Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a "movie about a family, that's being made by a family," say director Jason Reitman and father Ivan Reitman, director of 1984's original Ghostbusters and 1989 sequel Ghostbusters II. The elder Reitman was a hands-on producer for Afterlife — a 35-years-later direct sequel to the spooky summer comedy that starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Harold Ramis — and in making the new movie about the descendants of late founding Ghostbuster Egon Spengler, the 73-year-old Ivan and the 42-year-old Jason enjoyed a one-of-a-kind bonding experience while passing the Ghostbusters legacy from one generation to the next.
"The Ghostbusters '84 set is the first set I can remember. As a kid, it was just simply magical," Jason Reitman says in a special look featurette aired before anniversary screenings of Ghostbusters, now playing in select theaters and drive-ins. "Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a movie about a family, that's being made by a family. And it is much about the passing of the torch, metaphorically, and the passing of a proton pack."
Adds Ivan, "It was very emotional seeing that story living again after so many years, through my son."
When single mother Callie (Carrie Coon) inherits what gearhead son Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) calls a "creepy old farmhouse," the family relocates to the seemingly sleepy town of Summerville, Oklahoma, where science whiz Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) uncovers her grandfather's secret legacy.
"I grew up as a fan. I had a flight suit, I had the t-shirt, I had the hat," Jason says. "Now, at this age, I find myself trying to understand who my father is, and who he was when he made this film. I am now the age that my father was when he made the first Ghostbusters movie, and I'm trying to understand him in the same way that Phoebe and Callie are trying to understand where they came from."
The elder Reitman was a steady presence on Afterlife, which reunites the surviving three Ghostbusters with original co-stars Annie Potts, back as Janine Melnitz, and Sigourney Weaver, who returns as former hauntee Dana Barrett.
"While making the movie, my father's presence was felt most like this: inches away, watching the monitor," says Jason while sat next to his father. "Imagine yourself in the work place and your parents are sitting right next to you, watching you take every phone call, watching you present every idea, chiming in often."
"It was probably more fun for me than Jason," Ivan admits with a laugh.
"There was a moment when we were shooting with three cameras, a scene with five or six actors. And I found myself on set sitting next to one of the cameras, watching one actor in particular who I wanted a performance from," Jason recalls. "And after the take was done, I ran back to the monitor to review the other cameras, and my father looked at me, and he said: 'We got it.' We nodded and moved on. It's not an experience that could have ever happened, or probably will ever happen, on any other movie."
The Juno filmmaker "had a remarkable responsibility, having to deal with his father on the set and also the history and iconography of 35 years of audiences all over the world getting to know this movie," says Ivan, who once attempted to launch a Ghostbusters 3 that languished in development hell for more than two decades. "And he took it all on, which I thought was a brave thing to do."
The father and son filmmakers are "extraordinarily close," Jason says. Adds Ivan, "It was a joyful experience just to be there."
"It was the great bonding experience of my life," Jason adds, "with the director I admire most: my father."
Jason Reitman earlier revealed he consulted with an "advisory board" of people who worked on the first Ghostbusters to "make sure that we make the right film."