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Ghostbusters: Paul Feig reveals 13 secrets

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Where once there was Peter, Ray, Winston and Egon, now it’s Erin, Patty, Jillian and Abby keeping New York free of spectral botherment. With the rebooted Ghostbusters now in cinemas, what better time to track down its makers and ask them to reveal some of its deeper secrets. And who you gonna call – or, in this case, sit down in the Empire Podcast booth with a nice cup of tea – than the director? Step forward Mr. Paul Feig, the movie’s maker, co-writer and chief internet-troll-repeller. Here’s 13 things we learnt from him.

WARNING: this article contains huge spoilers for Ghostbusters from the start.

1. This Ghostbusters was almost set in Boston

The Ghostbusters and Ecto-1

Risking the ultimate sacrilege and shifting the crew from New York to its arch-rival up the coast, Paul Feig contemplated setting the reboot in Boston. “I hate making one city look like another,” explains the director, “so we came close to doing it”. Ultimately the shoot itself took place in Boston, but the story stayed in the Big Apple. “It’s such a New York story that I couldn’t do it,” admits Feig.

2. …But the sequel may leave New York

Ghosts from the past in Times Square

That thing we said about ultimate sacrilege? Forget all about it. If a Ghostbusters sequel happens – and Feig already has a story for it – it may finally take the posse out of their spiritual home, maybe even to tackle foreign ghosts. “I might go to other places too,” hints Feig. "There are countries that are way more into ghosts than we are…”

3. The film's troll-baiting dialogue was improvised

Ghostbusters has received Reddit-melting levels of odium online, a fact that doesn’t go unaddressed in the movie. “You shouldn’t read what crazy people write in the middle of the night online,” jokes Kristen Wiig’s Erin pointedly at one point. There was going to be more, too. When the 'busters arrive at the haunted heavy metal concert, there was originally another troll encounter scripted. “They were going to be confronted by two angry nerds”, reveals Feig, “who were going to say: ‘Who are you guys supposed to be? Those look like vacuum cleaners. Why don’t you go and clean the house!’ As they walked away, one of the crew was going to zap them in the ass and sets it on fire, but it seemed too harsh.” According to the director, a lot of that online bile spewed forth from our own shores. “Honestly, if you tallied the angriest haters, they seemed to come from outside London."

4. Gertrude is based on a real axe-murderer

Bess Rous as Gertrude

Like the 1984 original, this Ghostbusters opens with a terrifying encounter with a class 4 full-roaming vapour. Feig gives his co-screenwriter, Katie Dippold, credit for the character, a vengeful ghost known as Gertrude. “We liked the idea of this spooky history of this Lizzy Borden-type character that had killed people and her family had locked her down,” he explains of her bloody origins. “Katie loves that kind of spooky stuff.”

"Rowan is a loner terrorist who's figured out how to bring back his own army of the undead."

5. Rowan is modelled on homegrown terrorists

It’s science v science in this new-model Ghostbusters as the antagonist, Neil Casey’s Rowan, rallies the forces of the paranormal using his own brand of techno paraphernalia. For the reboot, co-writers Paul Feig and Katie Dippold wanted their bad guy to be “a homegrown terrorist” rather than a Gozer-style nasty. “He’s one of these loner terrorists who, instead of using a bomb, has figured out how to bring back his own army of the undead.” Describing him as “God’s angry man”, Feig draws a parallel with Taxi Driver. “He is a dark, Travis Bickle-kind of guy who was bullied.”

6. Mike Hat was Chris Hemsworth’s idea

Chris Hemsworth as Kevin in Ghostbusters

One nugget of improv gold came via Asgard's finest. A bizarro exchange takes place when Chris Hemsworth’s dim-bulb Kevin answers the Ghostbusters’ call for a PA and baffles them with an odd, pet-based request involving his dog, um, Mike Hat. “Yes, ‘First name, Michael; last name, Hat’,” laughs Feig. "Chris came up with it! To me, he is the new Cary Grant. He’s handsome, funny and he’s a great actor and he’s charming. We all wish we were Chris Hemsworth."

7. Rick Moranis and William Atherton don’t cameo, but Harold Ramis does

At one point, there were plans for cameos for the men who played Louis Tully and Walter “dickless” Peck in the original Ghostbusters. Moranis, though, wasn’t keen. “We hit a point where you have to walk the line about how many references you do,” admits Paul Feig. There are fan-friendly cameos from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts. The late, great Harold Ramis is also honoured in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance. “Some people catch it and some don’t,” says Feig. “It’s right at the beginning when Charles Dance is in Kristen Wiig’s office. As he walks out, there’s a bust of Harold Ramis.”

8. Slimer’s girlfriend is inspired by Looney Tunes

Slimer is back in Ghostbusters, with a partner-in-slime

Yes, Slimer is back and he’s been on Tinder. Lady Slimer – Slimer’s new para(normal)mour or partner-in-slime – was based on Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil and his wife, explains the writer/director. “I just told [the designers] to make her look like Slimer with a wig on and lipstick. It’s really stupid, but it makes me laugh.” Feig hints at more to come, including, we hope, at least some Slimettes. "I think they are going to have a great relationship together."

9. Movie marketing worked much better in 1984

The director laments the spoiler-ific nature of his movie’s marketing, especially the release of Mattel’s tie-in Rowan toy in February. “It’s this slow whittling down of all the surprises. When they put the trailers together they say, 'The foreign territories need to see Stay Puft” and I’m thinking, ‘Oh god, really?’ Can we not just bury all this stuff? Then the toys come out and the toys are just spoilers. You hit a point where you are just like, ‘Fuck it, let’s put everything online.’ When I saw the original Ghostbusters, I saw one trailer for it and everything was a surprise."

10. The Ghostbusters logo has an actual name

Ghostbusters logo

In a twist slightly spoilt by that marketing, it’s the 'busters’ own branding that comes to destroy them in the final act. It turns out that their long-standing logo has a name, too. “To us, it’s Rowan,” says Feig, “but Dan Aykroyd and Ivan [Reitman] were saying, ‘Oh, that’s Mooglie.’ That’s the official name of the ghost in the logo, according to them. They’d tell me we had to call it Mooglie and I’m, like, ‘Nobody knows that other than you!'"

"I think Slimer and Lady Slimer are going to have a great relationship together."

11. Bill Murray’s character may still be alive...

Bill Murray cameos as a dapper, Quentin Crisp-like academic called Martin Heiss, and meets what looks like an untimely end on the pavement below the Ghostbusters firehouse… or does he? “We actually talked about [having him come back as a ghost],” reveals Feig, “but we made it so you’re not quite sure if he got killed or not. I originally shot it where you see the chalk outline of him, with his hat and cane also outlined, but we wanted to leave the door open to Bill Murray, which he loved.” Rightly so. Every door should be opened for Bill Murray.

12. The Times Square battle had kung fu inspirations

Ghostbusters' Times Square battle

Feig cites the Shaw Brothers oeuvre of kick-ass martial arts cinema as a touchpoint for a final act Times Square smack-down in which the Ghostbuster face off against a legion of historic ghosts. “I wanted that sort of kung fu, Hong-Kong-cinema action to it,” he expands, “with barrel rolls and all that stuff, because I love that.” You’ll need a degree in American history to tally up all the spectres zapped. “There’s an evil bobby-soxer ghost, and someone kills a pilgrim. Yes, I know, some pilgrims were nice, I’m sure. The original fight was about four-and-a-half minutes long, but the studio didn’t want to pay for it."

13. There was a Bee Gees dance routine planned

Cut from the final film, but appearing in a new state in the post-credits reel, is a sequence that sees a mass dance routine break out in Times Square. Bewitched by Rowan, a military unit was due to form a phalanx and start dancing to the Bee Gees' You Should Be Dancing. “This was the biggest controversy and the toughest decision for me,” rues Feig, expanding on his decision to cut it. “Neil Casey (who plays Rowan) is one of the funniest people on the planet, but the minute his character is funny, the threat goes. The scene just messed up the tone. But we wanted to put it in somewhere, so we put it in the end credits. I always wanted the credits to be like a party."

Ghostbusters is in cinemas now. Read Empire’s review, and check back soon for the full Ghostbusters podcast spoiler special.