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SYFY WIRE Ghostbusters II

Why We Never Got a Ghostbusters 3, According to Bill Murray

Any lingering interest Murray had for a trilogy capper was sent to the afterlife.

By Josh Weiss
Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) wears sunglasses and looks at a young woman in Ghostbusters II (1989).

It's not out of pocket (or out of proton pack, rather) to say the Ghostbusters franchise has had a rough go of it where sequels are concerned. Most fans of the paranormal screwball saga are in near-universal agreement that none of the follow-ups have been able to fully recapture the strange magic of the 1984 original.

But why has it been so difficult to produce a great Ghostbusters sequel? According to Peter Venkman himself — aka the one and only Bill Murray — the problem can be traced back to 1989's Ghostbusters II (now streaming on Peacock alongside the first movie), which quickly sent any lingering enthusiasm he had for the IP into the afterlife.

Why Ghostbusters II Completely Changed from Its Original Pitch, According to Bill Murray

"When we did the sequel it was rather unsatisfying for me, because the first one to me was the goods. It was the real thing," the actor and SNL alum said during a 2008 interview with Gizmodo. "The sequel, it was a few years later [and] there was an idea pitched. They got us all together in a room and we all just laughed for a couple of hours and thought up a few ideas. So we had this idea. But it didn't turn out to be that idea, when I arrived on set."

RELATED: Ernie Hudson says 'Ghostbusters' can 'get a little bit more complicated' post-'Afterlife'

While Murray didn't go into much detail about what had changed since the initial pitch session, he did describe the end product as "a whole different movie" with only "a few great scenes in it." A third entry centered around the OG team of professional spirit exterminators never materialized, "because the second one was so disappointing for me at heart," Murray explained.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but that doesn’t mean Ghostbusters II isn’t worth your time. It likely would have performed a lot better if it didn't live in the shadow of its legendary predecessor. And over the years, audiences have come to reappraise the sequel; after all, it's still got an all-star comedic team behind it, and delivers a highly engrossing, fun-filled adventure.

“We had [the] weight of this extraordinary success on our shoulders. I think we’d waited a long time to do the second one — probably too long," director Ivan Reitman said in 2020. "So that weight even grew heavier. But I think people are now starting to see the magic that is actually there."

RELATED: Why Don't People in Ghostbusters Remember the Ghosts?

"There was a lot of great stuff in the film," agreed co-writer and star Dan Aykroyd (Ray Stantz). "A lot of beautiful pieces, a lot of great performances ... It makes it a very worthy companion to the first [movie]." 

It would take almost three decades for the Ghostbusters brand to return to theaters by way of Paul Feig's ill-fated 2016 reboot, which featured Murray, Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts in cameo roles separate from their iconic characters.

All of those actors would later return for the second revamp attempt, Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which took place within the established continuity of the first two films and successfully breathed new life into the franchise. A sequel is currently on the way from Afterlife co-writer, Gil Kenan, who is also developing an animated Netflix series alongside Reitman.

Does bustin' make you feel good? Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II are now streaming on Peacock.