Even if “Ghostbusters 3” never happens, which it may not, you’ve got to hand it to star and conceiever Dan Aykroyd, he’s been trumpeting that thing for about a decade now – and it seems with the assistance of his own credit card.
If Bill Murray had agreed to do “Ghostbusters 3” (which he hasn’t, and likely won’t), Aykroyd believes the film would’ve already happened. Sony seemingly don’t believe enough in the brand or feel the actors willing to do the film (Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Harold Ramis) could sell tickets to warrant financing it at this stage. But Aykroyd, always keen to update press on the film’s progress (or lack of), is still hopeful something might change the minds of the studio and get a new “Ghostbusters” film on screens.
Speaking to Esquire, Aykroyd talked a little about the history of the project and where it stands now.
ESQ: Are you disappointed about the recent setback of filming on Ghostbusters 3, until 2013?
DA: I’m as deeply inside Ghostbusters 3 as anyone involved in the project — that includes the executives at Sony, who have to go to sleep at night and have to decide to do it. Ivan Reitman, the director, who travels from Santa Barbara to L.A., and has for the last three years, working with writers to put it together. [The Office writers] Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who worked on one of the drafts.
ESQ: But that draft isn’t being used anymore, right?
DA: I’ve worked on every draft in the last three years, as Ivan has, and now we have a story and a draft that everybody seems to agree would make the third movie. At this point, I think we’re closer than we ever have been. And because of the ever-shifting sands and nature of the motion-picture business, I will just say that hopefully, at some point, it will be morphing into what is known in the business as a [Aykroyd mimes air quotes] “production number XP39789.” Then I will begin to rent cars, get hotel rooms, and bill for writing. But that point hasn’t come. All my work has been gratis to this point, as Ivan’s has, and I’m hoping that I can get that production number set up in L.A. and help everyone bring the movie to fruition, as the originator and creator of the concept. If it does not happen, the life of Dan Aykroyd and his family and friends will be quite full without Ghostbusters 3.
ESQ: You have been the cheerleader.
DA: And I read every draft that’s been turned in. When Gene and Lee, and Etan [Cohen, writer of Men in Black 3, hired last summer], and Ivan — when they’ve turned in drafts, I hand drafts right back. And at this point, we have a script that we like. And I’m hoping for it —
ESQ: With those three gentlemen involved?
DA: Oh, yeah.
ESQ: Because the last I heard was that the second script had been tossed.
DA: You know, they did great work. There will be arbitration on it. And I hope that the arbitration may yield some kind of credit for them, but I don’t know what the final, final draft is gonna be. That’s to be determined.
ESQ: Do you have sign-off on that?
DA: Well, I have one-fifth of the voice, along with the partners and the other owner of the property, the picture company, and Ivan, Billy [Murray], and myself, and Harold [Ramis]. We all have to sign off on it unanimously — uh, I’m not sure Billy does anymore, since he abrogated his rights by sort of, by saying, two years ago he said, “I don’t want to be involved,” and the picture company I think had some clause in there that if he actually passed on the third of fourth offer, he no longer has a view of the franchise. So, that’s for the lawyers to decide. Of course, I’d love to have Billy call me tomorrow and say, “Let’s go to work and start writing.”
ESQ: Right. And you’ve said before that it doesn’t affect your friendship. That’s one thing and the business is another. But it seems like the production has been held up because of his reluctance.
DA: Well, let me say this: Had Billy chosen to do the Eisenberg/Stupnitsky script of two years ago, it would be out this summer, and it would be a massive hit. If Billy had said yes, it would have satisfied his performance and what he wanted in the movie, it would have satisfied his performing skill and how he wanted to be depicted in the movie, it would have satisfied the studio, the writers who wrote it, everybody — Ivan, me, Harold, we were all happy with it. Then when he said, “Absolutely not, I’m not in this,” we had to go and really rethink things. He abrogated his say in the project, abrogated his rights to have any say in it by refusing the third offer from the picture company, which his lawyer put before him, and Billy said, “No, I can’t respond.” Now we have to move on, but we’ll always leave a hole for him. He’s always there. He can always come back at any time and be rebuilt into it, as far as I’m concerned. That’s up to his lawyer and the picture company to work out, but creatively, he will always be a part of it.
Now, this would add quite a bump to Sony’s bottom line, quite a bump. If they make this movie, in its current shape, they would be looking at a pretty hefty, nine-figure return. And so I’m hoping they get on to move it, but if they don’t, I have multiple trains. I’ve got tracks six, seven, and nine, and that’s four. I’ll be moving on to other things, as will Ivan, by the way. We can’t wait forever. And now’s the time to tell the picture company, and I’d say this quite publically, it’s time now to sit down and make this movie, or you will lose your main principals, and you won’t be able to make it without us, because we have rights, and now is time to make the movie… You don’t take advantage of that in the next three or four months, I’ll see you in Australia, where we’ll be selling Crystal Head.
ESQ: If it does happen, will it be a sequel or a reboot? The talk was a sequel for a long time, featuring the next generation of Ghostbusters, but Ivan has made comments about a reboot.
DA: Next generation. Dealing with a problem, as the first movie did, but I think we would have to hand it off to the young.
Aykroyd is confident a “Ghostbusters 3” would be a massive hit, so much so he has ideas for further sequels down the line. He even suggests using that old “Ghostbusters in Hell” script he tooted years ago.
ESQ: Are you still working with the “Ghostbusters in hell” concept?
DA: Listen, I tell ya, after this movie gets made, and maybe the next one: Man-hell-ttan.
DA: Man-hell-ttan, and the Ghostbusters in hell, would be so solid, but we gotta get maybe one or two made before that. But, oh, wow… I wrote that with Tom Davis, my writing partner, recently deceased, who wrote Coneheads with me and stuff on Saturday Night Live. There’s classic Tom Davis lines and funny stuff in there, really it’s probably the most humorous of all the Ghostbusters scripts that have generated in that last little while. But we’ll put the humor into this next one. It’s gotta be funny, or it’s not worth doing. It can be scary, it can be Ghostbusters, it can be the new franchise, the new people, but if it’s not funny … Wait a minute, it started as a comedy. Let’s make sure there’s laughs and no laugh unturned and that we really make that our priority, to make it funny and exciting, but mainly funny.
ESQ: So if it’s the nine-figure success you predict, would you do more?
DA: Uh, well, my role as an actor would diminish, as the next one came, and I would work as a writer, of course.
ESQ: Was it originally conceived to be more than two or three movies?
DA: Oh, yes, the one that Etan has written now — with Ivan strongly collaborating with him, and with me doing revisions as needed, and studio input — totally leads to a next one. It feeds into it very organically.
ESQ: And would you let Bill come back as a ghost?
DA: I originally had him as a ghost in the Stupnitsky/Eisenberg draft. Because he said, “If I do this, I want to be dead, and I want to be a ghost.” So I said, well, we’ll build you in there. And had he said yes two years ago to the ghost concept, I’m telling you, we’d be making the movie this summer, and it would be massive.
I understand why Murray mightn’t want to do it, he has bigger fish to fry but… “Garfield 2”, bud!?