"Maybe in five years we'll come back and do another one." - Ernie "Winston Zeddemore" Hudson in 1989
It certainly seems like an foregone conclusion that when you're responsible for creating one of the mid-1980's most popular and profitable films as well as a sequel that didn't exactly slump in the box office that a third installment would be underway, but in the case of Ghosbusters
a third film was just not in the cards. Although a script was written and numbers were crunched, for whatever reason the fates were against Ghostbusters 3
and after years spent trying to bring the film to fruition most of the powers-that-be behind the franchise have thrown in the towel.
Ghostbusters 3 had an intriguing premise: what if Hell was full? What if the damned underground ran out of space for souls and closed the doors? No vacancy. Hell couldn't take them, Heaven doesn't want them, so they wind up back on Earth. Over time these souls begin piling up, turning Earth into a hell of its own. When you're knee-deep in the damned, who ya gonna call? Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis developed this idea into a full script in 1999 and had hoped to have the film in theaters in time for Summer 2000, eleven years after Ghostbusters 2 was released and sixteen years after the original. Aside from the "Hell on Earth" plot a running theme in the film was that the original Ghostbusters were getting on in years and had backed away from daily ghostbusting to settle into more of a management position of a worldwide Ghostbusters empire with field offices in each major city in the world (an idea that had been in Aykroyd's mind since the creation of the original film). With the entire planet threatened by evil (instead of just New York City) the guys come out of retirement and team with four "Junior Ghostbusters" who would be played by stars popular among younger crowds such as Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, and Will Smith, all of whom were approached to do the movie and all of whom passed (except for Farley, considering that he died in 1997. Someone must have forgotten to tell Dan Aykroyd). Together they would all go to Hell (which resembled a warped rendition of New York and was known as "Manhellton") to confront the devil and convince him to open Hell up for business again. By combining the "old" Ghostbusters with the "new" ones the idea was to pass the torch to the next generation and keep the franchise going with new characters.
The new Ghostbusters were only outlined in the first drafts of the script. It would seem that Aykroyd and Ramis were looking to add some diversity to the franchise, as the new characters included a pierced punker from New Jersey named Franky, a dreadlocked dude by the name of Lovell, an uptight scientist gymnist known as Moira, and a Latino would-be model called Carla. In addition to these four was a large-brained child named Nat who served as the new team's advisor and mentor. Gone are Sigourney Weaver's Dana Barrett and her son Oscar, while Rick Moranis appears in a cameo as Louis Tulley and Annie Potts's character Janine Melnitz pops in and out of the story. Ernie Hudson's Winston Zeddemore (referred to in the script as "Dr. Zeddemore") plays odd man out again, having even fewer lines than he did in Ghostbusters 2.
The film immediately ran into problems behind the scenes. While Aykroyd, Ramis, and director Ivan Reitman were eager to produce another Ghostbusters, the beloved Bill Murray was hesitant to return to the role of Peter Venkman. His days of quippy comedy seemed to be behind him; his last "traditional" comedy, 1997's The Man Who Knew Too Little, did little to set the box office on fire and he began to gravitate towards more serious roles, a decision which eventually led him into films such as Lost in Translation and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. In regards to a third Ghostbusters film, Murray reportedly turned down the role, then later agreed to appear in the film if his character was killed early in the film so he could appear as a ghost, and then later backed down entirely when Aykroyd rejected his idea. Rumor has it that this schism was the catalyst for the end of Murray's friendships and working collaborations with both Aykroyd and Ramis. With Murray out of the film Columbia Pictures developed cold feet about the entire production, citing that the special effects required for the film would cost far more than they wanted to invest in the project (the same excuse the studio gave for passing on the then-proposed Men in Black II). Made-on-the-cheap films such as The Blair Witch Project were suddenly Hollywood's aim, as these films could be produced for under one million dollars and earn a profit in the hundreds of millions of dollars range. With Bill Murray out of the picture and skyrocketing budget requrements, the studio shelved the film for good in 2001.
In the aftermath of Columbia's decision any prospect for a future Ghostbusters film of any type began have crumbled. Aykroyd closed his production office at Columbia in 2002, ending his long association with the studio. The rights to the original films and concepts lie with Columbia, but Aykroyd and Ramis own the rights to the characters themselves. Without the cooperation of both entities a new Ghostbusters film is not possible and fans are left with wondering what could have been. Aykroyd has stated in interviews his desire to revive the project as recently as November 2004, but by this time everybody else involved with it (including Ramis, Hudson, Reitman, Potts, and Moranis) has expressed a desire to leave it alone and move on. But not Dan Aykroyd. He ain't 'fraid of no sequel.