After thirty years of Ghostbusters history, you could probably recite the film's lines word for word. You know all of the characters backwards and forwards, and have your favorite Ghostbuster picked out, along with catchphrase and moment of greatness. That said, there's still always been a bit of imbalance in the Ghostbuster house, as the main trio of Ray, Peter, and Egon have always had the spotlight, leaving the fourth Ghostbuster – Winston Zeddemore – in the dust. For those of you who are huge fans of Ernie Hudson's equally iconic performance, this story's for you, as we've learned more about the Winston that should have been.
Entertainment Weekly invited Hudson to contribute to their reunion issue with a column explaining the history behind the original draft of Winston's character in the film. The details that we could have gotten out of who was originally meant to be an equal to the three "classic" Ghostbusters are enough to make us want to read this presumably lost (or hard to find) draft of the script.
In the original shooting draft, which was the draft that Ernie Hudson rehearsed with the cast for three weeks in New York after taking the job, Winston was, "an Air Force major something, a demolitions guy. It was great."
Winston was with the team from the start, given pretty much equal time and equal badass billing. That all changed when Hudson and team were given a new draft. A draft where instead of Winston playing an integral part to the team, he was sidelined. According to Hudson:
The night before filming begins, however, I get this new script and it was shocking. The character was gone. Instead of coming in at the very beginning of the movie, like page 8, the character came in on page 68 after the Ghostbusters were established. His elaborate background was all gone, replaced by me walking in and saying, "If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say." So that was pretty devastating.
The reason for that sidelining was one that plenty of actors before and after Hudson have encountered from time to time: the studio had a "name" actor they wanted to push, and push him they did. Through this process we were given the version of Ghostbusters we all know and love. The one where the studio pushed Bill Murray's Peter Venkman to the forefront, and completely cashed in on Murray's undeniable star power. It's hard to be mad, considering that the film that resulted was a beautiful classic. However, now knowing how hard Ernie Hudson pleaded to get his equal status back, it paints the film in a bittersweet light.
Nothing sucks more when an actor worthy of a gig gets short changed in one way or another. While Hudson doesn't regret taking the role, and still loves being a part of the cast, it's hard as a fan to know that we could have had more moments like Winston and Ray in the car all throughout the original Ghostbusters. Sure, Winston was somewhat more integrated in the Ghostbusters II storyline, but by then it was too late. Still, Ernie Hudson's closing remarks best sum up his position on the Ghostbusters franchise, as well as his career at large:
I certainly am thankful to have been a part of it. I love being an actor. I still enjoy the process. I’m still hoping that I’m going to get that one great role that I thought I had in the original Ghostbusters. 30 years later, I’m still looking.
Quentin Tarantino and/or Christopher Nolan, this is where you should come in. Let's give Ernie Hudson his due, and give him that one, brilliant role he's always wanted.