The Idea Sigourney Weaver Brought To Her Ghostbusters Audition That Helped Ivan Reitman Figure Out The Ending

Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

There is no Dana. Only Zuul. And many, many years ago, there was no Dana, only Sigourney Weaver. In 1983, the Alien star came in to meet with director Ivan Reitman and audition for a part in a comedy he was putting together called Ghostbusters. Dana would go on to become a love interest for Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), and an integral part of the franchise. But when Weaver sat down with Reitman, she shared a valuable idea that she had for her character, and it went a long way towards helping him crack the ending of the classic comedy. 

Ivan Reitman and his son, fellow director Jason Reitman, came on the ReelBlend podcast this week to discuss Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the direct sequel to Ghostbusters I and II that has been decades in the making. The new story introduces new characters, which we break down over the course of the interview, but at one point, Jason turned and asked his father what made Sigourney Weaver so effective at reacting to sci-fi weirdness. In explaining her talents, Ivan Reitman told this amazing story about her audition, saying:

You know the story of her coming to audition having just done -- the only movie she had done was The Year of Living Dangerously. So I knew her. And she shows up, and she says, ‘You know, there's a mistake in your script.’ And I said, ‘What's that?’ And she said, ‘Well, I should be possessed. I should be like a dog. And I can act like a dog.’ And then she literally climbed on my low coffee table and, you know, went on her hands and knees and took on this position. She started howling! … I remember calling up Harold the moment after she left, and we had been figuring out what the hell is going on on the roof. We wrote the script very quickly. The auditions were probably in July, as we wrote the script in two weeks in June and were looking for whoever Dana was going to be. I called up Harold. I said, ‘Look, I had this actress, Sigourney Weaver, you may have seen her in Year of Living Dangerously. … She had a really good idea. She said that she should become a dog.’ And we started thinking about that. And we started thinking that was a good idea.

I can hear Peter Venkman saying to Ray at the moment that Dana converts, “Ok. So. She’s a dog.” And that idea ended up being Sigourney Weaver’s, born from her audition and carried through the franchise, all the way to Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It’s not a spoiler to say that we do see the Hounds of Hell in the new movie. They are in the trailer, chasing after Paul Rudd. What’s hilarious, though, is that Weaver didn’t know until just recently how inspirational her contributions were to his screenwriting process. He went on to tell the ReelBlend podcast:

I mean, she didn't realize that she contributed, only in the last six months that I told her that she contributed this story. That’s this big story aspect, because we really didn't have the very last couple of reels in our heads. We knew that they're going to get up on the (roof) and they were going to fight the (villain). We had the marshmallow man, because that was in Dan's original treatment. But the idea of the key master and gatekeeper being those doglike creatures that are beside her really came because of the concept of conversion that gets continued in Afterlife.

Kudos to Sigourney Weaver for making this bold suggestion, and to Ivan Reitman for listening when it mattered. The hounds made up a big part of Ghostbusters, and are a fun part of the legacy sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife. See the new movie now, as it just arrived in theaters and is off to a fast start.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.