Let’s Cast! “Ghostbusters”

Ghostbusters Emma Stone

Introduction by Kevan Tucker

Ghostbusters is a movie near and dear to my heart. It was one of my first obsessions as a kid and I’m still convinced it’s near-perfect. And how can something like that be improved on? That said, I am ecstatic about the news of a Ghostbusters reboot, and I think Paul Feig’s idea for an all-female cast is fantastic.

The funny thing about Ghostbusters is that it was a huge success that didn’t produce a stream of knockoffs. The only movie in the 30 years since that comes close to capturing the same blend of comedy, thrills, and characters is Men in Black. It’s hard for me to come up with any other movie (excluding parodies like Shaun of the Dead) that strikes the same tone. Ghostbusters pretty much stands alone, which is unique for such a cultural touchstone.

There has been much handwringing in Ghostbusters Fanboy Land about what a catastrophe this movie is going to be because the magic of That Cast at That Time can never be reproduced. And also, women (?!?) or something. But Paul Feig’s decision to do a hard reboot of the franchise negates those fears. He’s not aiming to reproduce that magic. He’s going to find new magic with These Comedians in These Times using what is sure to be a cast of the most powerhouse female comedians out there. You won’t be able to compare them to Bill Murray at his most charming because the franchise will be something different.

Ghostbusters is a fun idea that still feels original, but there are a few core things that I hope will remain in the reboot. The first is that it’s ultimately a character-based comedy. It’s not a parody, it’s not referential. It totally stands on its own. There is also something so deliciously New York about it. There’s a kind of grime and grittiness to it that adds so much to the texture of the movie. It’s that kind of specificity and attention to detail that makes the movie soar. It’s the cheap local commercial they make, the headlines they get in the New York Post and the old, beat up firehouse they use to set up their business. That, to me, is the flavor of Ghostbusters that can’t be lost. And Feig, as the creator of Freaks and Geeks and director of Bridesmaids, is the perfect person to create a detailed, character-based comedy. But with ghosts in it.

That said, the structure of this article actually goes against everything I’ve been saying in that the esteemed Mr. Valdez has asked me to choose actors based on equivalent parts in the original cast. [Yeah, sorry about that, everyone disobeyed anyway – Gabe] I don’t think Feig is going to do that. And it’s going to be a better movie for it. But I’ll do my best to distill what was great about the original cast.

THE PANEL

Gabriel: Joining me are actress and filmmaker S.L. Fevre, filmmaker Ben Kahn, actress Rachel Ann Taylor, filmmaker Kevan Tucker, and our creative director Vanessa Tottle. Everyone’s written here before, I believe, except for Ben, who joins us for the first time.

Ghostbusters Tig Notaro

THE LEAD (The Bill Murray)

Gabriel: The biggest question of all is, Who’s our Bill Murray? He played Dr. Peter Venkman, and was the comedic core of the original Ghostbusters. There aren’t many actors capable of his legendary deadpan – who can replace that?

Kevan: Peter Venkman worked so well because he always had a healthy dose of skepticism about the whole ordeal and also served as the romantic lead. I think Emma Stone would be a perfect choice. She’s the only person I cn think of who is deft enough to come close to the blend of charm, cynicism, and anarchy of Bill Murray. She wouldn’t be Bill Murray at all. But she’s someone you can hang a movie on. And goddamn it’s just about impossible to dislike her.

SL: I think it would be fun to have Mindy Kaling. I don’t care that she’s casting against type. I want the funniest comedienne around. She leads ensembles better than anyone else.

Vanessa: Tig Notaro. A 43 year-old lesbian with a double-mastectomy? Yeah, I get why Hollywood would never do it, and that’s why most comedies today suck. They choose for celebrity instead of ability. Notaro is the best choice to fill Murray’s shoes.

Ghostbusters Aubrey Plaza

Rachel: I love Ellen Page. I imagine her leading this group while she doubts what’s happening and whether she should even be there.

Gabriel: I couldn’t find anyone I was happy with until my brain struck on Parker Posey. The deadpan, the cynicism. Everything about her was perfect. Could she hold the audience at arm’s length? Could she be a little too aloof for mass appeal? That’s always a danger, and at the last minute I realized a better solution: Aubrey Plaza. She can communicate that same easygoing disaffection, she has her own uniquely dry delivery, and she can do aloof, but she also offers that everyman accessibility – especially with her work in smaller films like Safety Not Guaranteed and Life After Beth, in which she marries that dry delivery to a great deal of underlying heart.

[Ben was a bit inundated and couldn’t discuss at length, but he got off a list for us.]

Ben: Sandra Bullock.

Ghostbusters Jessica Williams

THE ENSEMBLE

Gabriel: How about the rest of the team, played by Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson in the original? Ackroyd served as the straight man, charmingly translating the exposition to which Murray and Ramis reacted. Ramis was the most bookish of the crew, taking scientific readings even as he issued dire supernatural warnings. Hudson was Winston Zeddmore, brought on to help the team when they become inundated with calls about the supernatural.

Kevan: (joining Emma Stone) I would love to see Amy Poehler in the Dan Ackroyd role. He ended up being more of the straight man in the original. But character-wise, he was the entrepreneur. He was the one who pushed everyone to get the company off the ground. I would love to see Poehler being the driving force of the operation. The one who cares a little too much.

The other two comedians I’d love to see in the movie are Kristen Wiig and Jessica Williams. Kristen Wiig has such a fantastic deadpan that would really round out the group. And Jessica Williams, who I admittedly haven’t seen act outside of The Daily Show, has a brilliant pushy New York energy that the movie needs.

You could go either way with them. In the original Ghostbusters, Harold Ramis was the scientist who added the modicum of scientific legitimacy that was needed in the group. And Ernie Hudson was the outsider who had no business being a Ghostbuster, but was dragged along when the shit hit the fan. With this cast, either Wiig is the nerdy scientist and Williams is the young intern who joins the group. Or you could also switch it up and have Williams be the brilliant, fast-talking scientist and Wiig be the person you never expected to be a Ghostbuster who rises to the occasion.

SL: (joining Mindy Kaling) I guess I’m not trying to fit the type. The quality I want is being able to make me laugh. Mindy Kaling has a bite, so Krysten Ritter is a perfect pairing. Sour and sweet. Ritter was amazing in Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23, but she showed a completely different side of herself on Breaking Bad. I think she’s the most dynamic comedienne around.

Charlize Theron was so good in Arrested Development that I wish she did more comedy. I really like the idea of her being the group’s nerd and scientifically laying down why ridiculous things are happening in a way that seems simple but that no one else understands.

For the normcore woman, Nasim Pedrad. She has so much range. She deserves so much better than the crappy sitcom she’s in.

Ghostbusters Amy Poehler

Vanessa: (joining Tig Notaro) The Ackroyd is so obvious I’ll be really pissed off if anyone chooses different: Amy Poehler. She is the beacon of frustrated idealism on television, why not do the same on film? I also like the idea of her having to cope with Tig Notaro.

For the scientist, Sarah Silverman. I want her to explain make-believe to everyone as if they’re dumbasses for not getting it, and then casually mention the end of the world so briefly it’s barely noticed.

I really remember vividly that scene where Ernie Hudson talks about the Bible and the End of Days. When I was young, that scared me. There’s no one I want bringing down the group and giving it a reality check more than Sandra Bullock. I get why that’s not what she normally plays in a comedy, but does anyone doubt she can play whatever role she wants to? I also like that she enters partway through as the outsider and isn’t the focal point.

Rachel: (joining Ellen Page) I like Emily Blunt. She can deliver exposition and give drive and focus to the group. Jessica Williams could be a great scientist. She already tells me how the world’s ending four nights a week on The Daily Show. I like Krysten Ritter for the Hudson role. Very innocent, no idea what she’s getting herself into. I like it.

Ghostbusters Krysten Ritter

Gabriel: (joining Aubrey Plaza) I switched back and forth between two women for the Ackroyd role: Emily Blunt and Kristen Wiig. Ultimately, though, I think Wiig’s the woman for it. She’s worked with Feig before, but I don’t actually put a high priority on that. It’s more that she’s often slotted into the kookiest, showiest roles, and on the rare occasion where she’s gotten to play the more down-to-earth straight man, the cleverness of her humor shows through and lends her a touching humanity.

Comedy that reveals humanity…I guess that’s what I’m going for across the board, because I think that’s what the original Ghostbusters communicates beautifully. Jessica Williams is my choice for the scientist of the group. I really didn’t expect so many others to share that view, but I think she could be the force of the group, the deliverer of dire consequences who dives head-first into doing the riskiest thing anyway.

Finally, Krysten Ritter. I’m really pleased so many people are listing her. She’s been my favorite screen (i.e. non-standup) comedian since her lead role in Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23, and for good reason – she’s hilarious. She can do very charming, human comedy, and she can pull off absurdism as well as any comedian I know. And what’s Ghostbusters, if not a set of comedians looking at the absurd and responding in the most deadpan way possible? Her and Wiig are, I think, the most complete comedians in my group.

Ben: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Mindy Kaling, Olivia Munn.

Ghostbusters Michael Ealy 2

THE LOVE INTEREST (The Sigourney Weaver)

Gabriel: Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett plays a major part as the love interest, later possessed by a demon named Zuul whose chief diabolical power seems to be showing off her legs. In keeping with the theme, let’s assume this is gender-switched. What hunk fills Sigourney’s shoes?

Kevan: Bradley Cooper (or Jon Hamm). You need someone who’s a bit of a heartthrob and can be a legit aspirational love interest for Emma Stone. But they also need to be game and have comedy chops.

SL: I don’t know how well-known Michael Ealy is, but I love pairing him with Mindy Kaling. He’s so easygoing and sweet. He’s accepting, but his beauty makes him feel hard to get no matter how nice he is. And he can do comedy.

Vanessa: I’m pairing off Tig Notaro, so I want someone complex and intimidating in the same way. David Duchovny. That gives me some older actors, but I don’t care – he’s still hot and he can show off his legs all day long.

Rachel: Bradley Cooper. Not even a competition.

Gabriel: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the king of cool in my book. He’s suave, he’s dapper, he’s nice, he’s old-fashioned, he can do comedy in his sleep, and it’s easy to be invested in him.

Ben: Love Interest(s) for Sandra, Melissa, and Maya – Keanu Reeves, Chris Pratt, and Jon Hamm.

Ghostbusters Natasha Leggero

THE. RICK. MORANIS.

Gabriel: Oh boy, Rick Moranis. The role of Lewis Tully was originally written for John Candy to provide Bill Murray with ineffectual competition for Dana’s (Sigourney Weaver) affections. When Moranis took the role instead, he converted Tully to a geekier stereotype, and he’s possessed halfway through Ghostbusters by a demon referred to as the Keymaster. Who takes over this role, full of facial and physical comedy?

Kevan: (competing with Emma Stone for Bradley Cooper’s affections) Paul Feig shouldn’t make anything and leave Melissa McCarthy out. And as much as I’d like to see her suit up in a Ghostbusters uniform, she might actually be better in the smaller, showier role that Rick Moranis killed in the original.

SL: (competing with Mindy Kaling for Michael Ealy’s affections) There’s no way this movie should be made without Aubrey Plaza in it. She needs an opportunity to show off and go nuts in some movie. I think she’d kill it.

Vanessa: (competing with Tig Notaro for David Duchovny’s affections) Emma Stone. Maybe that creates a Lolita situation, but why not? That’s nothing new for Duchovny (as a character). The only thing not on Stone’s resume is a dark comedic role. I like her for that.

Rachel: (competing with Ellen Page for Bradley Cooper’s affections) OK. People won’t like this. I could be adding too much narrative, but take a deep breath, everyone: Alektra Blue. The porn star. I like Ellen Page encountering someone so perfected, and who completely outclasses her in every physical way. In 80s movies, the class nerd always got the girl when the mean jock proved too inhuman. Why not invert that, especially when inhuman is something you can literally become in Ghostbusters? Blue is also a great physical comedian in many of her movies and I can’t imagine anyone pulling off Rick Moranis as aggressively.

Gabriel: (competing with Aubrey Plaza for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s affections) Man, and I thought I was being edgy with Natasha Leggero. I want someone in that cast who’s a dangerous comedian, who has a threat to her and can unbalance an entire cast with a look. Leggero wouldn’t seem it – she’s a petite brunette – but she’s my favorite acidic stage comedian, and I think that level of digging under someone’s skin could bring out Plaza that much more. Leggero has guested in nearly every counter-culture comedy there is, but most recently, she’s left a swathe of boozy, passive-aggressive destruction through Garfunkel & Oates. She can also shift from hyper-aware to oblivious at the drop of a hat, from judgmental to easygoing. She has a sociopathic charm that has just enough wink to it to make you realize it’s a put-on, but in her roles, that translates to never being sure what the hell she’s about to do.

Ben: Cameron Diaz.

Ghostbusters Martin Short

ANYONE ELSE?

Gabriel: Any other recastings you’d like to see? Secretary Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) delivered a ton of personality in a small role. There’s the demon Gozer (Slavitza Jovan), set on ending the world. EPA suit Walter Peck (William Atherton) shows up and shuts the Ghostbusters down partway through the original. Will we see the Paul Reubens Gozer originally planned?

Kevan: I’d love to see Louis CK as the frustrated guy behind the desk or the put-upon maintenance guy they hire to keep the place running. I can’t see anyone other than Parker Posey as the slimy government agent trying to shut them down…although I heard that Gillian Anderson is vying for a role in the movie and this would be a pretty awesome place for her.

SL: I want to see Martin Short as the secretary so bad it’s not even funny. It’s a compact way for him to play off the cast without interrupting them. Mel Gibson as Gozer, because I can’t think of anyone who would be so evil and hilarious to see. Janeane Garofalo should be the EPA chief.

Vanessa: Kevin Spacey should answer phones. Tig Notaro can put him in his place if he acts out too much, and he’ll be happy for it. I want to see Amy Adams as Gozer. I can see her taking the role so many different places. Katey Segal for the EPA guy.

Ghostbusters Parker Posey

Rachel: I’ve always wanted Sam Rockwell to answer my phone. Make him the Ghostbusters’ secretary. Crispin Glover for Gozer. Who else? And Ellen Degeneres would be hilarious for the EPA suit.

Gabriel: These are all such amazing answers. Alan Arkin to answer the phones. He could get that same energy Annie Potts had, of not wanting to take any of your shit but also being super-supportive and happy for the Ghostbusters. Gozer = Crispin Glover, why are we even still talking about it? And since I bumped her from the lead for Aubrey Plaza, Parker Posey as the EPA threat, with agents Garfunkel and Oates choosing some very special moments to bumble around in the background.

Ben: Villain – Sigourney Weaver (surprise cameo). Assistant – Bill Eichner. Cameos by Meryl Streep, Will Smith, and Robert Downey Jr. as hauntees/ghosts.

Kevan: And I’m sure that Paul Feig will come up with something way more amazing than that. There are so many people who would be amazing. I mean, don’t we all kind of want to see Maria Bamford trying not to cross the streams? Or Tina Fey being slimed? The possibilities are endless on this one. I can’t wait.

OUR FINAL CASTS

Ghostbusters Emma Stone 2

Kevan’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Emma Stone
The Entrepreneur – Amy Poehler
The Scientist – Jessica Williams
The Normcore – Kristen Wiig
The Love Interest – Bradley Cooper
The Rick Moranis – Melissa McCarthy
The Secretary – Louis CK
The EPA agent – Parker Posey

Ghostbusters Mindy Kaling

SL’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Mindy Kaling
The Entrepreneur – Krysten Ritter
The Scientist – Charlize Theron
The Normcore – Nasim Pedrad
The Love Interest – Michael Ealy
The Rick Moranis – Aubrey Plaza
The Secretary – Martin Short
The Demon Lord – Mel Gibson
The EPA agent – Janeane Garofalo

Ghostbusters Tig Notaro 2

Vanessa’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Tig Notaro
The Entrepreneur – Amy Poehler
The Scientist – Sarah Silverman
The Normcore – Sandra Bullock
The Love Interest – David Duchovny
The Rick Moranis – Emma Stone
The Secretary – Kevin Spacey
The Demon Lord – Amy Adams
The EPA agent – Katey Segal

Ghostbusters Ellen Page

Rachel’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Ellen Page
The Entrepreneur – Emily Blunt
The Scientist – Jessica Williams
The Normcore – Krysten Ritter
The Love Interest – Bradley Cooper
The Rick Moranis – Alektra Blue
The Secretary – Sam Rockwell
The Demon Lord – Crispin Glover
The EPA agent – Ellen Degeneres

Ghostbusters Aubrey Plaza 2

Gabriel’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Aubrey Plaza
The Entrepreneur – Kristen Wiig
The Scientist – Jessica Williams
The Normcore – Krysten Ritter
The Love Interest – Joseph Gordon-Levitt
The Rick Moranis – Natasha Leggero
The Secretary – Alan Arkin
The Demon Lord – Crispin Glover
The EPA agent – Parker Posey (with agents Garfunkel & Oates)

Ghostbusters Sandra Bullock 2

Ben’s Ghostbusters
The Lead – Sandra Bullock
Ensemble – Melissa McCarthy
Ensemble – Maya Rudolph
Ensemble – Mindy Kaling
Ensemble – Olivia Munn
Love Interest – Keanu Reeves
Love Interest – Chris Pratt
Love Interest – Jon Hamm
The Rick Moranis – Cameron Diaz
The Secretary – Billy Eichner
The Demon Lord – Sigourney Weaver

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