Over the last 25 years, there have been endless rumors regarding a third sequel to the beloved supernatural comedy Ghostbusters. During this time, we’ve heard just about everything regarding Ghostbusters 3 – it will be CGI, it will be a reboot, it will feature a new cast, Judd Apatow will produce and fill it with his regular cohorts like Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, and most recently, that it will be an all-female affair directed by Paul Feig. Now that Paul Feig and female-led reboot is ready to go, with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon making up the team.
Despite all of the speculation about Ghostbusters 3 over the years, one thing has remained constant; Bill Murray isn’t doing the movie, even if the new reboot has a juicy, non-ghostbustin’ role for him. Despite all of writer and former star Dan Aykroyd’s plans for a third Ghostbusters, those schemes have always hinged, in some way, on Murray getting behind the project, but he just wouldn’t budge.
Murray has been busy with other things, mainly revitalizing his career and cementing himself as a beloved, unpredictable comedic icon. After Ghostbusters 2, Murray hit big with What About Bob? and Groundhog Day in the early ’90s, but the rest of the decade wasn’t as kind to Bill. His other starring efforts, Larger Than Life and The Man Who Knew Too Little, were flops, and Murray was regulated to supporting roles like his turn in Space Jam. Then a man named Wes Anderson came calling with a role tailored specifically for Murray, and the rest is history.
Follow our timeline that details one man’s firm stance on not taking the easy, old familiar road and who instead forged his own path as indie darling and national treasure.
No Ghosts: Discovered on an old fan site and sourced to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinal article titled “Busters May Be Back!” Harold Ramis is quoted about Murray’s disinterest saying, “I don’t think Bill Murray is too interested in busting ghosts anymore.”
Later that year, speaking to the Vancouver Province Showcase, Dan Aykroyd gave an update on the script, but restated that Ivan Reitman and Murray had no interest in the project, saying “They want to concentrate on other things.”
What Murray Did Instead: Kingpin, Larger Than Life, Space Jam
Was It The Right Move?: Though Larger Than Lifebombed with critics and audiences alike, leaving no lasting impact on pop culture, Kingpin has gone on to become a cult classic, and Murray’s role as sleazy Ernie McCracken is one of the most memorable aspects.
Say what you will about Space Jam, but Murray almost steals the show from actual cartoons. The film is still constantly referenced and helped introduce Bill Murray to a whole new generation of fans. – Yes
No Ghosts: In a November 9th edition of the U.K.’s The Sunday Mirror, the paper reported that Aykroyd wrote a five minute cameo for Murray in his latest draft, which insulted Murray. It states that Aykroyd then intended to write the cameo out of the script.
What Murray Did Instead: The Man Who Knew Too Little
Was It The Right Move?: The spy comedy recieved mix reviews from critics, and audiences flocked to the other espionage farce of that year, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. If there was ever a year where Murray needed to strap the pack back on, this is it. – No
No Ghosts: In January, Newsweek Magazine reported that the Ghostbusters shareholders – Aykroyd, Ramis, Reitman, and Murray – first requested over 40 percent of Sony’s receipts on the potential gross of Ghostbusters 3, but then backed down to a fairer price, except for Murray, who still wanted a large sum of the gross despite not being involved in the project.
What Murray Did Instead: Wild Things, Rushmore
Was It The Right Move?: Playing a lawyer in Wild Things helped Murray pick up a Best Supporting Actor Award by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, but let’s be honest, the only thing anyone remembers from that movie is the pool scene. Admit it.
Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, on the other hand, scores Murray a plethora of awards and recognition for his role as sad, lovestruck business owner Herman Blume. The role kicks off a string of roles in independent pictures and a sort of revitalized new home for Murray. Rushmore just may be one of the performances for which Murray is remembered. – Yes
No Ghosts: Speaking about a potential cast to Entertainment Weekly, Harold Ramis mentions Murray and Reitman’s continuing hesitance, saying, “Bill [Murray] is very elusive, and Ivan Reitman is kind of standing on the side.”
What Murray Did Instead: Cradle Will Rock
Was It The Right Move?: The huge, artsy, historical ensemble piece directed by Tim Robbins splits critics down the line, but the film was still nominated for the Palm d’Or at Cannes that year and earned Murray a nod for Best Supporting Actor at the Satellite Awards. Not bad. – Yes
No Ghosts: Murray avoids questions about another Ghostbusters by remaining incredibly busy, almost prolific in this time period.
What Murray Did Instead: Charlie’s Angels, Hamlet, Osmosis Jones, The Royal Tenenbaums, Speaking of Sex, Lost In Translation, Coffee and Cigarettes, Garfield: The Movie, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Broken Flowers, The Lost City, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties
Was It The Right Move?: There are a lot of films here, all with varying amounts of quality. Murray is obviously the highlight of films like Charlie’s Angels and Osmosis Jones, but even he can’t lift up the pseudo-intellectual The Lost City or two, yes two, abysmal Garfield movies.
It’s in the indie field where Murray strikes pay dirt. He reteamed with Anderson for two more flicks, The Royal Tenenbaums and the underappreciated Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, though time helps The Life Aquatic achieve cult status.
However, nothing comes close to the success of Lost In Translation, another role made for Murray that earned the actor the highest praise of his career, including a nom for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. Broken Flowers follows the deadpan, understated lead of Lost In Translation and was a hit with critics as well. You win some, you lose some, but if you’re being nominated for Oscars, then you’re doing something right. – Yes
No Ghosts: Obviously quite a bit of time passes before Murray is mentioned again in Ghostbusters proceedings, but speaking with CISN fm about his Ghostbusters: Hellbent script, Aykroyd says the film will be made using CGI because Bill Murray won’t do it as a live-action film and that it will be cheaper to produce.
What Murray Did Instead: The Darjeeling Limited
Was It The Right Move: Just a cameo in Wes Anderson’s lowest grossing film isn’t exactly getting your name out there. Years that end in “7” are ideal for making new Ghostbusters. – No
No, Well, Some Ghosts: After reuniting with the original Ghostbusters to provide their likeness and voices for a Ghostbusters video game and hearing that Office writers/producers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg were working on a draft for a new movie, Murray offered a bit of advice. Speaking at a screening of his film City of Ember, Murray said:
“We didn’t have a lot of special effects in it. There were just a couple. It was just the funny characters in that world, and I like that movie because of it. The first movie had like 60 plate shots. The second movie had like hundreds…It was hard to wrangle because it was tied all around the effects without the story or the characters coming first. So, they are hard movies to write, and Dan really caught it with that first one.”
He still denies any involvement, but on the subject of providing his voice for the game, he said “It was fun to do it again.”
What Murray Did Instead: Get Smart, City of Ember
Was It The Right Move?: Just another cameo in Get Smart, though it’s pretty great. What’s not pretty great is City of Ember, which failed to spark critcial excitement and bombed at the box office. On a $55 million budget, the film only made $11 million. Why try to start a new franchise when you have one in waiting? – No
No Ghosts: Reported by MTV, Harold Ramis allegedly said, “Everybody said they’d do it,” which includes Rick Moranis, who at this point hadn’t appeared on film in 13 years.
Later that year, Sigourney Weaver, speaking to the MTV Movies Blog during an Avatar junket, spitballed ideas on how to get Murray involved in the plot, suggesting he could come back “as sort of a Slimer character.”
What Murray Did Instead: The Limits of Control, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Zombieland
Was It The Right Move?: Voicing a character in Fantastic Mr. Fox alongside Geroge Clooney and Meryl Streep is a no-brainer. The Limits of Control is an interesting, yet underwhelming film for Murray, but in Zombieland, the actor once again uses a cameo to establish himself as a comedic legend to a younger generation. Roger Ebert said the scene received the biggest laugh of the year, and the actor even does a little ghostbusting in the part. From a PR standpoint, Zombieland is invaluable. – Yes
No Ghosts: Bill Murray breaks his silence on the again stirring Ghostbuster 3 rumors by telling the Daily Mail, “I said to them, ‘I’ll do it if you kill me off in the first reel.’ So now they are going to have me as a ghost in the film.”
Later that year while on Letterman, Murray says the constant pleas to join the project are a “nightmare” and the whole idea of the sequel is “just crazy talk.”
Then in an interview with GQ, Murray really goes for the jugular, saying “”Harold Ramis said, ‘Oh, I’ve got these guys, they write on The Office, and they’re really funny. They’re going to write the next Ghostbusters.’ And they had just written this movie that he had directed…Year One. Well, I never went to see Year One, but people who did, including other Ghostbusters, said it was one of the worst things they had ever seen in their lives. So that dream just vaporized. That was gone. But it’s the studio that really wants this thing. It’s a franchise. It’s a franchise, and they made a whole lot of money on Ghostbusters.”
Responding to Murray’s comments, Aykroyd then says in Vanity Fair “I can tell you firsthand, I’m working on the script now and those two — Stupnitsky and Eisenberg — wrote Bill the comic role of a lifetime, and the new Ghostbusters and the old are all well represented in it…we have a strong first draft that Harold [Ramis] and I will take back, and I’m very excited about working on it.”
What Murray Did Instead: Get Low
Was It The Right Move?: The drama, co-starring Robert Duvall, is critically praised and earns Murray some more nominations for Best Supporting Actor by a couple of different film critics assoications. Murray seems to be more interested in art than commerce. – Yes
When the conversation turns to a Ghostbusters 3 while Murray is on Howard Stern, he says, “I guess I’m the problem. Before I was an asset, [but] now I’m a problem. There’s a script somewhere [on my desk], but I haven’t read it yet.” He continues: “I’ll get to it…I gotta get to it — I feel bad. I got a message and I think people — I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings — it’s not the foremost thing in my mind, so I don’t think about it.”
What Murray Did Instead: Passion Play
Was It The Right Move?: Otherwise known as the Mickey Rourke/Megan Fox bomb, this film made a whopping $3,669 at the box office and currently holds a 3 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. So much for art, how about a little commerce? – No
No Ghosts: When rumors circulate the Murray has paper-shredded the script without reading it, Aykroyd assures Empire, “Bill Murray is not capable of such behavior. This is simply something that would not be in his nature. We have a deep, private personal relationship that transcends business…Bill has too much positive estimation of my writing skills to shred the work.”
Possibly to take the heat off of himself, once again speaking to Letterman, Murray says this of Ghostbusters 3: “Well, I think…we’ll try again. I always drag my feet on it.”
Negating Murray’s comments, Aykroyd then told Metro Murray is out, saying, “Ghostbusters 3 can be a successful movie without Bill. My preference would be to have him involved, but at this point he doesn’t seem to be coming and we have to move on.”
What Murray Did Instead: Moonrise Kingdom, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, Hyde Park On the Hudson
Was It The Right Move?: Despite enabling Charlie Sheen in the ridiculous Charles Swan, Murray has an awesome year, co-starring in Moonrise Kingdom, one of the best reviewed films of the year, and starring as FDR in Hyde Park which picks him up another nomination for Best Actor In a Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes. – Yes
No Ghosts: At the Toronto International Film Festival, Ivan Reitman got involved in the Murray shaming, telling an audience, “Bill Murray has never actually read anything. He may have read ten pages at some point, but he’s never read a script. But he’s never been interested, either. That part is true. It wasn’t Ghostbusters in particular, it’s just, he’s been carrying on his life in a different way, in terms of the kind of parts that he’s wanted to pursue.”
What Murray Did Instead: Nothing!
Was It The Right Move: Considering the slate of films the guy takes on in the coming year, I think he deserved a break. – Yes
No Ghosts: With the passing of Harold Ramis, Reitman exits the project as director.
Talking to Dazed Digital in March, Murray is inevitably asked about Ghostbusters 3. He replies with, “They want to refresh the franchise. The franchise is fantastic. But I find that you don’t really lose by saying no in show business. If you say no, sometimes they come back with a better script. Or sometimes it just goes away. But I don’t know. Are you thinking of going back to high school?”
Reitman, who continues to speak about the project despite removing himself, tells EW at the end of March that Murray’s reluctance has nothing to do with a poor script but because Murray said, “Look, I’m not interested in doing these movies anymore. I like doing these small parts. I don’t want to feel the weight and the burden of all that. “
In September, Murray at last had his final say on the matter. Though he still doesn’t want to do the movie, he expresses interest at the idea of an all-female, Paul Feig directed Ghostbusters 3, saying “I’m fine with it. I would go to that movie, and they’d probably have better outfits, too.” His fantasy cast would be, “Melissa (McCarthy) would be a spectacular Ghostbuster. And Kristen Wiig is so funny — God, she’s funny! I like this girl Linda Cardellini (Mad Men) a lot. And Emma Stone is funny. There are some funny girls out there.”
What Murray Did Instead: The Monuments Men, The Grand Budapest Hotel, St. Vincent, Dumb and Dumber To
Was It The Right Move?: Okay, so The Monuments Men was disappointing considering the pedigree of talent involved, and Budapest and Dumber To we more cameos (is Bill Murray the king of the cameo? A question for another article), but St. Vincent is another Murray classic. Playing a grumpy, antisocial, alcoholic Vietnam vet, Murray makes Vin simulatenously hilarious and heartbreaking. Though the part was originally conceived for Jack Nicholson, the role fits Murray’s talents like a glove and gains Murray another Golden Globe nomination along with a nom at the Critic’s Choice Awards. – Yes
So the reclusive, stubborn, but still affable Murray still wants nothing to do with your Ghostbusters 3. Perhaps it’s better that way.
Special thanks to this Vulture piece for compiling every single Ghostbusters 3 rumor of the last 25 years. It helped us construct our Murray denial timeline.