It’s always fun to play "What if?" casting games after a hit movie has run its course. What if Tom Selleck had played Indiana Jones, after all? This one is new though. Or, "new to me," because I’d never been aware of the fact that John Candy was up for Rick Moranis’ part in Ghostbusters -- or the reason why he turned it down.
This comes up as part of EW’s lengthy oral history on Ghostbusters, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The piece is a terrific read, packed with trivia about the making of Ivan Reitman’s classic comedy. And in that mix, Reitman tells the story about how Candy, who had just worked with the director on the 1981 comedy Stripes, was up for the neighbor role that eventually went to Moranis. Reitman recalls:
He didn't like the treatment that I had sent. He didn't get it. He said, ‘Well, maybe if I played him as a German guy who had a bunch of German shepherd dogs.’ I said, ‘Well, maybe you can do it with an accent, but I don't think all that's really necessary.’"
As the director remembers it, Rick Moranis basically read the script and jumped at the chance once John Candy officially said no. After reading it, he immediately replied to Reitman and told him, "Wow, please thank Candy for me. This is the greatest thing I ever read."
Was Ghostbusters a career-defining role for Rick Moranis? Close, but not exactly. If you asked me what part I picture him first, I’d got to either Strange Brew or Honey, I Shrunk the Kids before I remembered Louis Tully in the two Ghostbusters films. John Candy passing on the part likely cost him a shot at donning a proton pack in the sequel. This scene would have played out very differently.
Did it work out for Candy? You could say. The incredibly gifted comedian showed up in his own smash hit in 1984 – the mermaid comedy Splash. He followed that up with Brewster’s Millions, Summer Rental and Volunteers (also with Tom Hanks) in 1985. Ghostbusters might not have catapulted him into the stratosphere, but really, John Candy was well on his way to superstardom with our without the help of some busted ghosts.