Posts tagged #dan aykroyd

Ghostbusters Reunite for the 30th Anniversary

8 casts are together again for Entertainment Weekly, but let's be honest: only one really matters, right?

An unexpected surprise was waiting this morning as Entertainment Weekly revealed their latest cover featuring a reunion of the Boys in Grey in celebration of Ghostbusters' 30th Anniversary.

The cover image features Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver but curiously a video created in tandem for the Today Show features Bill Murray, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson and Ivan Reitman.

Maybe Dan had some vodka to go and sell during the video or something, it's strange that he was around for the cover photo but not the interview (and that Annie and Ivan weren't on the cover). I'm wondering if maybe the reunion wasn't exactly a reunion and the cover was cobbled together from multiple shoots?

Regardless of those curiosities, the video is fun if brief. I had no idea that Al Roker was such a Ghostbusters fan and never picked up on any of his various references throughout the years. The article inside the issue will most likely go more in-depth and feature more photos of the cast reunion, and hopefully a longer interview with more Al Roker conversation exists and will be released somewhere down the line.

UPDATE: Apparently the whole gang was together for the photo shoot portion of the reunion if this photo released by Entertainment Weekly is to be believed:

IDW's Ghostbusters: When Dogs and Cats Lived Together

...and we still have hot thermal mugs and balloons for the kids.

For a while, as Ghostbusters sat in a limbo state following the height of its popularity in the late-80s, comic book creative teams were constrained to one-shots and brief four-part minis that often were over by the time they just started heating up. One of my biggest complaints among all the Ghostbusters comics that have been released over the last 10 to 15 years is that you could feel the perimeters of the mini-series weighing against them. IDW's "Past, Present and Future" by Rob Williams had amazing potential and reminded me of the Real Ghostbusters stories that I still hold as my favorites - but without the space to really get its stride, many elements of the story felt far too rushed. Like a five-star meal that you had to wolf down in twenty minutes.

But for 36 amazing issues, IDW Comics and the creative team behind Ghostbusters were able to do something that hadn't been done since NOW Comics' run in the early 90s (and to a more productive but often forgotten run in the UK by Marvel Comics): a lengthy story split into two volumes, Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening, Luis Delgado, and Tom Waltz were able to craft one of the longest Ghostbusters stories told in comics in nearly 30 years. The ongoing series brought back several familiar faces but also expanded the world by introducing several new characters that have now become mainstays like Ron Alexander, Melanie Ortiz, and a love interest for Winston in Tiyah Zeddemore. And with an opportunity to breathe, Burnham was able to write an intricate arc where he could introduce elements that didn't pay off for several issues (or in some instances, took on whole new meaning by the time you hit Volume Two's Issue 20).

Don't worry, Zee - all you have to do is challenge Death to a best of seven board game challenge to regain life in the comics universe.

But, as they say all good things must come to an end and it was announced in June that the series' big event Mass Hysteria would wrap up the on-going series, at least for now. And I started reading the first couple issues of Mass Hysteria, it became clearer and clearer that the creative team was crafting not just a fantastic bookend for their on-going series, but for the Ghostbusters franchise in general. If you start with Volume 2's Issue 13 and read to the end of Issue 20, the result is a meaty comic event worthy of its hype.

What a better way to highlight everything that makes the series great by revisiting the original story and turning it on its head with the introduction of Gozer the Gozerian's vicious sister, Tiamat? And no, she's not just coming to the Earth to inexplicably destroy it like all the popular villains of the 80s, she's back to prove a point. That where her brother had failed, with the same pieces, she could succeed. 

At least... that's what we're originally led to believe her motivations are as the series starts.

Rather than sitting down to read the Mass Hysteria event starting at Issue 13, if you plow through the entirety of IDW's on-going Ghostbusters series starting with September 2011's Issue #1, the result is one of the most satisfying Ghostbusters stories as a whole to date. Just as Dan Schoening would jam-pack each book's artwork with winks and nods to Ghostbusters lore, Burnham jam-packed each issue with storytelling elements that wove in and out throughout the duration of the run. Like any good on-going series, elements are introduced in 2011's Issue #1 that pay dividends 30+ issues later.

Naturally, everything in the series has been building to Mass Hysteria: the technology, the characters, even some of the trials that the characters have been through influence the story of the IDW Ghostbusters. In fact, with Tiamat, Ghostbusters is finally given its trickster Loki-type character, a being that exists only to mess with the well-being of our heroes because she takes pleasure in seeing them squirm. Forget bringing about the end of the world, forget finding a child to live again, this is a malicious god that sees all of the pieces on the board as her playthings and she's not afraid to admit it. Sure, as Fritz mentions in his review, it's a clever plot device to bring back a lot of familiar faces. But it's also a clever way of showing how those faces could have been used in different ways to different results (and the effects seeing many of them have on our leads).

The event (and one could argue the entire on-going run) also brings the Winston Zeddemore character to the forefront, something that so rarely happens. We learn more about him, see him in his personal life, and see him fall in love. There's a sorrowful but wonderful moment in Issue 16 where the four leads come across their future selves in what they believe to be a Tiamat trick or a temporal anomaly. The scene ends with an ominous tone for Winston that sets up a heroic moment for him when it becomes clear the only thing that can stop Tiamat is a human sacrifice. While Fritz in his analysis of the final Issue 20 believed that what ultimately ends up coming of Winston's sacrifice was a clever plot device to reset the characters back to status quo for what may come in future runs, I actually felt that it was one of the most devastating and bold choices that Burnham and the creative team made for the series. With Winston's arc in the on-going, you see how much pride he takes in his relationship, and you see him struggle to make it work given his choice of profession. And here, the only answer to save everyone that he's come to know and love is to sacrifice himself - and he quite literally does sacrifice his life for the greater good. But Tiamat proves that mere stream crossing and simple human sacrifices aren't going to be enough to contain her and she instead accepts what would ultimately hurt him the most: this relationship that he's poured his heart and soul into over thirty-six issues.

...that cold-hearted snake. (Hands a quarter to Paula Abdul for her reference royalties)

In the closing pages of Issue 20, you're left with the wind knocked out of you because the storytelling has been so effective that you genuinely feel the loss. It's ironic that seeing Winston grip the live wires to sacrifice his life didn't nearly have the same impact that seeing him regain consciousness and finding that Tiyah doesn't even remember his face hit me like a sucker punch. I know in comics that death is only temporary. But I know that this is a story that's left unfinished, because now with all of the hard work that IDW has done to grow the Winston character across all these pages, we now have a genuine grip on who he is, what makes him tick, and ultimately what will hurt him the most. And it's happened to him. Winston, the boy scout who was only in this for the steady paycheck, is now a flawed character. And that's amazingly intriguing to me. How will he deal with this? What will this weight on his shoulders ultimately cause in change to him?

In a book that's grasped the humor of Ghostbusters so well through its entire run, the left hook that ending gives you is some damn good writing.

Proof that Issue #20 is a bookend not just to the IDW on-going series but also a chapter of Ghostbusters in general are the last two pages: a wonderful tribute to the end of the first film which shows an extreme knowledge of the franchise. Again, just a punctuation at the end of how lucky we are to have gotten a series for fans by the fans - it could be viewed just as a device. A simple, "Hey look, we did the same thing they did at the end of the first movie!" But when you know the reasoning that "Onionhead" was added to the end of the first film (by Joe Medjuck's admission, it wasn't to tease that a sequel was on the way, it was a gag. It was just a joke. That after all these guys had been through, there was still work to be done). After all the characters in the book had been through through this run, after all the creative team had been through - the long hours, the extreme pressure from the fan community, and the normal rigors of getting a comic book out on time on a month to month basis... there's still work to be done.

The On-Going Saga of Ghostbusters III

The ballad of Ghostbusters III has been sung for so long, that this logo was created by Jay Young for my old website back in 1996...

Every other month or so, Dan Aykroyd will be out pitching his delicious Crystal Head Vodka or a new film in which he's making an appearance. And inevitably, someone will always ask him about Ghostbusters. "Tell us a story about making those films," or "What's going on with the third movie? Is it going to happen?" It's understandable, you have Dan Aykroyd the self-proclaimed heart of the Ghostbusters and a man responsible for so many memories from many of our childhoods sitting next to you. How could you resist?

Interestingly, each and every single time that he gives an answer, it spreads like wildfire. From the innocuous answer, "Well we're working on a script, maybe it'll happen" to more pessimistic views that, "it just doesn't look like it's in the cards anymore," his answers make headlines across the internet no matter what he says.

But the underlying message always unspoken, is that the on-going development hell of this film has been a story all its own.

In 1997, around the time that Sony and Bohbot Entertainment were launching a new string of syndicated animated programming dubbed "The BKN," Ghostbusters III chatter reached a fever pitch. It seemed that a new film starring Chris Farley, Chris Rock and possibly Adam Sandler (or Ben Stiller, depending on which rumors were believed) was just around the corner. Unfortunately, Farley passed away in December of 1997 and the film was put into a bit of a holding pattern.

Talks continued into the later days of the 1990s that the film would still be happening, items were just being retooled and rethought to change the direction of the Farley-centric film. But eventually around 2001, Aykroyd resigned himself to proclaim the development of the project dead. In Cinescape (thanks to the always amazing and meticulous Paul Rudoff for this archive) Aykroyd said, "it was tremendously liberating for me to go to the set of Bedazzled and say to Harold, 'Harold, we're not going to do this. I'm letting it go. I'm not going to persevere anymore. When I come to you next time it will be a whole new project.' And I went to each one of them and I said that, 'I'm never going to call you about this movie again.' So now we talk about other things."

And so that became the story for several years, it was the project that would always be looked back upon as having failed to launch for one reason or another.

Or was it?

As pre-production on Ghostbusters: The Video Game began at Terminal Reality around 2006, Aykroyd's enthusiasm for the third film was reinvigorated. Chatter began once again that the film was a possibility. And that chatter turned into a deafening roar when Bill Murray finished his voice recording on the game and seemingly enjoyed the process once again, having told David Letterman that he found himself on the streets of New York humming the Ghostbusters theme song.

Bill Murray appears to accept an award at the Spike Scream Awards in 2010... proving he's still got it.

And so it began again, hints and teases - even new screenwriters in veterans of The Office, Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg being hired to explore an all-new draft of the screenplay to usher in a new generation of Ghostbusters.

So confident at that point was Akyroyd that he hit the talk show circuit and started proclaiming that production would be starting that Fall... sound familiar? If so because that was 2009 and the same thing was said no more than a few months ago in the Spring of 2014.

In the past five years, so much has also happened - of course the unfortunate and still incredibly sad passing of Harold Ramis, a new writer coming in to refresh the script in Etan Cohen, directors apparently having been offered the job in Chris Miller and Phil Lord (which came after Ivan Reitman announced he had removed himself as the attached director of the project). 

Just this week, while out on his press tour for the James Brown bio-pic "Get On Up", Aykroyd has been asked several times from several journalists what the status of the third Ghostbusters installment is looking like and now he's claiming that production may ramp up in the Spring. This is in contrast to an interview with Ivan Reitman shortly after Harold Ramis' unfortunate passing that the film would be starting production Fall of this year. Here's Aykroyd appearing with Carson Daly just this week:

Such is the tale of film development. It's about as easy to predict as the weather (which makes it so funny that studios are making announcements for film release dates in 2018 and beyond already). Since those first whispers of another Ghostbusters film in 1995 all the way to sitting here in July of 2014, there have been highs and lows of promise and of resignation. 

For the past twenty years or so, I've followed that journey closely like a horse race seemingly with no end and with no victor. At moments, you're on your feet cheering and exhilarated and at other times you are burying your head in your hat unable to watch because the situation is so grim.

And predictably, once every month or two when a news article hits saying "Ghostbusters III to Start Production This (Insert Time Frame)," a friend will enthusiastically come up to me and say, "TROY! OMG! HAVE YOU SEEN THIS!?!?" I'll usually respond with a very tempered, "That's awesome! Wouldn't that be cool?" Even though I know that there's far more to it than the pleasant exchange that I just had with my friend.

And then I realize that I've essentially just said what Dan Aykroyd always politely says in all of these interviews since 1996, just with different verbiage...

Carson Daly: "Hey Dan, have you heard they're making a new Ghostbusters movie?"

Dan Aykroyd: "Wow! Wouldn't that be cool?"

Classic SPT: Blues Brothers 2000, What the Hell Happened?

If Liam Neeson's daughter can keep getting Taken... surely Elwood can go on a few Missions from God?

In the migration of Still Playing with Toys over to the new site, many of the old articles and discussion threads have been sentenced to the internet Forbidden Zone. In an effort to preserve the one or two of them that were actually decent, we'll be posting up some Classic SPT for your reading pleasure.

The following article was originally posted to Still Playing with Toys on September 5, 2013:

This past weekend, a dinner conversation with friends about the sideways turn of Blues Brothers 2000 prompted a bit of a research binge during lunch today. One mission was to be discovered within the research: what the hell happened with Blues Brothers 2000?

They waited all those years to do a sequel and they didn't wait for Jim Belushi to be available? Where'd the kid come from? Where was the edge? Hey, at least the music was good. -- all these thoughts running through my head as I scoured the web for answers. And then I found it. For some reason two articles that had passed me by over the years where director John Landis had spoken out about the sequel and given some insight as to why it was so lost in the woods.

The first article, from the AV Club gives us this insight from director John Landis:

We'd always intended for a sequel with John, but of course when he passed away, it was obvious we weren't going to do it. But Danny had been performing with John Goodman and Jimmy Belushi and the band, and he said, "You know, this is great, because this music is recognized now—let's do a movie." I said, "Great, sure, okay," and we wrote what I thought was a terrific script. Then Universal Studios eviscerated it. That was a strange experience, because the first thing they said was that it had to be PG, which meant they couldn't use profanity, which is basically cutting the Blues Brothers' nuts off. The first movie is an R-rated film, but there's no nudity or violence in it. It's just the language. Then they said, "You have to have a child, you have to have..." The bottom line was, the only way that movie was going to get made was to agree with everything they said. You know the difference between a brown-nose and a shithead? Depth perception. That's the only time I never really fought with the studio, because they didn't really want to make it. So we did every single thing they said. By the time we'd done that, the script was kind of homogenized and uninteresting. Danny said, "It's about the music. It's just about the music, John, so don't worry about it. We'll get the best people, and we'll make a great album, and get these people on film. We have to document these people." It's interesting, because, as much as I make fun of Danny, three or four of those guys have passed away since we made that movie. People say, "Okay, you've got Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown, Cab Calloway, and John Lee Hooker in The Blues Brothers—who's in Blues Brothers 2000?" The answer? Everyone else. The first movie has five musical numbers, and the second movie has 18.


Essentially the downfall of the film was the downfall of several other movie franchises like Robocop, Terminator and others that relied upon a certain edge and certain maturity in order for the lightning in a bottle that they had captured. When the edict came down to make the film more appealing to a broader audience, with it came several of the concessions (ie. "Buster" Blues, Elwood suddenly smiling all the time, etc.).

And Landis outright admits that if they would have fought any of the mandates from the powers that be, the movie would have never been made. So he and Aykroyd decided to focus on the music and to hell with the threads that wove between it.

Another article from IFC gives us more:

I was very pissed off by what Universal did to me on ‘Blues Brothers 2000′ and that was my first experience with the new corporate Hollywood. It’s very different. Everything is by committee now, and they destroyed that movie, though the music is still good. This happens to filmmakers all the time, where producers and studios fuck with their picture, and when you’re promoting the movie you can’t say that. [Laughs.] The directors get blamed for things that are clearly not their fault. .../... It’s a combination of economics and we live in a very conservative and reactionary and frightened time. People are scared shitless in terms of taking risks on movies. Would the studios ever make a movie like ‘Into The Night’ now? Or even ‘Animal House?’

More fuel for the above fire. And an interesting perspective on Animal House - obviously a risk like an American Pie in the early 2000s since it's a film geared toward late high school and early college aged teens but carried R ratings. 

But why no Jim Belushi stepping in to replace his late brother in Blues Brothers 2000? Apparently, from what I've been able to glean, the scheduling of production on his show Total Security didn't allow him to get away in time for production on the film. But why not wait for him? I haven't been able to find an answer to that, but based on John Landis' comments above, my guess would be that the studio wanted to hit a release date within a window of a schedule that wouldn't allow them to hold production until Belushi was available.

Such a strange series of events in another weird tale of how making a film in the Hollywood studio system can be like pushing a Raiders of the Lost Ark-like boulder up a mountain.