How appropriate, then, that on the outer perimeter of the base, inside a massive hangar, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon are quite literally fighting ghosts.
Of course, there’s no real horror on the set of Ghostbusters, director Paul Feig and screenwriter Katie Dippold’s (re)interpretation of the 1984 classic, set to debut July 15. On the contrary, the movie holds all the comedic promise for which its cast and director are famous. Often mistaken for an outright remake, this Ghostbusters is an entirely separate story from the original, albeit with the same goal — to kick phantom butt. In this version, Abby Yates (McCarthy), Erin Gilbert (Wiig), and Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) have been friends since high school. Holtzmann’s something of an inventor and Abby became a professor. After Patty Tolan (Jones), an MTA worker, sees a ghost, she joins the crew. Beyond that, all we know about the extremely-under-wraps script is that the big baddie is an evil super genius named Rowan (Neil Casey).
Though the entirety of the naval station would be fitting for just about any cinematic encounter with the spooky, all of today's filming takes place within the hangar. The four women are shooting a fight scene in front of a green screen, which will later become Times Square in Manhattan. McCarthy hangs upside down from wires. As Feig calls “Action!” she swings hilariously left and right, shouting, “Help!” to her fellow Ghostbusters, who are fighting the good fight against the (invisible, pre-CGI) supernatural force on the ground.
According to Feig, this is a movie that “shouldn’t even be happening, because it was laying dormant forever.” He had lunch with Amy Pascal, then chairperson of Sony Motion Pictures, who had wanted someone to take on Ghostbusters for quite some time, but was having trouble finding a director who would be interested. “She was like, ‘Why doesn’t anybody want to do this? This is a great idea for this great franchise,” Feig recalls. He started thinking about what he would do if he were given the job. One day, while taking a morning stroll, the idea occurred to him that if he took on the reboot, he could use it as a vehicle for all the funny women he knows. Pascal’s response? “We’re doing it.”
Sony thought maybe he and Dippold would take all of 2015 to develop the script, but they gave themselves a deadline of releasing it in summer 2016. “So the whole time, [the studio] has just been like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe we’re making Ghostbusters.’”
The cast and crew sit with us during breaks from shooting. They’re broken up according to their schedules, and we get about 15 minutes with each person or pair of people. And we have so many questions — like what’s it like having to be flung around the room upside down?
“I weirdly love it,” McCarthy tells us. She and Wiig are the first to join us, sitting before us as we all drop our recorders onto an empty crate in front of them. “I don’t know what it means, but I keep offering to be hung.” She thinks fans will be surprised at the level of action in the film. “It’s a lot more badass.” Wiig giggles softly, inexplicably, as if only she knows what’s funny. She’s quiet, but not necessarily disinterested.
It’s a lot more badass.
The SNL powerhouse has just wrapped a fight scene and admits she’s tired. “This is all surreal,” she says. “You know, you work as a comic, hoping maybe something like this.... I thought it would happen 10 years ago when I was younger and had more energy and was fine as hell.” She says she uses Epsom salt bath and massages almost in equal measure to counteract the aches she gets from running around with a proton pack and shooting action scenes. She says she's lost 27 pounds since filming began. “I’m old. Everything is breaking. I’m like Humpty Dumpty.”
It’s hard to answer that question without wanting to call you a name first. It’s not a man thing, not a woman thing. It’s a "Ghostbusters" thing.
Jones' talent is so undeniable, she didn’t even have to audition for the movie. When Feig saw her on Saturday Night Live, he knew she was right for the role. “I needed four very distinct personalities that complimented each other, didn’t step on each other, and brought four different energies to the table,” he explains. Just moments ago, the director was rolling around on the floor, showing McKinnon how he wanted her to act out a scene. But now he sits before us, his blue-striped suit miraculously unwrinkled and free of dust. (Feig always wears a suit while working.) “And when I saw Leslie for the first time, it was just like, that’s who I need. I mean, it was like a hurricane — a comedy hurricane blew through my television.”
Though she’s something of a late bloomer, Jones has a feeling this is the beginning of a bright career. “I think it’s going to be a big future for me,” she says without a trace of arrogance. “I think there’s going to be a lot of good things happening. Definitely keep your eye on me. Fo' sho'.”
"When I saw Leslie for the first time... it was like a comedy hurricane blew through my television."
Ah, yes. Thank you, Mr. Whoever You Are, for coming to set today and sharing your unsolicited wisdom about the intricacies of marketing — and for handily summing up the opinion of a small but vocal group of pimply basement-dwellers who have been condemning the all-female Ghostbusters since it was announced in January 2015.
Feig, for one, has no time for this backward line of thinking. “I just thought everyone was going to be like, ‘Yeah!’ and think it’s awesome,” the director tells us. “I didn’t expect this level of vitriol. It was gross. In the beginning, it was purely misogynistic.” Instead of derailing him, Feig says the backlash motivated him to push even harder to subvert expectations about what four women in a movie would be doing if not chasing after a man. “There’s a weird set of expectations that went out, especially among the less enlightened crowd, who really think I’m making it into a romantic comedy or something — that there’s going to be sequences of trying on hats.” Try proton packs, ya jerks.
I didn’t expect this level of vitriol. It was gross. In the beginning, it was purely misogynistic.
“Girls are raised on a certain kind of movie,” she continues. “You grow up watching all these romantic comedies, and it’s like, When am I going to meet that guy? And it’s really kind of an empty feeling. It’s not real.” While she wants all kids to love the new Ghostbusters, she also hopes girls look to it as an example of the kind of life they can have. “The idea that a young girl will watch this and think ‘Oh, a goal is to be a scientist and work with my friends and go on an adventure’ — I hope that breaks through.”
The idea that a young girl will watch this and think, 'Oh, a goal is to be a scientist and go on an adventure’ — I hope that breaks through.
And finally — before we pack up and return to our shuttle bus on which Manspreading Journalist will take up two seats for himself — McKinnon joins us. Sitting in her chair, she's like a cat. Her movements are smooth. Her stare makes you feel as if she’s onto you, even though there’s no way she could possibly know any of your secrets. She wears a necklace with a screw and the letter “U” on it, part of her character’s wardrobe. And it seems to serve as a preemptive strike against any remaining numbskulls who just can't get behind the idea of this Ghostbusters. Gesturing to her jewelry, McKinnon says, “If you put them together, that says a little bit.”