It's another anniversary that makes us feel old. Not only did The Terminator hit 30 last year, but so did Ghostbusters, which was a ginormous hit in the summer of 1984. Ghostbusters was a unique comedic vision that only could have been dreamed up by Dan Aykroyd, but he also had a great team behind him with Ivan Reitman, Bill Murray, the late Harold Ramis, and effects master Richard Edlund. But putting the film together wasn't easy, especially with the fantastic elements called for in the script.
Aykroyd's first draft of the Ghostbusters script was large and unwieldy, and it needed to be broken down into a shootable movie. Edlund remembered the script was 175 pages, which would have made a three-hour film. Joe Medjuck, who was the movie's associate producer, remembered, "The script just seemed impossible to make. That version was set in outer space and other dimensions. It didn't have the focus that eventually came." Once Ivan Reitman came aboard, the project finally got into shape.
After leaving ILM, Edlund set up Boss Films Company. Edlund started working on the effects of the film when the final script was being hammered out. Having a comedy with this much extensive FX work "actually freed us up," Edlund recalls. "It was fantasy stuff, which you can do in a comedy. You can have an eighty-foot Marshmallow man stomping down Broadway. We never did actually figure out exactly how tall the Marshmallow Man was! It's sort of like, how big is the Death Star? With the wand, the wobbly, multicolored rubberized light was comedic in itself."
The optical effects for Ghostbusters were shot on 65mm, which started the joke that BFC stood for Big Fuckin' Camera. In a number of FX intensive films, the opticals are often shot on 65mm so when they're brought down to 35mm there isn't any degeneration of the image, much like a Xerox copy losing a generation.
Even though Star Wars had reinvented the wheel for special effects, on Ghostbusters Edlund said they "always had to invent our way out of a corner. We had to build an optical printer, and we had to build a lens from scratch with seventeen elements for the printer."