Ghostbusters: Afterlife Writer on “Keeping the Flame Lit” for a New Generation

Ghostbusters: Afterlife co-writer Gil Kenan reveals what's at the "soul" of the new movie and says writer-director Jason Reitman, son of producer and original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, wanted to "keep the flame lit" for a new generation of moviegoers. Taking place 30 years after 1989's Ghostbusters II, the new movie reveals the descendants of the late Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) when single mother Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children, gearhead Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and science whiz Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), move to the sleepy town of Summerville, Oklahoma. It's there that they discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters when Afterlife reveals Egon's legacy.

"As ever, when you're talking about a big film like that that has so many secrets up its sleeve, I've got to be extremely careful when talking about it," Kenan told the Just The Facts with Alex Zane podcast. "But I will say, from what we've been able to put out there, the important thing is communicating what is earnestly at the center of all this: which is us as writers, as storytellers, Jason and I, keeping the flame lit."

"The flame that sparked for us — never mind the weight of proximity to the source of the Ghostbusters legend — for both of us as audience members, as pure audience members who were moved and were changed by seeing Ghostbusters," Kenan added of the 1984 original. "That lit a flame in both of us that we felt like we could keep lit for the people who, like us, shared it as young audience members and a new generation of audience that could feel that same scope of thrills, terror, wonder, comedy, movie magic. So hopefully all of that stuff lives on in our film."

Reitman, who calls himself the first Ghostbusters fan, previously described his Ghostbusters 3 as a love letter to his father and the fans of the franchise that originally starred Ramis alongside Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Bill Murray. The original Ghostbusters, alongside returning co-stars Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver, will pass the torch to the next generation in Afterlife.

"Something that was always part of the conversation [was] there was obviously, for Jason, a family lineage and a mythology that was meaningful and heavy and real and something that we had to really talk about in terms of what it meant for him as a person as well as us for storytellers," said Kenan, who directed the animated Monster House and the 2015 Poltergeist reboot. "I think one of the things that clicked is when we started talking about the world of Ghostbusters, and how to continue that story, one of the big ideas we had early on was thinking about the weight of family, and lineage, and time."

It was also about "recontextualizing ... a lot of the things that we would take for granted in a Ghostbusters story," including the New York setting, "and doing away with it as a way of embracing what's at the soul of the story and the core of the mythology. All that stuff was foundational."

"We started talking about that in long drives before we ever started messing around with plotting or character, and it turned out that it was a very pure writing process," Kenan said. "We took a long time to do it right and we crafted it the way you would craft a story in the old-fashioned sense, really building it up from the ground up, and I'm really proud of the film. I can't wait for audiences to see it."

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Starring Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Bokeem Woodbine, Celeste O'Connor, Logan Kim, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, and Bill Murray, Ghostbusters: Afterlife opens only in theaters on November 11.