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'Ghostbusters II': Return of the Money-Making Slime

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A makeup woman is dabbing Murray's forehead when he spots a celebrity visitor across the room. Most film stars jealously guard their energy reserves. But once Murray's voltage meter starts humming, he seems to almost have to spew a shower of comic sparks. Murray is up. He's out of his chair, twirling an imaginary microphone cord. "Myyyyy prerogatiiiiive," he croons, slithering around the room as if he's back on Saturday Night Live.

Across the room, Bobby Brown is speechless with delight. The shy, baby-faced pop star is cracking up now, burying his head in his hands. Having a Number One hit is one thing, but having Bill Murray parody your act … now that's show business. Soon Aykroyd and Hudson, still in their slime-drenched 'Buster togs, are congratulating Brown and quizzing him about his videos.

It's no wonder the new dance-music king is getting such star treatment: He's agreed to record songs for the movie. Reitman remembers how much momentum Ray Parker Jr.'s theme song gave his first film, and he's eager for another hit. His $30 million movie is slotted for a nationwide blitzkrieg (Columbia is aiming for a 1500-theater release), and he has found himself searching for every advantage. Reitman and his stars were doing reshoots of special-effects sequences as late as the first week of April. And while the camera crew set up scenes, Reitman would duck into the cutting room to oversee his team of editors. Even after he'd printed his favorite take, he would sometimes turn Aykroyd and Murray loose on another one.

On the other hand, as Murray puts it, "Ivan is an easy laugh. You can almost see him shake behind the lens." He's not exaggerating. No matter how many times the Ghostbusters have played a scene, Reitman's head bobs up and down as he mouths each word of dialogue, mimics every gesture and cackles at any gag – laughing just as appreciatively on the fourteenth take as on the first.

Ramis says it's much easier to get a laugh out of Reitman than his own teenage daughter. "For years," he says, "she's been telling me, 'Dad, I know you got all this attention from your movie. But I got to tell you it wasn't that great.'"

Ramis shrugs. "I like to think she secretly liked it."

Tonight, the Ghostbusters are shooting scenes beneath street signs that say, E. 77TH, and 1ST AVE. Traffic is bumper to bumper, with a New York Times delivery-man squawking at a grumpy Yellow Cab driver. Soon a New York City Transit Authority bus is in the act, adding its insistent horn to the noisy dispute.

Of course, this is all movie magic. This is still L.A., downtown L.A. to be exact, normally a deserted isle, especially on a drizzly, cold spring night. Two blocks away, you can find a platoon of skid-row bums huddled under cardboard boxes, sharing sips of wine.

On the set, several hundred extras are milling around a "crowded Manhattan intersection." Posing as Con Ed repairmen, the Ghostbusters are on the hunt for slime. Ramis is jackhammering a hole in the middle of the street. Just when it looks like he's hit pay dirt, a patrol car stops to investigate.

The scene is not going well. Generator fuses are blowing out. The crew is cranky. Murray is yawning. It's no wonder Reitman is wearing a groove in the sidewalk behind his camera position. When you're rushing to finish a $30 million movie, time is money, the meter is running. He quickly decides what is ruining the pacing. The cop car isn't leaving the scene fast enough. "That is the slowest cop car I've ever seen," Reitman growls.

Murray and Aykroyd are sipping coffee in the corner, offering eavesdroppers a comedy critique. The topic: a recent appearance by Eddie Murphy on The Arsenio Hall Show. Asked how he liked working with director John Landis on Coming to America, Murphy replied, "He has a better chance of working again with Vic Morrow than he does with me."

Aykroyd thought the quip was in bad taste – Vic Morrow was killed in a controversial helicopter accident while filming Landis's segment of Twilight Zone – The Movie.

"Awww, come on," Murray says. "You gotta admit it. That's funny."

Aykroyd wags his head. "No way."

"Come on," says Murray. "It was a good line. You had to laugh, didn't you?"

Ramis isn't laughing. Over by the manhole, he's jackhammering on a full stomach. "The chili is shaking up in there with the bagel," he says. "And the coffee is going up and down."

During times like this, comedy directors wonder why no one takes their work very seriously. "Frankly, I was surprised by how little respect the first Ghostbusters film got," Reitman says during a lull in the production. "I thought finally we'd get some. But so many people wrote it off as just another action comedy.

"I feel a little like Rodney Dangerfield…. The only consolation is that at least we got an extraordinary amount of respect from our audience, who came over – and over – to see it."

Then Reitman is clapping his hands again, nervously eyeing his watch. "Come on, guys," he says. "Let's shoot it!"

His cameraman is aghast. "No rehearsal?"

Reitman shakes his head. "Nah, let's go," he says. "There's so much here. We've got a long night. Let's shoot it!"

To crank up his energy, Murray is telling the crew tales about feeding Sigourney Weaver gags for a recent Tonight Show appearance ("All the material we gave her bombed!"). With his comball deadpan, Ramis is getting laughs by trying to lift the jackhammer out of the manhole. Aykroyd is working on a ferocious double take.

The night's scene concludes with the three staring down the manhole, then at one another – no one is volunteering to slide down into the slime-filled sewer. On the eighth take, they're completely in sync – they move as if attached to one another with imaginary puppet strings.

Who'll hit the sewers tonight? Ramis looks at Murray. Murray eyes Ramis. Then they both slowly swivel their heads, staring at Aykroyd. He rolls his eyes skyward, praying for divine intervention. His woeful gaze is painfully funny.

Reitman yells, "Cut! That was perfect."

Bill Murray starts hopping up and down, clapping his hands. "Who are these guys?" he asks. "They're good. You know, they're really good!"

This story is from the June 1st, 1989 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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