Fans have been waiting since 1989 for a third movie in the Ghostbusters series, and (with most people agreeing that the 2016 reboot doesn’t count) we finally got that with the arrival of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Yet while the film builds on the story established in the 1984 original, it strikes a very different tone as a more family-oriented adventure with less raucous humour. Here are some facts about Ghostbusters: Afterlife you didn’t know – and be warned, there are spoilers ahead.
20. Afterlife director Jason Reitman appeared in Ghostbusters II
You may recall that, in the opening scenes of Ghostbusters II, we see that our ghost-busting heroes Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) and Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) have been reduced to making personal appearances at children’s birthday parties to make ends meet. At such a party, they’re approached by an obnoxious youngster who bluntly informs them, “my dad says you guys are full of c**p.”
The little brat in question was in fact an 11-year-old Jason Reitman, whose father Ivan Reitman was the director of the original two Ghostbusters movies. 16 years later, the younger Reitman made his own feature debut as a director with Thank You for Smoking, and enjoyed further success with Juno, Up in the Air and Young Adult before co-writing and directing Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
- Credit: Dominick D via Flickr
19. Jason Reitman declared Afterlife would give Ghostbusters “back to the fans”
The 2016 Ghostbusters reboot proved hugely controversial, failing to win over the existing fanbase or kickstart an all-new franchise the way studio Sony had hoped. As such, when Jason Reitman announced his attachment to a Ghostbusters movie which he said would “give [the franchise] back to the fans,” many took this as a stab at director Paul Feig’s 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters.
The backlash against Feig’s film had been ugly, with a lot of it coming from social media trolls who hurled sexist abuse at the female cast, as well as racist remarks about African-American actress Leslie Jones. Reitman made a point of distancing himself from this contingent by insisting in a later interview that he had “nothing but admiration” for director Paul Feig and his film.
18. Finn Wolfhard thought dressing up as a Ghostbuster in Stranger Things lost him the part
For younger viewers less acquainted with the Ghostbusters movies, one of the key selling points of Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the presence of teen actor Finn Wolfhard, famed for his role on beloved Netflix series Stranger Things. Set in the 80s and steeped in the popular culture of the time, one Stranger Things episode sees Wolfhard’s Mike and his friends get dressed up as the Ghostbusters.
Wolfhard (also known for his role in the It movies) told The Hollywood Reporter, “I thought, ‘Jason Reitman is probably not even going to look at my [audition] tape because I’ve already done it in Stranger Things.’” Happily for the young actor, this turned out not to be the case, and he was cast in Afterlife as Egon Spengler’s grandson Trevor.
17. You may recognise Phoebe actress Mckenna Grace from Captain Marvel
While grown-up actors Carrie Coon (Callie) and Paul Rudd (Gary Grooberson) take top billing in the credits of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, arguably the real lead of the movie is Mckenna Grace; she plays Phoebe, the younger grandchild of Egon Spengler who finds herself inducted into the family business by her grandfather’s spirit.
Although she was only born in 2006, Grace already has an impressive CV of over 55 screen credits, including a run on soap The Young and the Restless and more small screen appearances including The Haunting of Hill House and Young Sheldon. Her most prominent big screen role to date, however, was the younger version of Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers in the flashback sequences of Captain Marvel.
16. Josh Gad plays the Muncher ghost
Paul Rudd may be the biggest contemporary star name in the Ghostbusters: Afterlife cast, but you might not have known that another well-known film actor of recent years also makes an ‘appearance’ in the film. We’re talking about Josh Gad, best known as Olaf in the Frozen films and Le Fou in the live action Beauty and the Beast, who voices the ghost dubbed Muncher in Afterlife.
Essentially the Ghostbusters: Afterlife equivalent of Slimer, Muncher is the blue ghost who eats his way through anything metal. Gad had already established himself as a super-fan of Ghostbusters by hosting a cast reunion in his YouTube series Reunited Apart during the 2020 lockdown, and it seems this led to him being invited to be part of the new film.
15. Paul Rudd turned down Halloween Kills to appear in Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Paul Rudd takes the role of Gary Grooberson, the summer school science teacher who finds himself caught up in the supernatural goings-on in. However, this wasn’t the only spooky 2021 movie the actor had the chance to appear in; he had also been asked to appear in horror sequel Halloween Kills in the key role of Tommy Doyle, the young survivor of the original 1978 Halloween.
Rudd had previously made one of his first big screen appearances as the teenage Tommy in 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. The Ant-Man actor had indicated he was open to returning to Halloween, but the scheduling clash with Ghostbusters: Afterlife forced him to decline. Instead, Halloween Kills cast former 80s teen star Anthony Michael Hall in the role.
14. Its release was re-arranged four times due to the Covid-19 pandemic
Ghostbusters: Afterlife was shot mostly in Alberta, Canada between July and September 2019, using the fake production name ‘Rust City’ to help protect the shoot’s privacy. Originally the film was poised to open in cinemas on the 10th of July 2020, but – as was the case with many other major films that year – the lockdown enforced because of Covid-19 made this impossible.
Rather than skip the big screen and go direct to home entertainment as some other films did, Ghostbusters: Afterlife was rescheduled for March 2021. As that date came closer and the situation still wasn’t much better, it was pushed back again to that June. However, this release date was also missed, and the film finally opened in November 2021.
13. Mckenna Grace sings (and co-wrote) the film’s end credits song
On top of being a hugely successful young actress, Mckenna Grace is also making moves as a singer and songwriter – and she appears to have a lot of ability in that field as well. For evidence of this, look (or, rather, listen) no further than the end credits of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, as the song which plays over them is the work of Grace herself.
Co-written by Grace and Lily Kincade, Haunted House is the talented youngster’s first release as a recording artist. Grace told EW that the song was not written specifically for the film, but was instead inspired by a “rough time” she went through during the Covid-19 pandemic. She told her Twitter followers that having the song featured in the movie was “one of the greatest honors of my life.”
12. Jason Reitman has hinted a sequel could feature Vigo from Ghostbusters II
As the plot revolves around the work of occultist Ivo Shandor and his efforts to bring forth Gozer to end the world, Ghostbusters: Afterlife owes a great deal to the original 1984 Ghostbusters. Yet beyond the appearance of the Ray’s Occult bookstore, there doesn’t seem to be much in Afterlife that echoes Ghostbusters II, something that has led some fans and critics to ponder whether or not the 1989 sequel was being treated as canon.
Jason Reitman addressed the matter in a podcast interview, declaring, “Ghostbusters II is canon” (ie the events of that sequel did take place in the world of Ghostbusters: Afterlife). The filmmaker was also hinted that if Afterlife gets a sequel, it might see the return of Vigo, the Ghostbusters II villain whose spirit lived on through a painting. Reitman teased, “Look, are you saying that’s the only painting of Vigo the Carpathian?”
11. Ecto-1’s gunner seat is a nod to The Real Ghostbusters toyline
Some fans and critics have been a bit puzzled as to the state of the Ghostbusters signature vehicle Ecto-1 in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. For one thing, the model Trevor finds and fixes up in his grandfather’s garage appears largely identical to that of the original 1984 film, with none of the modifications made in Ghostbusters II. Yet it also has a feature we never saw in the first two movies: a retractable gunner seat.
This appears to be a nod to another part of Ghostbusters lore: animated series The Real Ghostbusters. The Ecto-1 car was a popular part of the TV cartoon’s tie-in toy line, and it did indeed feature a gunner seat – although that one was on the roof, rather than on the side. Either way it’s a fun detail, even if it does leave us with questions as to when it was installed.
10. A third Ghostbusters movie had been in development since the 90s
Ghostbusters II was not as well received as the original, something that initially soured plans for the series to continue. Peter Venkman actor Bill Murray had expressed a particular reluctance to make another film, although this didn’t deter series creator Dan Aykroyd, who penned an ambitious script entitled Ghostbusters III: Hellbent, which would have seen our heroes literally go to Hell.
By the early 2000s, this was developed into a passing-the-torch film which would have seen a new, younger team take over as Ghostbusters, with Ben Stiller cited as possible casting. However, the film still struggled to gain momentum, and when original star and co-writer Harold Ramis died in 2014, the idea was finally scrapped altogether. Eventually, director Paul Feig was given the go-ahead for the outright reboot of the series he delivered in 2016.
9. Egon’s ghost is portrayed by the warden from The Shawshank Redemption
In the climactic showdown, whilst Phoebe teams up with the original Ghostbusters to take down Gozer, they find themselves with one ghost on their side: that of Egon Spengler himself. While CGI was of course utilised to recreate the sadly missed Harold Ramis, there were indeed actors playing the role of Egon on set, the main one being Bob Gunton.
While he might not be a household name, most people will know Gunton for his role as Warden Samuel Norton in 1994 classic The Shawshank Redemption. Gunton’s other screen credits include Demolition Man, The Perfect Storm and Argo. He is also a revered theatre actor, having taken leading roles in Broadway productions of Evita and Sweeney Todd.
8. Ivan Reitman was also among the Egon ghost doubles
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is very much a film about family, on both sides of the camera. As much as the story is about the grandchildren of Egon Spengler picking up where he left off, it also sees director Jason Reitman (who also co-wrote the script with Gil Kenan) taking over from his father Ivan Reitman at the helm of the franchise.
In a move that makes the final reveal of ghostly Egon that bit more personal, for some shots Ivan Reitman himself was enlisted to play Egon live on set. Ivan had sworn off directing another Ghostbusters movie after Harold Ramis died, but son Jason found a touching way for the filmmaker to pay tribute to his father’s friend and collaborator.
- Credit: Jason Reitman Instagram
7. Olivia Wilde makes an uncredited appearance as Gozer
The finale of Ghostbusters: Afterlife sees the old gang reunite to once again do battle with their old adversary, Gozer the Gozerian. However, whilst surviving Ghostbusters actors Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson reprise their roles, original Gozer performer Slavitza Jovan does not return – and a well-known contemporary actress takes her place.
The latest incarnation of Gozer is portrayed by Olivia Wilde, the American actress best known for her roles in TV’s House, and such movies as Tron: Legacy and Life Itself. Wilde (who made her feature directorial debut in 2019 with the acclaimed Booksmart) is not credited for her appearance, a cameo which took most viewers by surprise.
6. Ernie Hudson’s Winston is now a doctor too
One aspect of the Ghostbusters movies which never quite sat right with many is the use of Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore. He’s arguably the least developed character in the 1984 original, as he only joins the team midway, isn’t anywhere near as funny as his co-stars and has no background in science. Ghostbusters II did little to build on this, still leaving Winston as something of a fifth wheel.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife makes some effort to redress the balance. Firstly, we learn from Ray that Winston enjoyed the most professional success of any of the Ghostbusters in the years since; second, watch the credits closely and you’ll note Hudson is credited as Dr Winston Zeddemore, so he’s clearly made academic advancements too. Finally, the post-credits scene hints that Winston is set to re-open the original Manhattan office of the Ghostbusters.
5. It’s Podcast actor Logan Kim’s very first role
Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s young stars Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard both have impressive resumes already, despite their youth. Lucky actress Celeste O’Connor doesn’t have quite so many credits, having appeared in four films beforehand, the most recent being horror-comedy Freaky. One member of the ensemble, on the other hand, had no screen credits to their name at all before Afterlife.
The actor in question is Logan Kim, who plays Phoebe’s conspiracy-obsessed new friend Podcast, so named because – well – he has a podcast. When Kim’s casting was announced in July 2019, the young actor had no other screen credits. In the time since, Kim has gained one other credit, again under director Jason Reitman: he was one among the many actors who appeared in Reitman’s DIY re-enactment of The Princess Bride, conducted during the 2020 lockdown.
4. Ghostbusters 2016 star Leslie Jones was highly critical when Afterlife was announced
When it was announced in early 2019 that Jason Reitman was making a sequel to the original Ghostbusters, it took most fans by surprise. For one thing, Reitman had never made a blockbuster before, and for another it hadn’t been long since studio Sony had been planning to build a franchise from the 2016 reboot. Not everyone gave the news a warm reception.
One notable critic of Afterlife’s announcement was Leslie Jones, star of the 2016 Ghostbusters and the actor who had been the target of the worst social media trolling because of the film. In a widely-shared tweet, Jones lamented the announcement as “So insulting. Like f*** us. We dint count. It’s like something trump would do…’Gonna redo ghostbusteeeeers, better with men, will be huge. Those women ain’t ghostbusteeeeers’ ugh so annoying. Such a d*** move.”
3. Reitman came up with the story after imagining a 12-year-old girl as a Ghostbuster
Leslie Jones was not alone in fearing that Ghostbusters: Afterlife would make ghostbusting a boys-only club again. However, Jason Reitman has since explained that nothing could have been further from the truth, as the writer-director says the character who became Mckenna Grace’s Phoebe was his starting point around which he and co-writer Gil Kenan built the story.
Reitman told fans at a live event, “this character came to me. She was a 12-year-old girl. I didn’t know who she was or why she popped into my head, but I saw her with a proton pack in her hand. And I wrote this story. This story began to form over many years actually. It started with a girl and all of a sudden it was a family. And eventually I knew this [was a] movie that I needed to make.”
2. Rick Moranis was asked to make a cameo appearance, but declined
Ghostbusters: Afterlife features an early cameo from Annie Potts as Janine, then Dan Aykroyd makes an appearance midway before showing up in full uniform alongside Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson in the third act. Finally, Sigourney Weaver pops up in the mid-credits coda. There’s only one surviving main cast member of the original Ghostbusters movies who doesn’t appear: Rick Moranis.
To many fans, Moranis’ non-appearance shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The actor has been largely retired since the late 1990s, and has repeatedly declined film offers in the years since, including a cameo in the 2016 Ghostbusters. Happily, Moranis is poised to return to screens in the near future, co-starring with the aforementioned Josh Gad in Shrunk, which will give a similar ‘legacy sequel’ treatment to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
1. Critics are divided over the film
At the time of writing, Ghostbusters: Afterlife has earned almost $120 million (not a bad haul in the time of Covid-19), and for the most part seems to have been warmly embraced by audiences. By contrast, the reviews haven’t all been so positive. Jason Reitman’s film has polarized critics, with Afterlife currently sitting on a good-but-not-great 63% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Some critics including The Observer’s Wendy Ide praised Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s “Spielbergian family adventure” tone, whilst others argued this was inappropriate when the original films were first and foremost comedies. Conversations are particularly heated over the posthumous appearance of Harold Ramis, which some find very moving – and which others find massively distasteful.