Don't burn me at the stake for this one. I'm well aware Ghostbusters was cast perfectly back in 1983-'84. It's one of the seminal comedies of my generation and it stars three guys who grew up in comedy together and had unmatched chemistry. But that amazing cast wasn't the creator's first choice. Dan Aykroyd, who wrote the original script, wanted to star in the movie alongside John Belushi, his fellow Blues Brother. But Belushi passed away in March of '82 and prospective co-stars Eddie Murphy and John Candy wouldn't commit, according to Wikipedia.
Imagine Ghostbusters with Aykroyd, Belushi, and Murphy (Candy was tabbed for Rick Moranis' role as Louis) traveling through time (as was Aykroyd's original idea) to fight different ghosts and spiritual demons. It's fun to think about. Murphy's inclusion alone would've changed everything—an R rating perhaps?
But in the end, director Ivan Reitman convinced Aykroyd to make the script more practical. Time travel was not in the budget. So Aykroyd reimagined his film, brought Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson aboard, and the rest is history.
Which brings us to the here and now, 30 years after Ghostbusters debuted. What if the movie were rebooted today with current Hollywood stars? Who could possibly carry those giant proton packs and do justice to the iconic emblem? Here are a few suggestions:
Vince Vaughn as Dr. Peter Venkman
Bill Murray is absolutely the hardest actor to replace. He cracks wise for the entire 105 minutes of Ghostbusters as Venkman. The character's arguably his signature role, showcasing his smarmy, but somehow likable, charm around women and his incredible ability to improvise.
Ryan Reynolds, Owen Wilson, and Will Ferrell all come to mind but there's a pretty obvious choice. Vince Vaughn has some very funny movies to his credit and he's one of the few comic actors who can actually pull off getting the girl in the end. Like Murray, he has a talent for improv and sneaking jokes in at the end of scenes. He'd be a natural Venkman.
Paul Giamatti as Dr. Ray Stantz
Dan Aykroyd's character, Dr. Raymond Stantz, brings a childlike sense of wonder to the job. He's romantic about the paranormal. Stantz is a believer and whoever replaces Aykroyd would have to capture that earnestness.
It's tempting to pair Vaughn with an actor from the Apatow group of Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, or Jonah Hill, but for me, there's only one choice: Paul Giamatti. First off, the Ghostbusters should be a tad elderly if we're going to buy them as scientists. Ideally, they'd all be around Vaughn's age (44). Giamatti (47) fits the profile and brings instant geek credibility. He's typically cast in intellectual roles and would be perfect staring wide-eyed in stunned silence, cigarette dangling from his lip, before running screaming for his life.
Michael Shannon as Dr. Egon Spengler
Harold Ramis' Dr. Egon Spengler tells Venkman in an early scene, "I'm always serious." And he is. Egon is the true scientist of the Ghostbusters but that doesn't mean he lacks a sense of humor. Ramis was so great physically in the role. He was a tall actor, 6'2", and he spent much of the film using his frame to comedic effect, emerging out from under desks and peering down at people from behind his wire framed glasses.
If you take height out of the equation, I can see Robert Downey Jr or even Larry David as Egon, but I'd prefer a tall actor and there's one guy who's both tall (6'3") and a master of deadpan line delivery: Michael Shannon. The Boardwalk Empire star is simply great in everything and a new Ghostbusters would be no different.
Craig Robinson as Winston Zeddmore
Ernie Hudson arrives late in Ghostbusters as Winston, the fourth member and least-developed of the group. He's a fun character because he's just there to get paid. Winston is kind of in over his head but he's excitable and not immune from dropping the random one-liner. It's an everyman role and just about any 40-50 year-old actor could play it.
The movie is set in New York so a blue collar-type seems to fit best. I can see Bobby Cannavale bringing some personality to the part, but this is where I'd use Craig Robinson. The 42-year-old spent years staring in disbelief at Michael Scott on The Office, he shouldn't have a problem doing it here while making the odd wise crack and pretending not to care too much.
The Rest of the Cast
The four leads are the most fun to recast, but Ghostbusters is full of memorable supporting actors as well. Sigourney Weaver brought her trademark intensity to her performance as Dana Barrett, the female lead and Venkman's love interest who becomes possessed by Zuul the "Gatekeeper." Who would bring Weaver's dignified grace and ability to turn into a growling demon sexpot? Linda Blair? Nope, I like Julianne Moore, who's about as versatile as it gets. She gave us a glimpse of a woman possessed in last year's Carrie.
Next up? Rick Moranis' Louis Tully role is straight out of central casting: an obnoxious nerd who never shuts up. Michael Cera is too young and too on the nose. Steve Carell would be great, but I like Jack Black here. His energy is infectious and I would love to see him bounding around Central Park being chased by a terror dog.
And the final part, Walter Peck, played to never-before-seen heights of douchebaggery by William Atherton, would not go to Jeremy Piven. It would not go to Vincent Kartheiser or Will Arnett. It would land in the capable hands of James Woods, my favorite villainous little pin prick of all time.
So there you have it. Ghostbusters 2014. Comment below with your own choices and make me regret my decisions. And be sure to take our Ghostbusters quiz and see which role you would play.