Ghostbusters, John Belushi, and the cocaine that fueled the creation of Slimer

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May 1, 2018

Ghostbusters, one of the classic films of the 1980s, was almost a very different film. Before his death from a drug overdose in 1982, comedian John Belushi was signed on to play Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters. The role eventually went to Bill Murray, and became one of the actor's most iconic roles.

But Belushi's involvement in Ghostbusters doesn't end with his death. FX master Steve Johnson, who designed Slimer for the film, had a hell of a time creating the iconic ghost. Fun fact, his original moniker was "Onion Head Ghost."

"That was the most annoying horrendous experience I’ve ever had working with art directors, producers, and directors, ever," Johnson told Bloody Disgusting. "In the beginning they asked for a ‘smile with arms’ but before I knew it, it was a goddamn bleeding nightmare… ’give him 13 percent more pathos, put ears on him, take his ears off, less pathos, more pathos, make his nose bigger, now his nose is too big, make his nose smaller… Make him more cartoony, make him less cartoony’. I almost f**king severed my own head during that process.”

With his deadline looming, things were looking bleak for Johnson. Then things got worse. Ghostbusters screenwriters Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd decided to honor their departed friend John Belushi by modeling Slimer after the comedian. But Johnson only got this news 24 hours before Slimer was due.

“So I pulled out a stack of headshots of John Belushi, poured a gram of cocaine on it and started chopping lines up,” Johnson recalls. In his manic, seemingly coke-fueled state, Johnson said he "literally thought that John Belushi’s ghost came to [him'] to help [him] out.” Oh, and he also encouraged him to lay off the drugs. Thanks to that divine intervention, Johnson made his deadline and Ghostbusters got its most iconic ghost.

Steve Johnson's resume includes some of the biggest movie franchises ever: The Howling, Poltergeist, An American Werewolf in London, Predator, Fright Night, Species, Videodrome,and many, many more. He is currently crowdsourcing funding for Rubberhead Volume II: Sex, Drugs, and Special FX, the second in his planned five volume set of behind-the-scenes, "warts and all" tales from his days creating the most notorious movie monsters ever.