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Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s Jason Reitman On How That Major Third-Act Cameo Came Together

Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters
(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

That major third-act cameo in Ghostbusters: Afterlife wasn’t just an example of reverent fan service. It also played a pivotal role in the defeat of Gozer and helped protagonist Phoebe Spengler get some closure with her grandfather. But just how did that legendary moment come to pass? Director Jason Reitman has given fans a peek behind the curtain. 

In a recent interview with Empire, Ghostbusters: Afterlife director Jason Reitman revealed the logistics behind OG Ghostbuster Egon Spengler’s shocking cameo. The first step? Getting the blessing of the late Harold Ramis’ family. He said: 

The first person that ever read the script was my father, and after my father it was the Ramis family. It was Harold's widow, Erica, and daughter Violet, who I grew up knowing – we were both on the set of the original back in '83. I talked to them about what we wanted to do, how we were going to do it. They came to set, and they viewed visual effects that came to the editing room. They're the first people to ever actually see the movie. So they were part of this movie from start to finish and I think they were aware of how much I wanted to honour Harold. Egon was my favourite Ghostbuster. This is a Spengler story, and this movie is dedicated to him in every way.

Once Harold Ramis’ family had given the cameo their stamp of approval, Jason Reitman had to create a digital recreation of the actor that wouldn’t appear glitchy or artificial. His main priority was believability: in fact, the entire film depended on it. He explained: 

So the real question was how do we pull this off? Anyone who enjoys movies has now seen examples of virtual characters that really work and virtual characters that are difficult to look at. It's one thing to see in the middle of a movie, where it kind of comes and goes. It's another thing if the whole climax of the movie will be decided on whether or not you believe these two people are hugging each other, that a daughter is forgiving her father and saying goodbye to him. And that these Ghostbusters, who have gone through this misunderstanding and been broken apart, get to stand next to each other one more time and bust a ghost.

Luckily for Jason Reitman, Egon Spengler’s brief but powerful appearance seemed to resonate with fans of the original Ghostbusters. The film has an audience approval rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and had a blockbuster opening weekend to boot. More importantly, however, the cameo gave fans the chance to say goodbye to a beloved character in an equally beloved franchise. 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is now playing in theaters everywhere, with a digital release scheduled for January 4. You can also catch up on the original Ghostbusters on Hulu. 

Actor, singer, and occasional dancer. Likes: fashion, books, old buildings. Dislikes: cilantro, the NJ Turnpike, sneaker wedges.