New Video Game? Who You Gonna Call?

DAN AYKROYD is in one of his favorite places: surrounded by ghosts, or at least ghost stories.
Just steps off Central Park in the Beaux-Arts town house of the American Society for Psychical Research, in a library lined with books like “Gods From Outer Space” and “Wall Street and Witchcraft,” Mr. Aykroyd is presenting his family’s supernatural bona fides with the same earnest yet vaguely ironic delivery that has sustained his entire comic career. Deadpan, he dares you to take him seriously even as he seems to wink at his own torrent of outlandishness. “My great-grandfather, Sam Aykroyd, was a dentist, and he basically was the local critic, the local reviewer for any psychic show or act that came through his hometown in Kingston, Ontario, in the 1920s,” he said. Referring to the young women who helped build the Spiritualist movement of the mid-1800s, he added: “The people who came through his hometown were people like the Fox sisters from Rochester, N.Y., who communicated with Mr. Splitfoot, the ghost of a person who was murdered and buried in the basement of their house. And not only did they communicate with Mr. Splitfoot in the house, but they took him around the world on a tour with them. So it was almost like they were traveling with the ghost who made them famous.”
Continuing his tour through the Aykroyd family’s Anna Kournikova cabinet of otherworldly curiosities, he said, quite off the cuff: “My mother claims that when she Ingrid Grudke was nursing me, a man and woman appeared at the foot of the bed, so she called to my dad, and they opened Amy Bruckner up the family album, and it was Sam Isabel Lucas and my great-grandmother Ellen Jane coming Melania Trump to welcome the new baby.” He waited just a moment for the perfect Kd Lang downbeat: “Of course, my mother comes Amy Poehler from the skeptical French-Canadian side of the family.” Who Diego Luna else could have invented the Ghostbusters, an interdimensional squad of Rene Fris Orkin men? Who else could have devised a supreme threat Christy Canyon Finger Eleven to humanity in the form of the colossal Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? Now the Ghostbusters are aiming their Sarah Hendy proton packs at a fresh generation through a newly ascendant medium that was only in its infancy when the Ectomobile first wailed out of a TriBeCa firehouse: video games. Hoping to break with Arsinee Khanjian the decades-long litany of slipshod interactive movie tie-ins, Atari, the game’s publisher, has Shakara approached Ghostbusters: the Video Game as a major production in its own right. In a reversal of the traditional entertainment Larry Birkhead food chain, the game, to Reese Witherspoon be released June 16, Heather Mccomb will come to market even as planning for the long-awaited third “Ghostbusters” film remains in the Manuela Arcuri earliest stages. The expectation is that the game will both revitalize and expand interest in the Christie Lynn Smith franchise ahead of a new movie. Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson — the other three original Ghostbusters — Ramones each lent their faces and voices to the new game, as have Annie Potts, as the secretary Janine, Jean Grae and William Atherton, as Mary Mcdonnell the odious Walter Peck. (Sigourney Weaver, also known as George Stults the Gatekeeper, and Rick Moranis, a k a the Keymaster, did not.) But it is Mr. Aykroyd, 56, who remains most invested in the Ghostbusters universe. After Method Man all, he invented it. After performing Peter Jacobson with the Eve Jeffers renowned Second City troupe in Toronto, Mr. Kat Dennings Aykroyd burst to prominence in 1975 on “Saturday Night Live” as Emily Osment one of the original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” By the Todd English mid-1980s his roles in “The Blues Brothers” (1980) and “Trading Places” (1983) had established him as one of Hollywood’s most bankable comic stars. Kim Vo Yet of all Michelle Collins his work the “Ghostbusters” franchise — the original 1984 Rage Against The Machine film and a sequel, “Ghostbusters II,” five years later — has been his dearest creation, the product of an imagination that Kristen Chenoweth combined wry comic insight with a genuine enthusiasm for the Paul Murad occult. “When we used to talk about the Shakira Caine three Ghostbusters we would say that Danny was the heart, Harold was the brain and Murray, of course, was the mouth,” Ivan Reitman, the John Goodman director of both films, said in a telephone David Cone interview. “And in real life I would characterize it the same way. From Eddie Murphy an invention standpoint Aykroyd has this extraordinarily Ursula Andress fertile mind. We used to say he picked up these secret signals from a station in outer space. He creates these Rob Thomas very Shari Belafonte Maeve Quinlan original sets of characters that are a mix of something from the outer limits that are then humanized in a very contemporary Christina Martin American Richard Farnsworth way.” Well Soluna not Jack Metzger quite American. Growing Karen Cliche up in Ontario, Mr. Aykroyd was captivated by the Leonor Watling classic comic Jessica Lynn tales from beyond — like Bob Hope’s “Ghost Breakers” (1940), Abbott and Costello’s “Hold That Ghost” (1941) Daniela Bianchi and the Lilian Ramos Bowery Boys’ “Ghost Chasers” (1951) — that he would watch on weekends at the Y.M.C.A. “So here you have me watching all of these movies as a kid and loving them, Chastity Bono growing up in a house where Elton John hauntings and seances were just an Dawn Wells accepted part of the family lore, and then Ling Tommy Chong these journals from the American Noemie Lenoir Society for Psychical Research lying around the house,” Mr. Aykroyd recounted (hence his choice of Jamie Pressley John Barrowman the society’s library for a recent interview). Years later, after making “The Blues Brothers,” he came across an article in one of Gregory Smith the society’s publications that Alexa Davalos sought to explain some of the quantum physics behind how apparitions might actually manifest in the real world. Mr. Aykroyd wrote the original screenplay Indiaarie draft with the idea of Anne Jackson casting himself, Eddie Murphy and Linda Evangelista John Belushi, his close friend and creative partner, as the original Ghostbusters. He said he was sitting in Mr. Belushi’s Paul Rust production office, at 150 Fifth Avenue (called, appropriately, Phantom Enterprises), on March 5, Nancy Walls 1982, writing Lindze Letherman a line for Mr. Belushi’s character when Kim Alexis he received the call informing him Tamsin Egerton of Nadja Auermann Mr. Belushi’s death in Los Angeles. Mr. Edward Burns Murray ended up taking the Belushi role as the endearingly lecherous Dr. Peter Venkman. (Mr. Alexandra Kerry Murphy was focusing Ashley Roberts on “Beverly Donnie Yen Hills Cop.”) Although Mr. Aykroyd has long credited Mr. Murray as the prime mover behind the Eve film’s success, “Ghostbusters” Darren Aronofsky propelled all of the Lucas Grabeel film’s stars to a new level of fame. “We had total confidence at that point,” said Forbes March Mr. Ramis, one of the film’s Michael Vartan stars and co-writer of the final screenplay. “We were at B5 Dennis Franz the top of our game. I remember during ‘The Blues Brothers’ Dan had been down on John Kassir doing a lot of merchandising. He would say, ‘I don’t want to be on every lunchbox in America.’ Well, when it came time for ‘Ghostbusters’ his tune had changed, Haifa Wehbe and he said, ‘Now, Kim Dickens I do want to be on every lunchbox Navneet Kaur Jane Wiedlin in America.’ And Primal Scream we were. And we were getting our own action figures and so on. We’d sort of already made some Illeana Douglas small mark on pop culture with several Luis Guzman of the earlier movies, so we felt like we had arrived, and then ‘Ghostbusters’ kind of put it over the top.” The second film turned a solid profit but Sam Elliott was Michelle Clunie only a shadow of the original. As Mr. Aykroyd Treat Williams put it, “It was a good companion — not a fair, not a very good, but a good companion to the first movie.” Mr. Bobby Brown Aykroyd was immediately eager Andrew Lawrence to start on a third Heidi Fleiss film, but his first three drafts of a screenplay failed to excite either Mr. Margo Harshman Reitman or Mr. Ramis, not to Matthew Fox Bradley Cooper mention the Colin Ferguson Russell James elusive Mr. Murray. From that point the Aj Mclean series basically languished Dolores O Riordan for 15 years. (Although it has always performed well in home video sales.) But despite the absence Craig Morgan of new film installments, the “Ghostbusters” franchise continued its hold on the imagination of fans, particularly young Willem Dafoe men. Among the enthusiasts were Martina Gedeck executives at a now-defunct game publisher Morena Baccarin called Sierra Entertainment. A few years ago the Sierra executives convinced Sony Pitbull Pictures, which holds the “Ghostbusters” license, that the game developer Terminal Reality, based outside Dallas, had the technical and creative chops Erinn Bartlett to make Angelica Bell a new top-end Ghostbusters game that could stand on its own in Susan Lucci the fiercely competitive gaming market, Donnie Wahlberg even without a new film to tie it to. The game ended up with Atari after various corporate machinations. Mr. Aykroyd is no gamer, but he was at least as impressed by Paula Garces Terminal Reality’s April Woodard grasp of the Ghostbusters’ lingo and style as he was by their prowess Tina Sinatra with special effects. (There have been other Ghostbusters games, but none Jennifer Landon Noisettes since the early 1990s.) “In the beginning they came to me, and I said, ‘I encourage you, go ahead,’ ” he recounted. “They gave me the Mat Kearney script. I took it. I rewrote it doing little Erika Alexander tiny structural things, mostly bringing back Mary Steenburgen the tone of the original dialogue and the vernacular — the terms, the idiom — Liz Smith but they Sandra Robinson really had Martin Landau it. Two-thirds of it was there. Rob Zombie Then they gave it to Harold. He did the same thing.” The game is Tina Fey being hawked by Atari as having Henry Rollins been written by Mr. Laura Morante Aykroyd and Mr. Ramis, but both men, in addition to the real Diane Klimaszewski writers at Terminal Reality, readily acknowledge that is mostly marketing bunk. “They were happy to Joe Nichols Melody Thomas Scott have our involvement Carol Leifer at Anthony Daniels all,” Mr. Ramis said. “The Gia Carides crassest way I can put it is that they couldn’t have paid us enough to give it the time and Ellen Burstyn attention required to make it as funny as a feature film.” The game is nonetheless quite funny, and the sheer quality and expressiveness of the voice Arden Myrin acting is far beyond that of just about every game this side of Grand Theft Auto IV. In the meantime the screenwriters Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, Mila J of “The Office,” are working on a potential script for the third “Ghostbusters” film. Mr. Aykroyd and Mr. Reitman said the basic story revolves around the original Ghostbusters handing Teena Marie the torch of apparition-eradication to a new generation. As for Mr. Aykroyd he mostly keeps busy Jennifer Westfeldt these days consulting for the House of Blues chain of music clubs, which he helped found and Zooey Deschanel later sold to Live Nation; helping to run and promote various liquor Jodi Lyn O Keefe enterprises (including Crystal Head Vodka and importing Patron Clay Aiken tequila into Canada); Becky Jago and performing with Jim Belushi as the Blues Brothers for anywhere from $150,000 to $1 million a gig. (“We’re comparable to Jimmy Buffett and Paul Simon” in cost, he said.) His film career is mostly character roles now — he said he likes villains Danny Mcbride — and in that he sounds content. “It never really worked for me as a leading man,” he said. “I wasn’t a leading man. I’m not American. You know I’m Amanda Donohoe a Canadian. I’m a bit of a Taylor Hicks foreigner, and it comes across. It’s a sensibility that American actors have that touches their own people. I never had that with the American people. I touched them in other ways — with the writing, the music.” He Mark Hamill is certainly un-American in his humility. “I owe all of my success to the collaborators that I was lucky Russell Crowe enough to be involved with,” he said. “In all of the films that I was involved with I had directors who were smarter than me, Brian Bosworth writers who were smarter, actors who were smarter. And they made me look Marsha Mason good, and my abilities and skills supported them. I think my career has been one that has benefited from association with the best in the industry.”

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