Ghostbusters: Paul Feig Talks Internet Backlash

Paul Feig talks about how making Ghostbusters changed his relationship with the internet.

It has been nine months since the release of Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. It will probably be many years before we know if it’s had any sort of significant cultural impact anywhere close to that of the original 1984 movie.

You’re probably aware of the backlash the movie received before it was even released, but by and large, the movie came and went and by the end of the year, it was mostly forgotten how angry people were getting on either side of the argument.

During his Tribeca Talk with Saturday Night Live’s Michael Ché—who said that he experienced a similar thing when he took over “Weekend Update”—director Paul Feig addressed that internet backlash, as well as sharing his thought process on making the movie.

This line of conversation began with Feig talking about his first experiences with the original movie:

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“I was just coming out of film school in my early 20s when Ghostbusters came out. We went to see it opening weekend. I thought it was hilarious and was amazing idea for a movie, but that was kind of it for me. I didn’t realize it was like religion for a generation of boys that came after me. It turned out it was the ultimate boys’ movie. For some weird reason, a lot of guys, it was their thing. I didn’t realize to them (it) was sacrilegious.”

Ché then asked him whether it was intimidating to take on an established franchise, where he had to stay true to the concept but try to create something with his own imprint.

“It was tough,” he said. “The minute I had the idea to do it, I knew I had to call Katie Dippold, because she’s one of the greatest writers I know, but also she loves horror movies, ghost stories and all that thing. So we kind of kicked it back and forth a bunch.”

“My first instinct was to just throw everything out and let’s start over,” Feig recalled. “Katie was saying—and I was agreeing with her—it’s like if we went to see this and it wasn’t us that made it, what would we be excited to see and what would be bummed if we didn’t see? That laundry list comes up pretty quick. You want to see the proton gun and Slimer would be fun, so maybe we threw in a few too many—a lot of critics took us apart for that—but at the same time, we did these test screenings and any time any reference came up, people would really cheer. It was just kind of fun to do it that way.”

“It’s intimidating to take on any kind of franchise like that,” he continued. “(With The Peanuts Movie), I really doubled up on two beloved childhood things. With both those things, you come on like, ‘I love these things so much, I want to protect them and make sure they don’t become something they’re not supposed to be.’”

Ché mentions that when you take on something people have seen, someone isn’t going to be happy, comparing it to a stepdad, and how he experienced that when becoming an anchor on SNL’s “Weekend Update.”

“You have to go in knowing you’re not going to please everybody, but you want to make something cool for the next generation,” Ché told Feig.

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“Before Ghostbusters, I had this really lovely relationship with the internet,” Feig said, addressing the internet backlash more directly. “When that first volley of just terribleness came in, honestly it threw me off for a couple of years—I wasn’t used to it—where I could go back in a time machine now, I just would go, ‘Don’t even read it, just put it away,’ and I never would have referenced it. That was the biggest mistake I made. A year in, I took on one of the trolls, and they can fire at you for a year. You dare say one thing back at them, and it’s all over. You’re a victim and you’re a monster…”

“It is frustrating, because why is there any kind of litmus test on this?” He asked.

“It’s not like you’re taping over the original one,” Ché joked.

Finally, Feig added, “You go into it so pure of spirit—We’re so excited and we just want to make everybody happy, and it’s a very weird thing, but it toughens you up. I never wanted to be toughened up, so it’s kind of like ‘Goddammit’…”

So clearly, all of the criticism towards the movie, even from those who hadn’t seen it, got to Feig, and it’s a shame because he definitely had the best intentions with doing a new version of Ghostbusters, and maybe it will be found by a new audience in the coming years.