EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures is broadening the Ghostbusters franchise and the first order of business will be a male-driven action-centric comedy that is a counterpart to the Paul Feig-directed film that will start production in June. The studio is simultaneously forming Ghostcorps, a new production company whose principals include original Ghostbusters architects Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd; they will have offices at Sony with the mission to scare up branding opportunities based on the 1984 comedy classic.
Reitman is putting the male-driven film with a powerhouse brain trust: Captain America: The Winter Soldier helmers Joe and Anthony Russo, who just made a first-look Sony deal and are looking to direct and produce this; Drew Pearce, the Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible 5 scribe who’ll write; and Channing Tatum and his partners Reid Carolin and Peter Kiernan, who are attached to produce. The hope is for Tatum to play one of the Ghostbusters in this film. Given his versatility and franchising success in 21 Jump Street and Magic Mike, he’s a good cornerstone to launch another Ghostbusters series.
After I read Mike Fleming's Deadline piece about the new 'guy-centric' Ghostbusters I knew something was weird. Either Sony had fucked up the franchise or they had fucked up the announcement - only one of those two things made sense. So I got in touch with some of the Sony folks I know and started asking questions. What I found out was pretty incredible.
First of all, this new Ghostbusters movie isn't all-male. It isn't 'guy-centric.' I spoke to three different people who were baffled as to where that came from. But it does have some guys at the center - the concept here is a movie that spins out of the chemistry between real-life friends Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt. This isn't a case of 'everybody wants Chris Pratt in their movie,' this is a case of these two guys being pals and wanting to make this movie together.
As for the movie itself: it's complementary to the Paul Feig film. This isn't a sudden reboot or a change of course. The plan is to have this new Ghostbusters universe feel big and have the kind of tonal variety that allows there to be a legitimate shared universe, not just a whole bunch of franchises running in tandem. What's more, the hope is that after Feig's Ghostbusters is out and after Tatum's Ghostsbusters is out the next film will see the two teams co-mingling, Avengers-style. This is planned out, and has been getting planned out for some time - it's not a sudden change of heart at Sony. The idea is that this shared universe will allow Feig to do his thing, Reitman and the Russos and Drew Pearce to do their thing, and for them to cross over when they must. I was kind of confused by the ending of the Feig/Katie Dippold script, but knowing that there's a planned universe growing out of that ending everything makes a lot more sense now.
That's three films - in my subhead I mentioned four. What I'm hearing is that this new Ghostbusters universe will also have a prequel movie, which will take place before either of these two announced films. When before? Beats me - but it will have nothing to do with the original Ghostbusters characters. As Reitman said in his Deadline interview, the rights issues with those characters are too complex (the human characters, anyway. Expect some famous ghosts to show up). I don't know when this prequel is set - relatively recent or colonial times or what - but it's all part of the larger picture.
I think the key here is that while it's the Ghostbusters universe, not every movie has to be about people busting ghosts. Talking to my sources it's become clear that 'Ghostbusters' is going to be the catch-all umbrella for a world of supernatural FX comedies. That world will truly become clear in the team-up film. If the plan for almost yearly Ghostbusters movies holds, these four - the all-female, the Channing/Pratt, the crossover and the prequel - definitely provide a base to rotate annually between tones and concepts.
Is it going to work? Now that I know the Tatum/Russo/Pearce movie isn't a boys-only film, and now that I know that there's some actual planning going on in terms of how these films interact, I feel pretty good about it all. Do I feel good enough to lose the Russos from Infinity War? Here's hoping that there's a way they can keep one foot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.