Ghostbusters III: Behind The Scenes Of The Unmade Sequel

Ghostbusters III: Behind The Scenes Of The Unmade Sequel

Since the 1990s, there was attempts to produce "Ghostbusters III" - but time and studio disinterest ended the idea.

It's not news that many of today's movies and television programs are continuations or straight reboots of other pieces of entertainment, primarily from the 1980s. Among the most infamous is the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters (retitled Ghostbusters: Answer the Call just before release), which starred an all-female cast. This was not a well received move by fans of the original, especially when Harold Ramis, co-writer and actor in the original films, had just passed away, as well as the director and cast often saying the reboot shouldn't be watched by fans – but that's neither here nor there. However, since the release of Ghostbusters 2 in 1989, there were several attempts to make a third installment of the series, including the original cast. This film will go down as one of the many that we never saw, but will always be talked about as an example of behind-the-scenes studio control.

The original film, Ghostbusters, was a massive success upon release, instantly becoming part of popular culture. And because of the success and it being the mid-1980s, a cartoon series was broadcast to continue the story of the team, titled The Real Ghostbusters. The overnight popularity of the movie and the resulting cartoon led the studio, Columbia Pictures, to order a sequel be written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, both of whom wrote and starred in the original. Despite the fame and success of the first film, Akryoyd, Ramis, and director Ivan Reitman were not as interested in the project as one may think, as the intention was always for the first movie to be a single, one-and-done summer movie. But as with most movies, what the studio says goes, and a sequel was produced – and while the movie was still praised, it did not have the same effect that the first one did, and Columbia Pictures changed their plans for the franchise, letting it die out slowly. Bill Murray, who played Peter Venkman in the two films, turned his back on the franchise, ruling out ever coming back for a sequel. Even though a sequel cartoon, Extreme Ghostbusters, was put on the airwaves, the franchise was considered a relic of the past by the mid-1990s (read: around the time Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hit their peak).

By the late 90s, Aykroyd and Ramis had started toying with the idea of doing a third film after all, began to write a script for a third film. This script, under the working title of Ghostbusters III: Hellbent, would have involved the team being transported to an evil, alternate New York City, not unlike the alternate Hill Valley in Back to the Future Part II. The Ghostbusters would have met with the devil, who was, even back then, inspired by Donald Trump, who was evicting souls from Hell into the world of the living because it was overcrowded. However, as the original cast (specifically Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson), were not completely onboard, a younger group of Ghostbusters were the focus, the originals taking on a more mentor-type role aiding the team, and a cameo at the end was written in for Bill Murray if he would join the project. The script went through Columbia, but they were not interested in working on the movie, and essentially let the script sit in storage. Ramis and Aykroyd continued to discuss their ever-changing ideas for the film, such as making it just about the new team and leave at least Egon (Ramis) and Ray (Aykroyd) as older and retired. Murray was vocal about not wanting to return, even saying that if he did, he wanted his characters to be killed off as soon as possible – though he eventually warmed up to the idea as time went on. Partially to gauge interest, and mostly to revive the series in the eyes of the culture, a video game loosely inspired by the scripts for the third installment was released in 2009 – and the entire cast reprised their roles, save for Rick Moranis, who retired from acting and offered to lend his voice, but the game was too far in development to include him. The game was well-received, and is often on lists of underrated modern games.

It seemed more and more likely that Ghostbusters III would be more of an introduction to a younger team, allowing the possibility for more sequels and a new generation of fans. By the start of the 2010s, Ivan Reitman was returning to direct, and another script was written. It was still unclear if Murray would come back, and Ramis was even considering recasting if necessary. As with most projects like this, rumors of casting began to go around, including Jonah Hill and Emma Stone – the latter of whom passed on the project in 2013. Cameos were included for all the original cast, and it was getting closer and closer to actually happening. Sadly, just weeks before a meeting with Columbia executives to secure the greenlight in early 2014 , Harold Ramis died, leading to the meeting being focused on how to continue work on the project without him, and likely without Dan Aykroyd out of respect for his friend. Reitman stepped down as director, and the studio made the decision to reboot the series from scratch. Ghostbusters III was officially dead.

Now I haven't seen the reboot yet, so I'm not going to talk about that one as part of this. What we knew of Ghostbusters III is no longer, though of course there is always a possibility Columbia may bring it back to the burner. But even while the reboot failed to make the money and have the effect that the first one did, it didn't completely kill the franchise. It is still alive and well, with a couple of Lego sets, several comic book tie-ins, HD releases and remasters of both films and the cartoons, and legions of cosplay groups who show up to conventions and events n full costume, with proton packs and oftentimes, a custom Ecto-1 car. Anywhere you go, if you say “who you gonna call” somebody will respond back with “Ghostbusters!” If no true sequel is to be made, then at least we have the two films and decades of spin-off content and fan creations. And if that isn't what a successful franchise is, then I don't know what it is.

Cover Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

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