Ernie Hudson says that even on the 30th anniversary of the original release of Ghostbusters, he still has very mixed feelings about starring in the film.
In a recent piece for Entertainment Weekly, Hudson writes about his experience portraying Winston Zeddemore, otherwise known as the fourth Ghostbuster.
“I look back on Ghostbusters in a very fun way, but it’s got so many mixed feelings and emotions attached to it,” Hudson said. “When I originally got the script, the character of Winston was amazing and I thought it would be career-changing. The character came in right at the very beginning of the movie and had an elaborate background: he was an Air Force major something, a demolitions guy. It was great.”
Hudson explains that the Winston originally had much larger and integral role in the film, but unfortunately his role and his quote were drastically reduced.
“Now I’ve heard, over the years, that the part had been written for Eddie Murphy—all of which Ivan Reitman says is not true,” Hudson said. "But it was a bigger part, and Winston was there all the way through the movie. After a long audition process, I finally got the part and made the awful mistake of letting it be known that I really, really wanted it. In Hollywood in those days, you set your quote—so if anybody calls about wanting to work with you, they had to meet your quote. I had just worked with Columbia on Spacehunter, and my quote was pretty decent. For Ghostbusters, they came in at only half of my quote, because they said this role was going to make my career. I said to my agent, ‘I don’t care. Just take it, because I believe that.’ So we go to New York and we rehearse for three weeks or whatever and I’m ready to roll.”
Hudson states more issues arose.
“The night before filming begins, however, I get this new script and it was shocking,” he said. “The character was gone. Instead of coming in at the very beginning of the movie, like page 8, the character came in on page 68 after the Ghostbusters were established. His elaborate background was all gone, replaced by me walking in and saying, ‘If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.’ So that was pretty devastating. I’m panicked. I don’t sleep that night. It was like my worst nightmare is happening. The next morning, I rush to the set and plead my case. And Ivan basically says, 'The studio felt that they had Bill Murray, so they wanted to give him more stuff to do.' I go, 'Okay, I understand that, but can I even be there when they’re established?' And of course, he said no, there’s nothing to do about it. It was kind of awkward, and it became sort of the elephant in the room.”
Hudson says in the years that have passed he has a new perspective.
“I see this differently now—and I don’t mean any kind of animosity or anything towards anyone, certainly not towards Ivan or the guys. I was a single dad, and we were struggling to kind of hold on and pay the rent. I still needed to do this job. 30 years later, I look back at the movie and it works very well the way it is. I think the character works with what he has to work with. But I’ve always felt like, man, if I could’ve played that original character…Winston wasn’t included in the movie poster or the trailer and all that stuff. I felt, had the original character been in play at the beginning, that would’ve been different because it would’ve clearly been four guys. It would’ve sent a signal to the studios and very likely impacted my career in a different way. I think the fans see the Ghostbusters as four characters. I do some of the conventions, and I’ve met thousands of people, and I deputize kids as Little Ghostbusters. And the question I always used to get was, 'Where does Winston go?' That’s the thing with Winston: He will pop up and then disappear. They used to like to say that Danny’s the heart of the Ghostbusters, Harold was the brain, Bill was the mouth, and Ernie was the soul. When I heard that quote, I was blown away. And then I saw them on the Tonight Show and there was no mention of the Soul. So Winston could always disappear.”
Hudson says that while he is proud to be a part of the Ghostbusters phenomenon, he still looks back and ponders on what could have been.
“Now 30 years later, seeing little kids with their Ghostbusters backpacks, seeing whole families dress up—the movie has a special place, and I’m very humbled and touched by it,” Hudson said. "I certainly am thankful to have been a part of it. I love being an actor. I still enjoy the process. I’m still hoping that I’m going to get that one great role that I thought I had in the original Ghostbusters. 30 years later, I’m still looking.”