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Surprise! Sony Pictures celebrated Halloween a few weeks early with the world premiere of Ghostbusters: Afterlife at New York Comic Con Friday evening. The surprise film screening was preceded by a conversation with director/co-writer Jason Reitman, co-writer Gil Kenan, producer Ivan Reitman (Jason's dad and director of the first two Ghostbusters movies), and several members of the ensemble cast: McKenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Celeste O'Connor, and Logan Kim.
"I thought we did this five years ago," Jason said at the beginning of the panel, poking fun at the numerous theatrical delays caused by the COVID-19 health crisis.
When asked about the origins of Afterlife, which is centered around the grandchildren of the late Harold Ramis' Egon Spengler (played by Grace and Wolfhard), he explained: "My whole life, I was asked, ‘Would you make a Ghostbusters movie?’ And I made the incorrect, egotistical assumption that people want to see my Ghostbusters movie when the truth is, what we all want to see is a Ghostbusters movie. We wanted to get back in the Ecto-1 again. We wanted to pick up the Proton Pack again. And that’s where it came from."
"Ghostbusters was the first Hollywood movie that I saw when I moved to the States and it was a transformative experience," added Kenan. "It hooked me into the power of cinema [and] what it could do when it was firing on all cylinders. The tone of it, the magic, the scares — all of it hooked me in and so, for it was just pure passion as a fan. I've been lucky enough to be friends with Jason for a long time ... We were immediately thrilled by organically the conversation and story and characters started to come together. Before we knew it, there was a world and that journey has led us directly to this night. It's absolutely amazing ... It's just an incredible privilege to be on this stage and to be a part of the legacy of Ghost-busting."
Wolfhard was obviously a perfect fit for the film, having already worn a Ghostbusters jump-suit in Season 2 of Netflix's Stranger Things. Interestingly, though, the actor thought this might work against him.
"When I found out it was Ghostbusters, I really didn't think I was going to be cast," he remembered. "I had worn the costume in an episode and I thought, 'Ok...well maybe it might rub the wrong way or something like that. I immedatiely said 'yes' and for me, the most amazing part about be a part of this franchise is the legacy behind it. You feel like you're actually part of a family ... Also being a part of an amazing, rich history is great."
The chat eventually turned to what it was like for Jason to work with his father on this project. "If want to know what it was like on set, our director's chairs were closer than they are right now. They were literally touching. And that was wonderful...most of the time," he said.
"I think he was very brave to take the whole thing on. I had it much easier than Jason," said Ivan, who received a standing ovation from the gathered audience. "Jason had to really be the captain of this very large enterprise and find some new fresh way of doing the story. The fact that I was there [I] had a word to say every once in a while. We tried not to fight and we fought a little bit ... But we were passionate and just tried to find a way to control the passion, so that the best things happened."
"It means everything to me," Jason said of the physical moviegoing experience. "We wanted to make a movie that could be enjoyed with a huge audience ... the way [people] experienced the [first] movie in '84."
Finally, Jason gave the people what they truly wanted. "Man, it's been a while since we started making this film, and you all are the most patient fans on Earth. But frankly, my father and I think you've waited long enough," he said, as the applause rained down, and the lights faded for the world premiere of Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
As for whether or not we'll get a sequel, Jason didn't explicitly shoot down the idea of future installments. In fact, the director alluded to the possibility of a wider Ghostbusters mythos that wouldn't be out of place in the current era of cinematic universes. "We wanted to make a movie that opened the universe to all kinds of stories," he said. "I want to see Ghostbusters movies from all of my favorite directors and we hope that this movie sets the table for that.”
Ghostbusters: Afterlife will begin to haunt theaters everywhere Friday, Nov. 19.
Click here for SYFY WIRE’s full coverage of New York Comic Con 2021.
Additional reporting by Benjamin Bullard.