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Analyzing the Ghostbusters trailer with director Paul Feig and writer Katie Dippold

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After months of anticipation, the first trailer for Paul Feig’s reboot of Ghostbusters has landed online, and it is great, effortlessly evoking the sensibility of the 1984 original, while still confidently establishing its own unique take. The jokes land, the scares look scary, and the new Ghostbusters themselves should put any faint remnant of internet controversy firmly in the rearview mirror.

Yesterday on the Sony Pictures lot, I caught an early glimpse at the trailer and sat down with Feig — dapper in a grey suit and purple tie — and writer Katie Dippold, who’s been the comic mind behind everything from The Heat to Parks and Recreation. They broke down the trailer sequence by sequence, explaining how they mixed horror with comedy, created the movie's ghosts, and the enduring generational appeal of a green glob of goo named Slimer.

30 years ago…

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Paul Feig: Sony marketing put together a ton of trailers. Really great job, but we kept testing them because I wanted to see what real people think. We can sit around all day and think we know what we want, but [you need to] find out what people want. And if we didn’t acknowledge those [original] movies existed, it was very confusing to people — and I think might have also made us seem a little not reverant to what we owe a great debt to. But it was tough, because we went through a million different wordings. I said it can’t play as a sequel, because I can’t support that, so what’s the way to pass the torch? And Ivan [Reitman, who directed the original], when he saw the trailer, he was really happy about it.

The first scare

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"Everyone should be able to... go to bed perfectly fine."

Katie Dippold: That’s a museum, in an old mansion in New York City. You know those old homes that they keep up, with the red velvet rope and stuff everywhere? It takes place there. The library was such a fun spooky location [in the original], and we just wanted to get a sense of that old, spooky, ghost feeling in this movie.

Ideally, it’s all fun scares. I love comedy-horror, that’s my favorite genre — like Shaun of the Dead or Cabin in the Woods. So I feel like there’s an umbrella under which both scares and humor exist, and both are just kind of fun. The kind of scares where even if you jump, you would still laugh. We wouldn’t want anyone to be disturbed, though. Everyone should be able to go home, and go to bed perfectly fine. Ideally there are some scares and some spooky moments, but it’s all just fun.

Meet the new team

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KD: Melissa’s character has been at it her whole life. She’s never stopped, she’s never wavered. She doesn’t care. In today’s world, scientists don’t believe in ghosts. There are no parapsychology departments anymore in colleges, so we just thought that was interesting. What would that mean today, to form a Ghostbusters unit?

So to others, [Melissa's character] looks like the crazy lady, but she’s just been dead set at pursuing this. And she’s working with Kate McKinnon’s character, Holtzmann, who works with her in a lab. She’s a mysterious lady that knows a lot of stuff. She builds the equipment and she doesn’t care about social norms. If she sees everyone freaking out about something, she would just kind of smile: "Oh, isn’t that fun?"

And then Leslie Jones plays Patty, who works at the MTA. She sees a ghost, and so she joins them. Patty knows a lot about the city. She reads a lot of non-fiction books while she’s sitting alone in that booth all day, and so she brings a lot of that knowledge.

Shooting with ghosts

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"Ghosts are the spirits of dead people. Technically, if they exist."

PF: I’m a big science head, and for me I didn’t necessarily want to do a movie about "Hell is cracked open and the gods are coming out!" I wanted to be more, "Okay, what are ghosts?" Ghosts are the spirits of dead people — technically, if they exist — and so I wanted that [kind of visual]. How can we make it feel legit? Also, I wanted my Ghostbuster actors to have interactions with the ghosts, so they’re not acting with tennis balls the way that happens with these CG movies, where it’s a green screen, and you’re saying "Look up there, you’re terrified of this thing!"

To be able to get Bess Rous, who was one of my actors in Other Space, I thought that would be great if she was the ghost [in the museum scene]. So we got here in this LED light suit, and put her on this rig that took her up and down. But then she could interact with my cast, and even surprise them. At one point, she did this thing where they didn’t expect it: she just screamed. It scared the shit out of Kristen and all the others. It was great.

That crazy ghost trap thing

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PF: I’m a big hardware and sci-fi fan; that’s why I like Star Wars vs. Star Trek. So one of the first things [I thought] when I came on this was, Oh my god, we can play with the pre-existing weaponry like the proton pack and all that. But it’s a chance to invent new stuff, because we have Kate McKinnon’s character Holtzmann. She’s the inventor.

KD: I don’t want to spoil anything, but in the whole movie she’s constantly coming up with new equipment. Some of it helpful, some of it not. That’s a runner we have. Stuff that she makes that is just way too dangerous. That’s part of one of those.

This car gag may seem familiar

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KD: We would debate it a lot about what to bring back, and what are the things you want to see? And there was a lot I wanted to see. It was very important to Paul to make sure we were doing something new, because if it just felt like we were re-doing it, that’s just not right. And then we talked about the stuff we really liked from the original. And I was surprised by how many things from the original I wanted to bring back! Maybe that’s weird, but I just want to see it! At a certain point, we had to stop thinking about what everyone else would want, and as fans ourselves focus on all the things that we would want to see.

It’s Slimer!

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PF: People are obsessed with Slimer. He’s probably the most recognizable thing from Ghostbusters, or the thing that people are most focused on. It’s so funny to me. Even Ivan will say that was just a side character. It wasn’t really until the cartoons that it took on a life of its own. But we debated a long time, and I was really against putting him in this trailer in the beginning. Then as I saw the special effects come in — he’s actually a puppet, and then we CG’d over him to make him more lifelike — I thought, "Ah, we can put him in. He looks cool."

You don’t want to put anything out that you don’t think is ready yet, but I thought he looked pretty fun. And it was fun to hear people [at the trailer screening] today. He’s briefly on, but you want to reassure people that we’re not reinventing the wheel. We’re changing the wheel, but it’s still a wheel. A lovely wheel that will make you feel good.

Is it the wig or the hat?

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KD: That’s a great example of collaboration. In the script she was there with the wig, but then [on set] Kate put on the hat, and it’s "Is it the wig or the hat?" And that’s the perfect example: you try to write the best you can, and hopefully the cast adds to these funny moments and takes it to another place.

PF: I cast four different energies and styles of comedy with these four actors, and Kate — her mind works like nobody’s I’ve ever met. Because everything’s out of left field. I never knew what I was going to get with her. Literally, in the middle of scenes, when things are going well sometimes you’re like, "Oh no, don’t throw something [new in there]!" But then you get back to the editing room, and you go, "that’s so funny." It surprised everybody. That’s what I like. I want people that are going to surprise me on set, and surprise the other actors, and just give us stuff we’re not expecting. Because Katie and I kill ourselves writing these scripts, but at the end of the day you still want invention. I know plenty of writer-directors that don’t let people deviate a word, but why would I hire hugely talented people and then go, "Just say this the way I wrote it"?

How do they end up with that same logo?

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PF: I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s an evolution of the logo, I’ll say that. Everything’s got an origin story. The proton pack’s got an origin story, the logo’s got an origin story. Yeah. Everything.