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SYFY WIRE Ghostbusters

The Original Pitch for Ghostbusters Was an "Impossible" Space Adventure Co-Starring John Belushi

"It was a very huge, and frankly impossible, movie to actually do," Ivan Reitman said before his death in 2022.

By Josh Weiss

With its inter-dimensional deities, spectral intimacy, and hot dog gobbling phantoms, Ghostbusters (now streaming on Peacock alongside its 1989 sequel) is a spectacularly weird movie. A classic, yes — but a strange classic at that.

Things could have been even weirder for the squad of wisecracking paranormal exterminators, had screenwriter/actor Dan Aykroyd been allowed to realize his original vision for the now-iconic project. Sitting down with Rolling Stone in 2016, director Ivan Reitman (who passed away in 2022 at the age of 75) revealed that Aykroyd's initial pitch was an ambitious space adventure co-starring John Belushi.

The Original Pitch for Ghostbusters Took Place in Outer Space

"It was futuristic; I remember that it took place in outer space, that there were competing teams of Ghostbusters, and there was some kind of apparition or monster on every page," the filmmaker said. "It was a very huge, and frankly impossible, movie to actually do. Particularly in 1980. [But] it had this really brilliant idea at its core, which is: Here are a bunch of people looking very much like firemen, doing this important job, and that ghosts existed and it was possible to catch them."

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Why Don't People in Ghostbusters Remember the Ghosts?

When Belushi tragically passed away in 1982, development stalled for "a year or two" until Reitman made Stripes with Bill Murray and the late Harold Ramis – both of whom were integral to getting Ghostbusters' off the ground and into theaters. Murray, of course, signed on to play the sardonic Peter Venkman, while Ramis pulled double duty as co-writer and eccentric technology whiz, Egon Spengler. Ramis in particular proved invaluable when it came to reworking the futuristic treatment into a feasible screenplay.

“[I told Dan]: 'It’s good, but it’s very hard to make what you’ve written so far,'" Reitman continued. "'The movie I’d be interested in doing should be set today in New York. I think these guys should be people who are dabbling in parapsychology, probably at a university. They get into trouble, they get kicked out, and then they go into business for themselves. And it turns out it’s a good business.'"

Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II are now streaming on Peacock.

Limited Time Offer: Enjoy 1 year of hit movies, exclusive originals, the hottest live sports, and so much more on Peacock for $19.99. Use code STREAMTHEDEAL.

Originally published Jan 19, 2024.