series entry. Without question, the franchise remains ripe for expansion - with a downright fun premise that has, over the course of thirty years, been spun-off into a full-fledged animated series, video games, and tie-in books. Nevertheless, in spite of timeless box office potential, Ghostbusters 3 has routinely failed to make it past the script stage.
As a result, Sony abandoned the idea of a "traditional" Ghostbusters sequel - which, even after the loss of Ramis, would have seen Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson, suited-up once again to take on paranormal threats - and, instead, are relaunching the series with an all-female cast to include Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. Now, one of the original Ghostbusters is speaking out about the controversial decision - offering support for director Paul Feig's script and comedienne cast while, at the same time, teasing the possibility that a more "conventional" Ghostbusters 3 could still be in the pipeline.
Five months back, Murray (who has been notoriously cynical of prior Ghostbusters 3 scripts) gave Feig and the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters team his blessing, stating: "I'm fine with it. I would go to that movie, and they’d probably have better outfits, too." Now, Aykroyd is weighing-in on the (arguably) controversial decision.
Appearing on Unmasked with Ron Bennington, Aykroyd addressed concerned fans and championed the assembled talent behind the upcoming franchise refresh. However, regardless of his support for Feig, Wiig, McCarthy, Jones, and McKinnon, the series co-creator couldn't resist chumming the waters with the possibility that a full-on sequel to Ghostbusters 2, featuring original cast members, could still be developed in the wake of Feig's installment.
Hear Aykroyd's comments with your own ears or read excerpts from the conversation (courtesy of The I Bang):
Well, we have... I’ve written, well, there’s three drafts of the old concept that exists. And we’re going to be able to salvage some of it and use it. Yeah, we’re gonna be able to use it someday. Let’s get this one made and that will reinvigorate the franchise and then we’ll go on to maybe doing a more conventional third sequel as we were planning and another idea I have for it.
I can tell you, as the originator, I’m very happy with what [Feig’s] done. It’s very tasteful. And it needed a reworking. The thing needed a new engine. You know? It needed new exhaust. It needed new steering. And this is what we’re getting.
The real reality in fact of the third movie with this tremendous cast of women, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Kristen Wiig. . . I’ve got three daughters, so I’m all for female empowerment….[Feig] establishes the voices beautifully in these characters. Now of course, he’s got masters playing the roles for him, so this is going to really work in our favor for the third movie.
Of course, it's great to hear Aykroyd acknowledge that, after twenty-five years of spinning wheels, the franchise needed some "reworking." After all, while the lovable star has rarely faltered in enthusiasm for a potential sequel over the years, the series simply does not have the same brand-awareness that it did fifteen years back - which, regardless of a loyal fanbase, would make it hard for a traditional Ghostbusters 3 film to compete in an industry that has become dominated by gritty blockbuster superhero flicks.
However, with a cast lead by two bankable female comediennes in Wiig and McCarthy, not to mention potential guest appearances from other Saturday Night Live collaborators, Sony is putting fresh faces in front of modern moviegoers - instead of relying on aged nostalgia. Some fans will still reject the idea of a female-led Ghostbusters refresh but, given that Aykroyd himself calls Feig's script "tasteful," there's reason to think that the filmmaker and studio will be able to get the best of both worlds - a Ghostbusters film that will cull a new generation of fans (and female viewers) while also winning-over fanatics with a quality extension of a series they hold dear.
That said, as mentioned earlier, Aykroyd doesn't seem entirely ready to let go of Dr. Raymond Stantz either - teasing the possibility that, following Feig's relaunch, Sony could green light a more "conventional" sequel. Reading between the Aykroyd's comments, it sounds as though the writer/actor no longer feels that the classic characters (and actors) are a big enough box office draw on their own and, instead, is banking on the hope that should Feig and his female Ghostbusters make a splash at the box office, interest would be reignited in seeing the original Ghostbusters back on the big screen.
While it's clear that Aykroyd is merely talking through all the angles, this isn't the first time the actor has teased the idea of a larger Ghostbusters shared universe. Previously, he had suggested that Ghostbusters prequels and spinoffs could, given the right conditions, be just as lucrative to Sony as Star Wars prequel stories and spin-offs will be to Disney. Still, his comments clutter prior assertions that the new Ghostbusters film would be a full reboot rather than sequel, and would not rely on overt ties to previous films (such as the old team returning to mentor the ladies). After all, Murray was rumored for a role in the movie - which, currently, is not expected to be a return of Dr. Peter Venkman but an all new character, and supernatural skeptic, named Martin Heiss.
Still, team-ups and shared universe storytelling is a growing trend in Hollywood (and expectation among moviegoers), so there's plenty of reason to believe that, if Feig can truly reinvigorate the brand, there would be room down the line to reunite with the classic heroes.
Ghostbusters will release in U.S. theaters on July 22nd, 2016.