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Ghostbusters 3 Plot Details & Script Pages

 By Paul Rudoff on Nov. 12, 2022 at 12:10 AM , Categories: Miscellaneous, Books

The recently-released book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever, which I reviewed a few days ago, includes four plot summaries of aborted Ghostbusters 3 scripts. Let's take a look at them...

The header of each section notes the pages in the A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever book on which these summaries appear.


##### STORY TREATMENT - FEBRUARY 6, 1997 (PAGES 158-160) #####

[Dan] Aykroyd's own high concept that he was working on with Tom Davis, Ghostbusters III, had been ready to go before Men in Black's release. A story treatment dated February 6, 1997, outlined with detail an unholy adventure for the paranormal eliminators. It opens at a funeral home in Yonkers, where the corpse of Mrs. Flora Burke gets out of her coffin and walks into the office to bum a cigarette from a stunned attendant. The Ectomobile arrives on the scene and three new Ghostbusters get out. Frank Stantz, nephew of founding Ghostbuster Ray Stantz, is the role that was obviously meant for Chris Farley: "a big cute-looking blonde [sic] man in his early thirties" who is "very nervous and physically ungainly. [He is] tense and ill-suited to the work." With Frank are Nicole, a "very tough no-nonsense ex-Airborne type," and a "blinking, mouth-breathing brainy kid" named Dwight. They enter the funeral home to discover the staff giving snacks to various restless corpses. The corpses, "wandering around like children who don't want to go to bed," wish to resume their lives. The attendant points out this is probably within their legal rights. So the Ghostbusters take Mrs. Burke back to her shocked family. "What's for supper?" she asks.

Frank Stantz and his crew are one of several new teams in this treatment, as the Ghostbusting business has thrived in the years since Ghostbusters II. Winston Zeddemore is introduced as a company executive with his own fancy office. Egon Spengler is busy conducting telekinesis experiments in which people try to move pinballs and smoke with their minds. Ray Stantz is still active as well and tries to guide his nephew, who is a "problem employee." Peter Venkman is absent; a postcard reveals that he's in Indonesia mining gold.

The Ghostbusters determine that death isn't taking for so many people because there's a blockage preventing souls from crossing over. Ray and Egon witness this firsthand when they visit the deathbed of their mentor Professor Wyance, "a charismatic man with beautiful soft gray eyes." Wyance discovered that life and death work like radio frequency with "two separate oscillating lines" for each state. One can move between these realms with a device called a "phase flux generator/shifter" that Wyance was working on before he died. Using this machine, the Ghostbusters must visit the afterlife and solve the blockage problem (the notion of Hell existing concurrent to reality was thought up by Harold Ramis).

The Ghostbusters assume they'll need a car to get around in the afterlife, so they rig up one of the Ectomobiles to Wyance's phase flux invention in a Brooklyn warehouse. In a flash, Frank, Nicole, Dwight, Ray, Egon, and Winston find themselves in the grim reflection of New York City that exists in Hell. The streets are jammed with taxis from all different time periods. Traffic is so bad on the Brooklyn Bridge that cars are spilling over into the East River (the Ectomobile has been modified to hover above all this gridlock). At South Street Seaport, they see a crowded ferry governed by "four foot high leathery-skinned little demons using pitchforks to shovel the people off the barge into the river." The Ghostbusters are trying to gain an audience with the mayor when "a grizzled old guy in turn of the century clothing with rheumy alcoholic eyes and a gaping bullet wound in the side of his head" who claims to be a lawyer offers help. He can't save them from being imprisoned for trespassing, though they manage to use "their technology" to escape. A summit with the mayor proves ineffectual; the lawyer then agrees to take the Ghostbusters to meet the person who actually runs the afterlife, Ron Lucifer.

Their journey to Lucifer Towers takes them through other exaggerated versions of famous New York locales, like a Greenwich Village where everyone has comically severe piercings and a Washington Square Park overrun with hell dogs. Ron Lucifer is likened to Alec Baldwin and described as "attractive . . . well-spoken, [a] smooth, corporate type, [but a] reasonable guy." Lucifer confirms that his realm is becoming overpopulated and that's why "souls are being denied entry." During their meeting, Frank notices a "warm, white beautiful glow" in New Jersey, an area that is out of Ron Lucifer's jurisdiction. Lucifer, who has a vested interest in the Ghostbusters' phase flux device, traps them in his office for a battle ("the building shoots up a thousand stories" as the fight commences). Our heroes give Lucifer the slip and decide they need to send as many souls as they can across the George Washington Bridge to what is obviously Heaven. Frank broadcasts to the citizens of Hell via Lucifer's PA: "If there's a God and He's the God He thinks He is, He's not going to turn you away. All you have to do is choose."

The Ghostbusters lead many souls over the bridge, and as they are admitted their grotesque figures transform into that of angels. One especially gorgeous angel moves toward Frank with arms open for an embrace. As Frank goes to return the gesture, the Ghostbusters phase themselves back into our world, where Frank ends up romantically hugging a New Jersey transit cop ("a fat black female Jersey transit cop," as the treatment puts it). At the very end, we see a newborn in a hospital who as the exact same soft gray eyes as the late Professor Wyance.

This iteration of Ghostbusters III was rumored to be in development in November 1997, sharing gossip column space with Men in Black II, a fifth Batman movie, a Superman reboot, and a big-screen version of The A-Team starring Mel Gibson.


##### GHOSTBUSTERS: HELLBENT - MARCH 10, 1999 (PAGES 162-164) #####

Dan Aykroyd and Tom Davis made significant revisions as they turned their 1997 story treatment into a full-length Ghostbusters III script. The opening was changed to a complex special effects shot that moves into and beneath the grave of philanthropic financier J. J. Desseter. They emphasize a "deep black velvety blackness" under Desseter's body as we hear "the sound of deep grinding gears and screaming moaning grate of massive old rusted iron plates being ground and pushed against each other." Suddenly a door opens and Desseter is shoved into the black void by a pair of demonic-looking arms. He then bursts out of his coffin and levitates above the grave site, "part phantom, part corpse, three times the size he was in life and imbued with the power of the dark afterlife." Desseter floats over to a building he dedicated to the arts during his life that has now become a garish-looking modern bank. His rage shatters the bank's windows. At the same moment, fellow grave evictee Ulysses S. Grant is breaking windows and terrifying people as he cries out for whiskey.

A "lowdown rap-rhythm tune" signals that Ghostbusters III has started; "I've seen it all between you and me," a rapper intones, "let me get down with it and set you free, leave it to the Master, the Master GB!" We're introduced to a new Ghostbusters crew as they respond to a call about Desseter's ghost haunting a bridge. There's Franky, a muscular "Jersey punkster" with purple hair and multiple piercings (unlike Frank in the story treatment, Franky is not related to any established character). Nicole and Dwight have been cut in favor of an uptight former gymnast named Moira, the "beautiful Hispanic college graduate" Carla, and "handsome FUBU devotee" Lovell. As they engage Desseter, the script notes that these Ghostbusters "will use '90s versions of the same proton/neutrona throwers with separate trap until the conversion to muon reservoir technology." The team captures Desseter, but much of their equipment accidentally plunges into the river below. Their supervisor, Dr. Nat Colby, a ten-year-old with "a very prominent cranium," arrives to scold them for their clumsiness.

The full-length script carries over the idea that the Ghostbusters have a larger operation now, one that's housed in a city sanitation garage with thirty Ectomobiles (though a scene with Louis Tully makes it clear the company is losing money). Professor Wyance is replaced by Father Trenodius, a renowned theo-physicist who is also "the Church's leading authority on exorcism." He has theories about the afterlife but no magical invention to get there. After numerous scenes of the dead returning and trying to resume their lives, J.J. Desseter's extremely wealthy descendant Marta summons the Ghostbusters to her office. Marta, who is described as looking like Lauren Bacall, demands to know what they're going to do about all the undead people. Ray Stantz says they can achieve "afterworld access through alteration of the planar frequency around the Five Boroughs by a gluon phase reversal" but they need to build a "Heisenberg-Feynmann loop provider," "muon pots," "particle grieves," and a "planar frequency attenuator." Marta asks how much that will cost. Spengler: "If we want it by next week, nine billion dollars." Marta balks at first but changes her mind after seeing J.J.'s ghost in her private bathroom.

In Hell, the sky burns orange, the streetlamps glow red, police officers are large minotaurs with "translucent blue skin," and it is impossible to travel faster than six miles per hour. The shady lawyer they meet is named Michael Taaaghaanikghh, "an orange-suited six-foot figure in a bad orange-brown wig over a heavily leathered sun/jerkied and olive mottled head behind Jim Jones shades." The Devil is called Luke Siffler, and he actually manages to phase-shift over in our world for a few moments during the office battle. Up to this point, Peter Venkman has been omitted from the story with no explanation. As the Ghostbusters discover that the heavenly area of New Jersey is partially a golf course, they see Venkman riding toward them in a golf cart. Ray Stantz starts to apologize to him for "what happened" but Venkman interrupts: "Wait. I'm not Venkman. I assumed this familiar form for you because it is the best way to communicate to you so many complicated matters. However Pete does say hello. He's in a very happy place and he forgives you for your part in the lab accident." God then invites all the overflow souls from Hell to Heaven to "be forgiven, redeemed and accepted."

In a final confrontation, Siffler grows into his full demonic form, grabs Ray Stantz by the neck, and climbs to the top of his building with him. Moira and Winston Zeddemore work to save Ray while Lovell and Franky fight off giant hell hornets. Siffler is defeated, everyone escapes, and the souls cross over to Heaven. The adventure ends in a traffic jam in the real world. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" Lovell asks. "I love this city," replies Carla. "Unconditionally," adds Franky. First completed in March 1999, this script was titled Ghostbusters III: Hellbent.

Hellbent paints an intriguing picture, but the narrative is light on jokes and heavy on awkward dialogue. Complaining in his first scene about having to work overtime, Lovell huffs, "Yuh, like this is why I made straight As at the Bronx School of Science." Moments later, he refers to his assertive Ghostbusting partner Moira as "the Witch Queen." When the Ghostbusters meet God toward the end of the script, Franky asks for an autograph. "No more autographs since Moses," God replies. Luke Siffler is given a weird, feverish rant to reel off once he's been defeated: "Doll to the child, child to the woman, woman to the man, man to the devil. Bit sexist, but never mind. The point is, you won the day. THE! DAAAAAAY! Days are like seconds to me. How many minutes will it feel like until you're back here the old fashioned way?"


While no complete copy of this 122-page first draft, dated March 10, 1999, has ever been made available to the public, some pages scans are on the Ghostbusters III Scripts page.

Proton Charging wrote a brief review of the March 10, 1999 draft on January 27, 2003: "After all these years, Aykroyd has made Ghostbusters a full blown corporation, with dozens of employees, including mechanics to look after the fleet of converted ambulances; one scene echoes the shot of the Ecto-1 driving across the Brooklyn Bridge, only this time there's a whole line. They've also built themselves the Ecto-50, a converted truck with (if I understand correctly) its own containment unit. Winston is in fact a doctor, but it doesn't feel quite right, as if the normal guy we identified with was now indistinguishable from the rest of the team – having him working on his degrees would have been cool, while still keeping him a tad more down to earth than Egon and Ray. Venkman is noticeably absent for most of the movie, a concession I'm assuming to the fact that Murray didn't want to do another GB installment."

"Stax" for IGN FilmForce wrote a lengthier review of the March 10, 1999 draft on July 30, 2002:
Without revealing too many spoilers, Ghostbusters 3: Hellbent suggests that hell (portrayed as a stygian mirror image of The Big Apple dubbed "Manhellton") has grown overcrowded and congested. As a result, hell is literally evicting people back into the world of the living in order to alleviate their congestion problem.

Obviously, this isn't good for our world so the Ghostbusters must use their latest technology to literally go to hell and ask the devil why he's doing this and to see what they can do to make him stop. Naturally, the devil - portrayed here as a Donald Trump-like mogul named Siffler - has a secret agenda that leads to a grand conflict with our titular heroes. The Ghostbusters must once again save New York City from the evil forces of the afterlife.

There is indeed a younger crop of Ghostbusters (or, as the script abbreviates it, GBs) introduced that perform much of the otherworldly legwork here. This new crew includes: Franky, a body-pierced, tough New Jersey punker; Lovell, a dread-locked dude; Moira, a pretty but uptight gymnast and science grad; and Carla, a Latino beauty. There's also Nat, a prepubescent genius whose powerful brain has made his head abnormally large. Despite his youth, Nat serves as a supervisor for the new GBs. That's all we ever get to know about these characters (we don't even learn their last names!) and they're our guides throughout most of the story.

I'm not exactly asking for brilliantly delineated characterizations here but even the original team had their own distinct personalities, voices, and senses of humor. These young bucks are practically interchangeable. They all behave and sound alike, and get along relatively well. There's no real conflict between them nor is there a dominant personality as there was amongst the original GBs. These would be the script's worst mistakes if it weren't for the revelation that these young turks aren't especially funny or charming, either.

That's what shocked and disappointed me the most about this draft of Ghostbusters 3: it was more jargon than jokes. Bill Murray/Peter Venkman doesn't appear until the end and then it's only a cameo (he's portrayed in a way you've never seen before, which was the script's most memorable gag). There's also no sign of Sigourney Weaver's character Dana nor is there any mention of her kid Oscar (remember him?), who you'd think might be included among these new, younger GBs given his importance in the last film.

Ray (Aykroyd), Egon (Ramis), and Winston (Ernie Hudson, now referred to as "Dr. Zeddemore") have prominent supporting roles here. (Louis Tully and Janine have cameos.) The action is driven forward by the younger GBs. Whenever the original GBs are in a scene, my interest - and the story itself - picked up. I've never been a huge fan of TV series or films featuring "the next generation" of characters, with Star Trek being an arguable exception (although I still prefer the classic Trek).

You fall in love with some characters for very specific reasons and sometimes it's just impossible to see new actors take over those series/franchises. I think Ghostbusters might be such a case but if these new GBs had more personality, if they were developed further, perhaps I'd have accepted the transition. I just never cared about these new Ghostbusters, though.

The plot line about hell being overcrowded and needing to evict people was relatively amusing but isn't the whole "New York is Hell" sentiment rather tired now? And I don't even want to get into the post-9/11 issues that any film about New York City being endangered will likely face now. (Of course, I compartmentalized those issues given that this script predates the tragedies.) Rather than it being the wrong time for GB3 perhaps now might actually be the perfect time for it. After all, the Ghostbusters films offer pure escapism, politically correct villains, and a wish fulfillment/fantasy about being able to save The Big Apple from (excuse the phrase) phantom menaces. I just can't say that I liked the GB3 yarn that this draft offered.

As a huge fan of the original film, I'd much rather see a GB3 where the old gang must strap their backpacks on for one last mission (even without Murray, though he'd be sorely missed) rather than see pretenders to the throne get the bulk of screen time. That's just me, though. Obviously, the series' creators see the sequel differently so I must respect their ideas. I just wasn't as entertained by this draft as I wanted to be (and I really wanted to love this script). Given that there has been no development on this project for almost three years, however, my reservations about Ghostbusters 3 appear to be moot.



Dan Aykroyd and Tom Davis dusted off Hellbent in the summer of 2006 for a "limited revision." There were talks with Columbia Pictures around that time about reviving the script as a computer-animated feature. One of the most significant updates Aykroyd and Davis made to Hellbent added more color and weight to Peter Venkman's absence at the top of the story.

After an experiment with a highly unstable artificial black hole goes awry, Ray Stantz looks up at a portrait of Venkman that graces a wall in the Ghostbusters headquarters. "I could have killed us all," he says. "Like my last mistake did to him."

"Ray, you did not kill Venkman," Egon Spengler counters. "It was an industrial accident. He lost his grip and slipped."

"But he was trying to help me."

"Peter Venkman was the Chairman of this company. He called the shots on what we were to research. He was obsessed with developing his foolproof love potion and it cost him his life. We were all merely instruments in his hands."

Astute, considering how attempts to revive Ghostbusters III in subsequent years would play out.


##### GHOSTBUSTERS: ALIVE AGAIN - JANUARY 2014 (PAGES 192-193) #####

"This script is just so medium funny and not edgy it scares me."

Sony Pictures chairperson Amy Pascal had her concerns with Etan Cohen's Ghostbusters III script, titled Ghostbusters: Alive Again. It was January 2014 and Cohen had already authored several drafts. Alive Again revolved around a group of new Ghostbusters including Chris, a kindhearted scholar; Jeremy, Chris's cynical friend who loves debunking ghost stories; Dean, the son of original Ghostbuster Ray Stantz who now licensed the Ghostbusters name to a theme restaurant; and Anna, who has a romance with Chris that stalls because she doesn't like to date coworkers. The primary antagonist is called Gniewko and there are many instances of "hellions" controlling people and animals. Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler were given cameos - as ghosts. Alive Again also had brief appearances from Dana Barrett, Louis Tully and his wife, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and Peter Venkman. The ending battle featured a giant baby.

Pascal found herself getting distracted while reading Alive Again. "[I] wonder why we are doing this version and what the actual idea is here," she wrote in an email. A scene in FAO Schwarz where ghosts take control of various toys bothered her, not just because it mirrored a scene in Sony's recent live-action Smurfs movie. "Why are the ghosts bringing toys to life? Isn't the idea of the ghosts themselves being characters? Isn't that the whole thing about the original movie?" Pascal also had doubts about the giant baby ending, feeling it had already been done. "I think we need everyone to read this at the studio and finally make the big decision," she wrote. "And I do want some [input] from everyone we trust."

Doug Belgrad, president of Sony Pictures, agreed. "I'm still struggling with whether there is enough of an idea. Some days I think there is, on others I think we get killed." Production president Hannah Minghella thought the characters lacked spark, the story beats were off, and wondered about Alive Again's references to the original Ghostbusters ("Can we really bring back the Marshmallow Man?"). Belgrad and Pascal both wanted to forward the script to Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. "We've always believed that Seth/Evan producing with Ivan [Reitman] is a game changer," Belgrad wrote. "And I think Seth would be an awesome Chris."


If this article makes A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever seem interesting, you can buy the book at Amazon. Of course, I suggest reading my review first.

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