Screenwriter Katie Dippold aims to balance nostalgia with originality in 'Ghostbusters' remake
The film was plagued by Internet trolls complaining about its all-female lead cast, but writer Katie Dippold tried not to let the noise get to her.
The "Ghostbusters" remake — starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon — finally hits theaters this week.
But for months the film has been plagued by Internet trolls complaining about its all-female lead cast. Some of the criticism came from people nostalgic for the original movie, but much of it had crudely sexist and misogynistic undertones.
"Ghostbusters" co-writer Katie Dippold tried not to let the noise get to her too much as she worked on the script. Dippold actually co-wrote the screenplay with director Paul Feig, who she's worked with before on “The Heat." Fieg and Dippold are also working on its sequel, "The Heat 2."
We spoke with Dippold via Skype when she was already on set for her next project.
Where are we reaching you today?
I'm in Oahu. We're shooting a mother-daughter adventure-comedy with Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer.
What is the genesis of this story?
My mom, a lovely, wonderful, kind woman — I just felt as she was getting older, I feel like she's gotten less adventurous. To her credit, she's like, I'm retired, I'm happy, I'm fine. Back off. So I started daydreaming what would it be like if I just took her to some crazy trip that took us off the beaten path just to shake things up. So I just wrote that, but I will take her on a vacation right after this, I promise.
Is there a different satisfaction or challenge about doing something purely original, like this story, compared to writing a movie like "Ghostbusters" or "The Heat" sequel, intended originally as commercial enterprises? Whereas your new movie is something personal that you're trying to tell.
I'll be honest, there's nothing I love more than the beginning of the summer [and] going to the movie theater — that big studio movie and getting popcorn. I don't know what that says about me, but even the mother-daughter movie is a big adventure movie. It's them going through the rain forest. It's a throwback, because we all love "Indiana Jones." It's just kind of something I tend to lean towards.
I wonder if when you are hired to write the "Ghostbusters" reboot, if it was a little bit like the women in the film finding a real ghost. First, total excitement, and second, complete panic?
Oh yeah, when [Paul Feig] first brought it up, I was really excited for a billion reasons, but I also knew this could be really, really hard. And I [was] maybe setting myself up for a very painful time up ahead. But I just loved it so much I couldn't say no.
You're doing a total reboot, and at the same time you're trying to pay homage to the original. Are those things sometimes at odds?
Yeah, that was a really tricky dance. That was the thing we debated first and foremost. It was most important to Paul. He said he wanted it to be new characters and a new story. Then if we can do that, then allow ourselves the treats of the original movie. Also debating at what point does it feel like it's just doing the same thing and at what point it's things we want to see again as super-fans ... there's a reasonable complaint that it's too much from the original, but at the end of the day we just wanted to see all those things. When we did Dan Aykroyd's cameo, it was such a magical night, it was so much fun and it just took me back to being a kid again that we wanted to have as much of that as possible.
When Paul came to you, was the idea already set in place that these would be women ghostbusters?
I think for him it just let his brain set it further apart from the original ... But still we would talk about it, that this movie would hopefully work even if it were with male actors. But a lot of it for me I guess is just wish fulfillment. Like with "The Heat," I always wanted to be an FBI agent and then I would see these movies where these guys were awesome and they were so funny and they were joking back and forth. I remember seeing "Running Scared" where Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal had this montage to the song "Sweet Freedom" by Michael McDonald, and they're riding around the Caribbean and there's a different hot girl in the back of their moped every time it cut back to them. I just thought, I want to be driving the moped, I don't want to be on the back of it. For this, too, I would love to find a group of weirdos that I can go hunt ghosts with. It's just the wish fulfillment, really.
There are a couple lines in the movie about not paying attention to what Internet trolls have to say. That proved unfortunately highly prophetic, but what was the original motivation in writing those lines, because they were put in the script before you got trolled?
Some of the backlash started before we started writing the script, so it was just deep in our heads. We weren't trying to intentionally attack it, but at the same time you just kind of write the world around you. I think one of the main messages to me for this movie, with the underdog spirit, is going after what you believe in and being passionate about it and not caring what the outside world thinks.
Part of the conceit of the movie is that these women can't really be ghostbusters, that they're not up to the job or they're imagining things. And the movie itself, for whatever reasons, will probably be judged a little bit about whether women can lead a movie at the box office. Is it possible for you to step back and not worry about the movie being a referendum on any of those things, other than what it is?
I would love that. I would love to be a super chill person that didn't think that way, but I wish this could be judged on its own merit. It's been so long of this discussion, it happened with "Bridesmaids." I remember when I was thinking about doing "The Heat," I kept hearing from people, Well, don't pitch that — wait to see how "Bridesmaids" does, or They're just not going to buy any more female comedies. Which is so crazy to me because it was not that long ago, but it's still a question. It's crazy to me. I feel like there's a lot of pressure right now on the actors. There's just not a great a lot of great starring roles for women out there. So if for some reason that movie doesn't do well, then that actor is back to being the guy's wife with her hand on her hip telling him he's a troublemaker like a bunch of other movies I never want to see again. All I'm trying to do is just help that cause.