When rebooting Ghostbusters with an all-new team, director Paul Feig wanted to work with funny actresses and tell an origin story with paranormal investigators who developed their own ghostbusting technology.
"For me, it was I like the idea of starting this new team. And originally, when I thought of it — because the first thing I thought when [Sony] had been asking me was like, 'I just want to work with the funniest people I know, who are the funniest people I know? All these really funny women that I work with all the time,'" Feig said at Ghostbusters Fan Fest.
Feig considered making his new cast of characters — Melissa McCarthy's Abby Yates, Kristen Wiig's Erin Gilbert, Kate McKinnon's Jillian Holtzmann, and Leslie Jones' Patty Tolan — relatives of the original Ghostbusters, played by Bill Murray, Dan Ayrkoyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson.
"Then it was like, 'Should it be their daughters?' And then I just kind of felt like — and some can decide if I was right or not, some people don't agree — I thought, why not let them have their own origin story?" Feig said.
"I love all the technology in Ghostbusters, and I was like, 'I wonder how that developed.' I'm a real science nut, so let's find where that came from, and then have these characters bond and find themselves versus [the technology already existing]. I personally didn't want them to just be handed, 'Here's the technology, go out and do it.' So for better or worse, I thought it was fun and I'm very proud of the movie."
Like Ivan Reitman's 1984 original, which pulled talent from The Second City and Saturday Night Live, Feig looked to Lorne Michaels' long-running sketch comedy series for improvisational comedians.
"Saturday Night Live just has the ability to find the best funny people out there. You don't kind of mean to go there as a shopping center, it just becomes, well, they're all on it," Feig said.
"I had known Melissa, she hosted after we did Bridesmaids, and then Kate I had met with because I'm friends with Steve Higgins who runs the show, and so you just kind of go, they're so funny. Like with Leslie Jones, when we were putting it together, I was like, we need somebody else in there who's gonna be great. And Leslie had come on SNL — she wasn't even a cast member, she was like a writer or something — and she came out and did a Weekend Update. I remember just sitting there with my wife going, 'Who's that?!' And by the end of her monologue, I said, 'She's in the movie. I don't care what it takes, I'm casting her in the movie.'"
First cast was McKinnon as eventual fan-favorite Holtzmann, a kooky experimental particle physics expert and engineer responsible for designing the Ghostbusters' many doodads used to combat the supernatural.
"When you write these things, we didn't write with anybody in mind. And then you just go, 'Who would be great in this?' Kate McKinnon was the first person that I decided to cast," Feig said.
"I knew her from SNL and was friendly with her, but some interviews she did, she was like, 'One of my dreams is to be a Ghostbuster.' So we brought her in and talked to her, and she just had these crazy ideas, so we're like, she's in. So we really built the cast around Kate in a strange way."
Feig hopes to reunite the cast for a sequel despite Sony returning to the original continuity with Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters 3, a direct sequel to father Ivan Reitman's Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II. That film is set for July 10, 2020.