How the 'Ghostbusters' Team Landed All Those Cameos From the Original Cast Members

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·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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The new Ghostbusters team. (Photo: Columbia)

Warning: Major Ghostbusters spoilers below

One of the biggest decisions director Paul Feig made in crafting a new Ghostbusters movie — besides making it a female-driven affair, of course — was setting the film’s action in an entirely new universe. The action-comedy — which opens today — takes place in a New York City that never knew the likes of Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond Stantz, Dr. Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddmore.

By extension, one of the biggest coups Feig and company pulled off was landing most of the original cast members for cameos in the reboot. Save for Rick Moranis, who has retired from acting, all the surviving major players from the 1984 film return in bit parts as new characters. There’s even an Easter-eggy appearance by the late, great Harold Ramis, who can be spotted as the bronze bust outside the office of Columbia University professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig). For good measure, there’s also the return of iconic ghouls Marshmallow Man (this time in inflatable form) and Slimer (who finds love).

Related: Harold Ramis’s Daughter to Fans: ‘Stop Using My Dad as an Excuse to Hate’ New ‘Ghostbusters’

Katie Dippold, who penned the film’s script with Feig and makes her own quick onscreen appearance as the heroines’ real estate agent, broke down all the big-time cameos for us, including how a few of them evolved along the way.

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The original Ghostbusters: Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson), Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), and Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd). (Photo: Everett)

Bill Murray: In the biggest role among original cast members, the Internet MVP plays Martin Heiss, a misogynistic paranormal debunker and one of the chief antagonists to Gilbert, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones). Murray’s involvement seemed like the biggest question mark, given how famously reluctant he was to make a third Ghostbusters movie back in the day.

Dippold said they wanted Murray to play Heiss from the beginning, and it was simply a matter of sending him the script and waiting for an approval. Still, they didn’t know for certain until the last moment if he would actually do it. “I couldn’t completely enjoy [Murray’s appearance on set] because for the past year, I had been wondering if Bill Murray would do a cameo in this movie, and I didn’t know until a couple days before, for sure, if he was going to do it,” she explained. “When he did show up, I was like, ‘I can’t relax until the film is brought somewhere, like a safe.’ I was so scared something was going to stop this from happening. I was just kind of in frozen panic, just watching.”

Dan Aykroyd: The Blues Brother — who’s also an exec producer on the reboot — was the only cast member whose cameo was revealed prior to the first screenings. In an NYC in-joke, he plays a cab driver who refuses to pick up Gilbert as all hell breaks loose on the city streets because she wants to go a block out of his way. Told of the paranormal activity raining down on New York, he drops the callback line, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.”

Feig and Dippold initially planned to have Aykroyd play a man named Rick Gale, who was a “spiritual adviser” to the women — or the polar opposite to Murray’s crank. “But then we ended up cutting the scene because it was kind of slowing down the story,” Dippold said. “Paul’s thing was he didn’t want it to feel like things were jammed in there, because it was already gonna feel like you’re surprised by this cameo. So he tried as much as possible to put [them] in [roles] that were already in the script.”

Once Aykroyd was set to play the cabbie, his sequence was tweaked. “Originally in the script, the taxicab won’t pick her up, and then when he drives off without her, a ghost gets in the cab and kind of attacks him,” Dippold explained. “But then we realized [that we didn’t] want to see Dan Aykroyd attacked. That seemed terrible.”

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Sigourney Weaver as the possessed Dana Barrett in the original Ghostbusters. (Everett)

Sigourney Weaver: The Alien actress pops up in the film’s end credits playing Rebecca Gorin, a similarly gonzo mentor-type to McKinnon’s hilarious tech genius Holtzmann. “Sigourney was probably the one that was most written for someone,” said Dippold. “And that one was the hardest one to figure out, because there’s so many. God, I pitched on so many different versions of that cameo.”

The ones that stick out most in Dippold’s mind called for Weaver to be a mentally unstable woman they encountered on the streets of Manhattan. “When no one was believing [the Ghostbusters], as they’re driving in the city, and this woman walks up, Sigourney Weaver, and she’s just like, 'Hey, you know what? I don’t care what anyone says. I think what you guys are doing is great, and I absolutely believe everything you’re saying.’ And then they’re like, 'Oh my God, thank you so much.’ And then there [were] a couple options. One is she just walks away and then just lies down on the ground like a crazy person. Another one was she says that same thing to someone else on the street. Because she’s just a crazy person who just says this to everyone.”

Related: 15 Things You Never Knew About the Original 'Ghostbusters’

Ernie Hudson: Patty (Leslie Jones) mentions on a couple of occasions that the hearse she’s borrowed and that ultimately gets retrofitted into a new ECTO-1 came from the funeral home her uncle runs. In the film’s closing (pre-credit) moments, it’s revealed that Uncle Bill is none other than Ernie Hudson. "It was early, but when Leslie was cast, we just thought it’d be really fun if he was the uncle that she spoke of,“ Dippold said.

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Annie Potts as receptionist Janine in the original Ghostbusters. (Everett)

Annie Potts: Her original role as the Ghostbusters’ sassy receptionist Janine is appropriately gender-flipped and taken over by the surprising comedy standout Chris Hemsworth. Potts, meanwhile, gets to do some fan-service as a sassy hotel clerk who tips off the crime-fighting crew in their hunt for deranged bellboy Rowan North (Neil Casey).

"I feel like there was always some quick moment with someone at the front desk to point them in the right direction,” Dippold said. “So then when it [became] her, we added her phone call with someone where it seemed she was just not having it.”

Watch our interview with the ‘Ghostbusters’ cast: