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A Brief History of “Ghostbusters 3”

Ghostbusters art

With word that Columbia is actually actively looking at Ghostbusters 3 again, it seemed like a good reason to take a look at the long, slow process of nothing that the sequel has been shambling through to get to this point. For many of us, Ghostbusters was an amazing cinematic experience. For almost all of us, there has never been a second film, after the Highlander Protocols were invoked for that incident in 1989. But the Law of Relative Development demands that a sequel exists in some form somewhere. So, here we go.

Back in 1996, Dan Aykroyd said he was working on a script and negotations were in place to bring back Harold Ramis. At the time, neither Bill Murray nor Sigourney Weaver were interested in returning. The rumors for who might take part in the revamped team included Chris Farley (rumors that continued up through his death the next year) and Will Smith. With the previous team partly AWOL, at least in the case of Dr. Venkman, the idea was to have a Ghostbusters: Next Generation approach, with the old team training a new team. Other casting rumors included Jason Alexander and Jeff Daniels.

[ad#longpost]Another rumor, that seemed to be started in an interview Ramis gave in 1999, had Murray’s Venkman getting killed at the very beginning of the film and spending the remainder of the film as a ghost. While I was working at Corona’s Coming Attractions, it seemed like every other tidbit had a conflicting report about what Murray was or was not going to do with the film.

Part of the reason that the film didn’t happen is that reportedly (from a Newsweek article in 1998) Aykroyd, Murray, Ramis and director Ivan Reitman controlled the rights and wanted 40% of the third film’s take. They then backed down but it still didn’t happen, because it the damn thing would cost too much for the studio’s comfort. But Sony still grabbed the domain in 1999. But then there wasn’t anything for a long while except news of the thing not happening and then not happening.

Fast forward to today, and Aykroyd is out of the scribe’s chair and that has instead been given to Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky from the Earth-2 version of The Office. The original four characters are supposed to return in said script, per Variety. They also say: “No deals will be made with the original cast until the script is ready, but the gross percentage will certainly be an issue. Sony has a standing policy not to allow more than 25% of first dollar gross out the door.”

So should you get excited? No, not at all. Crap like this happens all the time. When you get a finished script and they secure the cast, then you can start to feel a twinge of anticipation. But even then, it’s best not to get excited. I would explain myself more openly, but the Protocols of 1989 forbid it.

Update: Harold Ramis has apparently confirmed that it’s going forward, but he states that he and Reitman are consultants only. Ramis also states (third-hand through Aykroyd) that Murray wants to be involved in some capacity. And we’re back to the New Generation concept: “the concept is that the old ghostbusters would appear in the film in some mentor capacity.” After having the carrot of the original team being back in some form or fashion this now seems…underwhelming.



  • Off topic, but can you explain the Highlander Protocols in more detail? I’m pretty sure I grasp the concept, but as I’m not a Highlander fan, the reference is lost on me. It sounds like something i could easily use in conversation, though.

  • The Highlander Protocols were established to wipe terrible sequels from the slate so they can be considered verboten. If you had seen the rumored-to-have-been-released Highlander sequels, you would understand.