An Interview with GHOSTBUSTERS Producer, Joe Medjuck (including Ghostbusters 3 rumors)

Ghostbusters 30th

Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary

It’s been 30 years since the first release of Ghostbusters and interest in the movie has once again peaked. The film was recently re-released to theaters for an extended run in early September and Sony is now offering an impressive new Blu-ray transfer with updated special features. Ghostbusters-related consumer products are infiltrating the market with everything from T-shirts to Krispy Kreme donuts. To say the very least, Ghostbusters fans have been treated to a lot of good stuff lately.

With the original movie back in the public mainstream and rumors of Ghostbusters 3 resurfacing pretty much everyday, the original film’s producers, Ivan Reitman and Joe Medjuck, have been receiving their fair share of questions from fans and the media. It’s safe to say that interest in the Ghostbusters franchise won’t disappear anytime soon.

While Ivan Reitman mainly concentrated on directing the film, it was Associate Producer, Joe Medjuck, who had his work cut out for him taking on much of the responsibility to ensure that Ghostbusters was brought in on time and on budget. For someone, who up to that point had not really produced a film other than 1981’s lighter-budgeted comedy, Stripes, (also with Reitman at the helm) completing a large-budget movie was definitely a trial-by-fire experience. The hard work paid off and Joe has had a very successful career working as a producer on several well-known movies and TV shows throughout the years, not least of which is Ghostbusters and its sequel.

Beyond the Marquee recently sat down with Joe Medjuck at his Montecito, CA home to discuss the making of the original film and some other aspects of the Ghostbusters universe. Naturally, talk about a possible new installment in the Ghostbusters franchise came up in our conversation and Joe was more than happy to not only reflect on some lesser-known aspects of the making of the original movie, but also address some rumors about a new Ghostbusters film on the horizon.

 

BTM: Ghostbusters recently turned 30 years old and the movie is still captivating audiences old and new. When you were in production, did you have any indicator that it would become the huge success that it did?

GBMontage_BTM

A scene from the first day of filming ‘Ghostbusters’.

JM: We thought the script was really good. There were a lot of people who thought we were crazy because it was a big budget special effects comedy which everybody said didn’t do well. We were shooting in New York near the beginning of the shoot and Bill Murray had just come back from India. I think the day he arrived, we took him off the airplane, put him in the outfit and I was standing beside Ivan and we looked down the street and the three Ghostbusters were walking toward us; Harold, Danny and Bill. Ivan turned to me and said, “This is going to be f***ing great.”

The dailies were good and I still remember screening it on the studio lot and bringing in a bunch of raucous college kids and they loved it. That was with no special effects about three weeks after we finished shooting. A lot of the scenes said “Scene Missing” and the only special effects shot was a picture of the Marshmallow Man. The audience response showed us that the character stuff all worked.

We didn’t really think it would be the biggest movie of the year. We thought we’d be really good and last, but not to the extent it did. It was so huge that summer that you knew into the Fall that it couldn’t disappear from people’s memories and it hasn’t.

 

BTM: Was it quite a step up for you and Ivan to make Ghostbusters?

JoeMedjuck2014_BTM

‘Ghostbusters’ producer Joe Medjuck at his home.

JM: Ivan and I went over to see Frank Price and his partner at Columbia and told them the idea with Danny’s original script in hand. They said, “What’s it going to cost?” and I remember Ivan holding up the script and saying, “Feels like 25 million.” The most expensive movie we had ever done was Stripes which was around 8 to 11 million, so 25 million seemed like all the money in the world to us. This was around April or May of ‘83 and they asked if we could get it ready for June ’84 and, not knowing how hard these things were to make, we said, “Sure we can.”

 

BTM: Did the shortened timeframe of making the film in just over one year hinder production or allow opportunities for more creativity to get the job done?

JM: It probably created more headaches for the Special Effects guys. They were doing special effects while we were shooting. We thought that was how you made movies, you just took it and ran with it. The tight schedule made us think we couldn’t loiter about so Michael Gross started designing ghosts and so did Richard Edlund even before we had the script done.

We shot for almost a week before principle photography started. We actually had gone to scout in New York and decided to shoot some stuff. We shot a lot of the Rick Moranis stuff running in the park. We did a few shots of people reacting and I think we did a couple of montage scenes. When we finished, we changed some of the crew and people said, “Oh, they’re just doing this because they know they can’t make the release date and this gives them an excuse.”

The Gozer Temple set on Stage 16 at The Burbank Studios (Warner Bros.)

The massive Gozer Temple set on Warner Bros. Stage 16 at the formerly-named ‘Burbank Studios.’

Everybody said we wouldn’t get the film done on time and we kept on saying, “What are they talking about?” We didn’t know how hard it should have been and we had a really good script by the time we started shooting. The movie really didn’t change much from the script…dialogue and jokes did in some ways, but the basic structure of the script was there. It was also one of our few movies together where we didn’t need any reshoots.

We were on fire in New York because being in New York gets you going. Ivan was going great and we shot two extra days in New York and used up our cover sets. We got back to LA and we did our first day on the giant set and we did one setup. It was like we just stopped in our tracks. We’ve got this giant Temple set that’s hard to light. John DeCuir and Laszlo Kovacs would argue with each other over whose fault it was that it was hard to light. We lost some momentum not being in New York for the rest of the shoot.

 

BTM: How much of Bill Murray and the cast’s dialogue was improvised and how much was taken directly from the script?

JM: Most of it was written, but sometimes anyone of us could think of something on the spot. When they go into the library and you see the stacked books, Ivan was setting things up and said, “They should come in and there should be a big pile of books.” That’s when Danny says, “Symmetrical book stacking.” Ivan just thought of that on the way to work and we shot it. Directors are always thinking, ‘What can we do when we get to work?’ and Ivan’s very good in keeping ideas in context…not just what the scene is about, but how it fits into the movie and what comes after. That whole stacked books scene wasn’t in the script.

Ivan Reitman and Joe Medjuck share a laugh with the cast while shooting at New York Public Library.

Ivan Reitman and Joe Medjuck share a laugh with the cast while shooting at the New York Public Library.

One of our favorite lines is not in the movie because no one ever laughed at it. We used to say it as a joke to each other. When they’re walking up the stairs to the library, Bill asked Danny, “How many of these things have you actually seen?” and Danny replies by saying, “What do you mean by ‘seen’?”  “Looked at with your eyes.” The joke never got a laugh so we took it out of the movie except for Bill’s question.

The script we had that is published is the real script. In other words, often you get scripts and they’re really just transcriptions of the movie. They aren’t really what they had on the set when they were shooting. The one that we published is really the one we had on the set. So, you can see any lines that were different and made up on the spot.

 

BTM: What was it like working with such a stellar comedic cast? 

On set. (L-R) Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts (Center) Joe Medjuck (photo courtesy: Joe Medjuck)

On set. (L-R) Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts (Center) Joe Medjuck (photo courtesy: Joe Medjuck)

JM: We were having a good time. The actors were really supportive and helpful. They worked great with each other and I think it was Rick Moranis who commented that Ivan would say, “We can do better than this” and then everyone would sit around and try to think of something better. There was never anyone saying, “This is my line.”  It was always, “Here’s a good line, you take it.”

Things that are quoted don’t exactly mean they are true. Even the old rumor about Bill being rough to deal with on set…I remember Bill as being completely cooperative and everybody being great together. I once saw a thing on TV where they implied everyone doing the movie was on drugs and I remember one night we were desperately looking for a joint and couldn’t find one. If anyone had drugs, they were sure as hell hiding it from us.

 

BTM: What were some of the difficulties you faced while shooting in New York City?

JM: The biggest trouble we got in was when we were shooting at Radio City Music Hall which is private property. We were shooting on the street and a guy in a suit came up to Ivan and said, “You can’t shoot here, this is private property. Have you got permission?” Ivan pulled over our location manager and they told this guy we had a permit. The suit then said that the city couldn’t give a permit there since it was private property. At that point Ivan pointed in my direction and said, “Go talk to him.”

Ivan Reitman directs outside the New York Public Library.

Ivan Reitman directs outside the New York Public Library.

I took the guy away and kept him busy while Ivan just kept on shooting. Finally, the suit called a cop over and reiterated it was private property and the cop said, “They have a permit, I can’t stop them from shooting.” The guy then pointed to a plaque in the sidewalk that said that the property was owned by Radio City and the cop just replied, “Hey, anyone could have put that there.” So, the police did help us out. However, they did shut us down one night for going a bit too long.

During the montage, we didn’t get permits for anything. We just went out in the car and chased around town. We were also shooting the night before and the night after…we were younger then. We shot on Central Park West all night with the crowds and we went to bed at around 6am and got up at 10am. Dan Aykroyd drove the Ectomobile and we had a follow car with about six guys in it and a cameraman and sound man. I’m the only hired extra in the montage. We just stopped places and made stuff up. Almost everything in that montage was shot in one day. Then we went to bed for a couple hours and started shooting all the reaction shots to the Marshmallow Man on the street.

 

BTM: What is your worst memory of working on the film?

Shooting preparation at 55 Central Park West.

The dressed set at 55 Central Park West, New York.

JM: My worst memory, I can tell you that for sure. We planned everything to shoot at 55 Central Park West, which was a co-op very near where we were staying at the Mayflower hotel. We were building a copy of the front of the building on the Columbia Ranch (now the Warner Bros. Ranch) in LA and designing everything around it for the finale. And then they announced they didn’t want us to shoot there. We were already in New York and going to shoot. It was scary, but we eventually talked them into reconsidering letting us shoot there.

In those days we sent the film off to the lab and we would send the sound off with the sound man. The sound man would usually take his tapes and put them in the film truck that was going to the lab. Somehow the tapes didn’t go on the last day of shooting. We eventually found them, but there’s a moment during dailies where you’re asking, “Do they talk? Are we going to have to loop this whole day of shooting?”

 

BTM: Beyond the Marquee recently visited the firehouse location in Los Angeles.  The description of the building and surrounding neighborhood still matched up perfectly with Egon’s less-than-stellar description of it in 1984. What difficulties did you encounter working at that location?

JM: In those days, more films were being shot in LA and when you wanted a gritty city look, you went to downtown LA and the only problems we had were other film crews shooting nearby. The great thing was that the firehouses were designed the same. I think we brought a pair of doors with us which we may have put on in New York, but the buildings were basically the same design. We pretty much shot them as is.

 

Ivan Reitman directs the cast on the Gozer Temple set.

Ivan Reitman directs the cast on the Gozer Temple set.

BTM: What was Ivan Reitman’s directing style like on Ghostbusters?

JM: Ivan could really work well with the guys on the cast. He likes comedy and drama and he’s very good at action, but it doesn’t interest him that much. It may be why he’s good at it…he doesn’t get too sucked into it.

I still remember a scene we did where we blew up, by mistake, a thing in the firehouse in New York. Somebody said something that someone else thought was “action” and a button was pushed setting off fireworks when it wasn’t supposed to. Ivan was like, “Okay, Take Two.”  “Well, Take Two is going to take 35 minutes to get ready.”  Ivan likes it, “There’s Take One, okay, let’s go, Take Two, right away, keep it rolling!”

 

BTM: Is there any lost footage out there that you’d like to see again? 

JM: There’s two pieces of footage I’d like to find. One is from TV coverage. Even for a movie like Ghostbusters, there were certain things they thought we couldn’t say on TV. We were in the Mayor’s office set when Dan Aykroyd says Walter Peck is “dickless.”  Someone said, “We’ve got to say something else for TV.”  So, Dan Aykroyd said something like, “Wee-Willy-Winky over here” and Bill really broke up. He thought it was really funny. That was shot for TV and I had seen it when I was watching the movie on the Disney Channel or something. I think a clip like that should be on the DVD and whenever I bring it up to the studio reps, I get stonewalled and I think it’s because they don’t like to admit there is such a thing as TV coverage.

There’s another piece of footage from when they come out of the banquet hall and Bill says, “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”  I don’t remember the original thing he said, but he came out and Ivan said, “Okay, do it again. Do something fun. Say something else.” And the guys went back in and they did it like ten times and my memory is that every one of them is pretty good. The final one was the best. It was just right away based off Ivan’s direction of, “Do it again, do it again, do it again” and I think the guys just huddled amongst themselves to come up with something clever every time.”

 

BTM: Were there any real-life ghostly encounters during the making of the film?

JM: We almost lost a couple of scenes, physically. Dan Aykroyd claimed this was because of ghosts. There’s a scene in the jail that was shot in New York and Danny kept saying, “That place was haunted” because the film turned out all scratched. Fortunately, Sheldon Kahn was able to cut around it and we had enough footage of the scene shot that wasn’t scratched so we didn’t have to reshoot.

 

BTM: In most lists of the top movie cars of all time, The Ectomobile usually makes an appearance in the Top 5. Why do you think that car still resonates so well with fans of the movie?

JM: It’s a good design. The basic idea was Danny’s and he described in his original script what it would look like and he had always envisioned it as a hearse or ambulance.

 

BTM: Was there anything in particular you remember that’s unique about the Ecto?

JM: When you’re making a movie, you have doubles for everything. We didn’t have a double for that car. It was the only painted car and when we left town and flew back to LA to finish shooting, we had our second unit doing a couple of shots with the car in New York and it broke down.

 

BTM: Had you been aware of the Ectomobile’s neglected condition since both movies wrapped?

The original Ecto 1 on the Sony Studios lot.

The original Ecto 1 on the Sony Studios lot.

JM: We didn’t really follow up on its care. We were making other movies and we weren’t at Columbia. You presume the studio takes care of things, but you never know.

 

BTM: Beyond the Marquee recently brought the Ectomobile’s designer, Stephen Dane, to  Sony to see it in its restored condition. Were you aware of the car’s restoration in 2009?

JM: No. I remember seeing it on the Sony lot recently and thinking, “Wow, it’s in really good shape.” I haven’t seen Stephen Dane in years. I think of him as a young guy. I’m glad he got to see the car in person again. That’s great.

 

BTM: Any thoughts on what the studio should do to keep the car preserved so it won’t fall into disrepair again?

JM: Whatever it takes.

 

BTM: Were there any props or items from Ghostbusters that you kept as a souvenir? 

SlimerMaquette_BTM

A clay maquette of the original Slimer ghost.

JM: In our office, we used to have a couple of the magazine covers used in the montage. I haven’t really kept anything. We moved offices three or four times after the movie and we were busy and we lost some amazing stuff that we shouldn’t have lost. We have a Slimer statue made out of bronze. Slimer was designed in clay and when the clay dried up, we had it bronzed and Ivan has the bronze, so there’s a statue somewhere, maybe in his office.

There was a video tape of Dan Aykroyd explaining how a ghost trap worked and we haven’t seen it in twenty years. We weren’t thinking archivally at the time. We do more now, to be honest, but at the time we weren’t. I still have my crew jacket and a couple promotional things that were made, but nothing screen-used from the film. I have a necktie from Ghostbusters II that Bill Murray wore that I still wear a lot. I love it and people are always commenting on it.

 

BTM: Ghostbusters merchandise is everywhere and the market for it keeps on growing. Have you collected anything? 

JM: I have some stuff from the first round of the cartoon show and a few things from the release of the film. In February of ‘84, before the original movie’s release, Columbia Merchandising told me it was going to be a hard sell and when it came out there was almost nothing produced. At Halloween, parents had to make their kids Ghostbusters costumes…except for Jason Reitman. Ivan brought him a real Proton Pack and he said, “Jason was the only kid in the world who had a real Proton Pack for Halloween.” The merchandising really didn’t start until the cartoon show came out.

 

BTM: You served as an Executive Producer on the popular cartoon, “The Real Ghostbusters.” How involved were you with that production throughout its run? 

JM: I was very involved and we took it quite seriously. We read every script and tried to make sure that nothing was going to embarrass anyone. We were so involved that we almost got the show cancelled because we wouldn’t do certain things that ABC wanted done. It was driving the other producers crazy because they wanted some stuff on the air that we didn’t want unless we liked it.

 

BTM: To line up with what was seen in the cartoon, it’s been said that Ghostbusters II made some changes to Janine’s appearance and brought back Slimer to appeal to younger fans. How much influence did the cartoon’s popularity have on shaping the sequel and keeping the Ghostbusters canon consistent? 

'The Real Ghostbusters' animated show.

‘The Real Ghostbusters’ animated show.

JM: We were aware of the cartoon show during the making of Ghostbusters II. Only the bringing back of Slimer was an influence. I don’t remember us saying Janine should look like she does in the cartoon…she has two different looks in the cartoon. The first 78 episodes she had one look and her appearance change was one of the battles we didn’t keep fighting over. ABC brought in some expert who said, “Kids don’t like her, she looks too angular.” We were like, “What?”

The other battle where we did draw the line was they wanted kid Ghostbusters or something and I still remember having a fight with this woman who had done this research. She hadn’t done real research. She showed the original film to kids and asked them questions and generalized that kids like other kids and things like that.They argued, “She really knows her stuff, she’s got a PhD.”

I said, “I don’t give a s**t, I’ve got a PhD too, it doesn’t make me an expert.” Andy Heyward, who had the contract to do the Dic cartoon was like, “Joe, Michael, keep quiet!” We told them we weren’t going to make those changes and they said, “If you’re not going to do it, you’re not going on the air.” And we said, “We don’t care” and Andy was going nuts because he had a contract to do 13 more shows.

We didn’t want to contradict the cartoon show although we sort of did since the guys are out of work in Ghostbusters II. In the second movie it’s like there’s been five years since there was a ghost around and you almost have to say the cartoon show takes place after the second movie.

 

BTM: People have obsessed over almost every detail of the Ghostbusters films for years. Is there anything that you’re surprised fans haven’t picked up on? 

Smoking in Ghostbusters ... "like a Howard Hawks movie."

Smoking in Ghostbusters … “like a Howard Hawks movie.”

JM: One thing that is never noticed which has surprised me is if you compare Ghostbusters II to the original, the guys are smoking all the time in GB 1. It’s like a Howard Hawks movie…they’re smoking and lighting each other’s cigarettes all through it. By the time we did Ghostbusters II five years later, nobody smokes anymore. It was a change in society as well as movies.

 

BTM: Ghostbusters 3 has been talked about for a very long time. On one hand, fans are excited at the prospect of a new installment in the franchise – on the other, they’re very fearful that a new movie will “nuke the fridge” and be a complete disappointment. How important is it for you and Ivan Reitman to live up to fans’ expectations and also retain the charm and texture of the original films?

JM: It’s very important. I’m not sure of meeting fans expectations because there may not be a movie at all, it may be a sequel, it may be a reboot. Who knows? Different people expect different things so it will never be the original and never be the same. The original is built on characters and the guys who played those characters aren’t the same. They’re thirty years older, they can’t play the same characters. Harold has now passed.

 

BTM: How much impact did Harold Ramis’ passing have on the planned script and production for Ghostbusters 3

JM: A lot. It put a pall on us all. Harold, before he got sick, was very involved and I think his death was one of the key things in that Ivan didn’t want to direct it anymore. It had a lot of impact.

 

BTM: Have there been any official commitments from the original Ghostbusters cast to be involved with the new film?

Bill Murray gives a glimpse of what could be while backstage at the Spike Scream Awards in 2010.

Bill Murray gives a glimpse of what could be while backstage at the Spike Scream Awards in 2010.

JM: There’s no official commitments from anybody about anything, including Sony. It’s Dan Aykroyd’s baby, he’d love to do it. Harold, as I said, was very involved when he was healthy. He was the one who actually got the first script started and was working with a couple of writers who had an idea at one point.

 

BTM: It’s been suggested that Jason Reitman would be a good pick as a director for a new Ghostbusters film in that it preserves a legacy of sorts. Would you agree?

JM: I think Jason’s a great director, but it’s not exactly the kind of movie Jason makes. 

 

BTM: Has Jason ever expressed any interest in directing?

JM: Not to my knowledge. Maybe when he was 12.

 

BTM: So far, most fans have been disappointed in the supposed leaked announcements about the third film. Everything from it being a Seth Rogan/Apatow-type of comedy, scant cameo appearances by the original cast being overshadowed by new and young recruits, CG-dependent revisioning, Ivan Reitman bowing out and Paul Feig being mentioned as a new director, and now the cast consistenting of an all-female Ghostbusting crew. Do any of those rumors have truth behind them? 

JM: Anything is possible, nothing is impossible…except that, unfortunately, Harold won’t be included. People know more stuff than I do. Things get printed and sometimes there’s an iota of truth to them, sometimes there’s no truth to them at all. I don’t think I know anything about Ghostbusters 3 that no one else does that isn’t already public knowledge. The main thing I know is that right now there is no script.  

'Ghostbusters' 30th Anniversary re-release.

‘Ghostbusters’ Re-Release

 

BTM: What are your thoughts about the original movie being re-released on the big screen for the 30th Anniversary?

JM: I was somewhat suprised that it seemed to be tracking pretty good. When it originally came out, we did a 70mm print which meant we had to re-size some shots because 70mm is actually not quite as wide as Cinemascope. So, we had things moving across the screen that were disappearing, optical shots mainly. I’m curious to see it in 4K.

 

 

BTM: Does the continued attention and questioning about Ghostbusters delight you and Ivan Reitman to this day or has it become somewhat of a nuisance? 

JM: It’s nice to know that we did something that people care that much about. On the other hand, everybody has an opinion which can sometimes drive me nuts.

 

Special thanks to Joe Medjuck and the staff at the Montecito Picture Company.

Production stills: Copyright © 1984 Columbia Pictures, Inc.

____________________________________________________________________________

Kevin Stern is a co-producer and contributing writer for Beyond the Marquee. His articles can be found on BTM via this link:

http://beyondthemarquee.com/category/about-us/articles-by-author/kevin-stern/

Kevin can be reached via e-mail at: kevin@beyondthemarquee.com

 

 

Interested in more Ghostbusters content?

Check out the following links for more Ghostbusters-related articles, interviews, videos from our GHOSTBUSTERS WEEK which was Sept. 15th-19th, 2014.

Monday 

Beyond the Marquee interviews Ghostbusters Producer, Joe Medjuck.

Interview:  http://beyondthemarquee.com/34747/

Tuesday

Beyond the Marquee visits with Sony Consumer Marketing and the Ecto-1.

Video and Article:  http://beyondthemarquee.com/34977/

Wednesday

Beyond the Marquee has some fun on-location at the Ghostbusters Firehouse in LA.

Video and Article:  http://beyondthemarquee.com/34552/

Thursday

Beyond the Marquee reunites the Ecto-1 with designer Stephen Dane.

Video and Interview with Stephen Dane:    http://beyondthemarquee.com/34980

Friday

Beyond the Marquee’s, Steven D’Arcangelo, humorously recalls meeting the man in the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man costume.

Article:  http://beyondthemarquee.com/35166

 

Ghostbusters Week on Beyond the Marquee

Ghostbusters Week on Beyond the Marquee … Sept. 15th-19th

 

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5 Responses to “An Interview with GHOSTBUSTERS Producer, Joe Medjuck (including Ghostbusters 3 rumors)”

  1. […] Beyond the Marquee interviews Ghostbusters Producer, Joe Medjuck […]

  2. […] The Marquee’s interview with Joe […]

  3. […] Producer Joe Medjuck recently sat down for an interview in honor of Ghostbusters‘ 30th anniversary, and in between reminiscing about the original he touched upon the long-gestating Ghostbusters 3. “Anything is possible, nothing is impossible,” he said. “The main thing I know is that right now there is no script.” He also stressed that “there’s no official commitments from anybody about anything” at this point. [Beyond the Marquee] […]

  4. Andy says:

    I actually DID notice the smoking thing years ago. He’s right, it was an industry-wide shift at the time, to have the main characters not lighting up.

  5. […] Interview with GHOSTBUSTERS Producer, Joe […]

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