Dan Aykroyd on the Return of Ghostbusters

Twenty-five years after the theatrical release of "Ghostbusters," the franchise—much like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man—is blowing up. The original film will be issued on Blu-ray for the first time in June, a third movie is in the works, and Atari will soon release Ghostbusters: The Videogame on multiple platforms. Gamers play the role of a new cadet teaming up with the familiar crew of Raymond Stantz, Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddmore—Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson, respectively, who all contributed voice work. Aykroyd, who co-wrote the original film and its sequel with Ramis, spoke to NEWSWEEK's Nick Summers about "Ghostbusters III," morphing into a purely digital character and why you shouldn't expect to see Sigourney Weaver in the videogame version. Excerpts:

Summers: Who got the best digital makeover? You? Ernie Hudson? Slimer?
Aykroyd: Honestly, I love the way we look in the Wii platform, because it resembles the animation that was done in "The Incredibles." Anybody who looks like an Incredible is automatically a superhero. And I was so pleased that they shaved off at least 60 pounds from my current bulk. The boys look good. We resemble the actors who were in the first movie. You wouldn't want us out there looking as we do today. But in the third movie we will! There, we'll have the benefit of passing the torch to a new generation. Much prettier and much better looking, like Alyssa Milano. (Story continued below...)

Will she be in "Ghostbusters III"?
She's in the game, and I hope the tradition continues! She'd be terrific as one of our new cadets.

So the movie is definitely happening?
Well, you're a writer—how definite is writing? I mean, we've got two very, very sharp writers from "The Office" working on it right now. They've taken up the task and come up with what I think is a nice outline for the third story. Harold [Ramis] agrees, Ivan [Reitman, the director] agrees, and Billy's [Bill Murray] amenable to the way the story's going.

For the videogame, did you do motion-capture or facial capture stuff?
They filmed me doing the audio dialogue. They had a digital camera on me, just as they do with animation. We were reading from a script—a script that we had taken and brought back in tone to the feeling of the first movie. The guys who developed this game were real fans, so they had the vernacular already, they had the feeling, they had the essence of it. Our effort was in really providing the volume of audio work that's required for a videogame. A screenplay's 120 pages, and a videogame is 600.

There was a lot of improvisation in the movie. Obviously you can't have that in a videogame. Is anything lost there?
There are certain stages where you can throw in extra stuff, throw in ideas. If it's been animated, of course, no, there's no room for improvisation. But there were some instances where we were coming up with concepts and slipping them in there. The main thing was to try to restore the quality and the enthusiasm and the passion of our original performances. That was the really big challenge in working with the gamers. But as big fans, they had it down. Creatively, we really just had to stay out of their way. In the end, they're the ones who know how far out these games can be, how far the limits can be pushed, what the technology will allow. So we kind of have to let them run with it in a game like that.

What translates well from the movie into a game, and what didn't what had to be left out?
Mainly, what's perfect for a videogame was the equipment that we originated in the first movie. It's not a gun. We're not simulating murder. We're sending the entities back where they came from. We're sending them into the next dimension, we're confining them, we're vaporizing them, but they're going back to where they came from, because energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The equipment, the use of the car, the use of Manhattan, all really worked. The thing that got left out was perhaps the romance element, between Billy and Sigourney in the movies. Certainly the format of ghostbusting lends itself to a videogame beautifully.

Sigourney Weaver—what's her problem? How come she couldn't be involved?
I'm not sure what her decision-making process was, other than that she was being very careful to protect the reputation and legacy of the first movie, and was concerned that maybe a videogame might risk turning out badly. But perhaps if she had had the benefit of being in on some of the early meetings and seeing some of the concepts, maybe she might have felt differently about it. She will definitely be in the third movie—we sure need her there, for sure.

Are you a gamer yourself?
I like flight simulators. And I enjoy perfecting my shooting skills on the firearms training system available to police departments in the United States, and I sometimes get on ranges with them. That's like a videogame, but it's simulation of real life. When you hit the baby and the mother across the street with the AR-15 by mistake, you feel the gravity of it. When you're blowing a zombie's head off, not so much.

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