EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures is broadening the Ghostbusters franchise and the first order of business will be a male-driven action-centric comedy that is a counterpart to the Paul Feig-directed film that will start production in June. The studio is simultaneously forming Ghostcorps, a new production company whose principals include original Ghostbusters architects Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd; they will have offices at Sony with the mission to scare up branding opportunities based on the 1984 comedy classic.
Reitman is putting the male-driven film with a powerhouse brain trust: Captain America: The Winter Soldier helmers Joe and Anthony Russo, who just made a first-look Sony deal and are looking to direct and produce this; Drew Pearce, the Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible 5 scribe who’ll write; and Channing Tatum and his partners Reid Carolin and Peter Kiernan, who are attached to produce. The hope is for Tatum to play one of the Ghostbusters in this film. Given his versatility and franchising success in 21 Jump Street and Magic Mike, he’s a good cornerstone to launch another Ghostbusters series. The idea came from Pearce, who honed it the Russo Brothers, Tatum’s team and Reitman.
This is being put together even as the studio moves to the start line with a Ghostbusters reboot that will be directed by Feig and star his Bridesmaids leads Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, and Saturday Night Live stand outs Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. All of this is being steered by new studio head Tom Rothman, Doug Belgrad and production president Michael De Luca.
Reitman confirmed these early plans to Deadline, and said that this was something he and Aykroyd had long discussed. In fact, it is remarkably close to the branding prospects included in a cosmic Bible for the possibilities that they hatched 30 years ago, ideas which were used to form the original film. They were rolling around ideas for Ghostcorps with top Sony execs Amy Pascal and Belgrad last fall at the Toronto Film Festival at Montecito. That’s the 12,000-square-foot restaurant that Reitman opened near the TIFF Bell Lightbox building, and which played host to several major festival premieres. Now, after Pascal left to become a producer on Feig’s Ghostbusters, they are ready to move on the branding effort.
“We want to expand the Ghostbusters universe in ways that will include different films, TV shows, merchandise, all things that are part of modern filmed entertainment,” Reitman told me. “This is a branded entertainment, a scary supernatural premise mixed with comedy. Paul Feig’s film will be the first version of that, shooting in June to come out in July 2016. He’s got four of the funniest women in the world, and there will be other surprises to come. The second film has a wonderful idea that builds on that. Drew will start writing and the hope is to be ready for the Russo Brothers’ next window next summer to shoot, with the movie coming out the following year. It’s just the beginning of what I hope will be a lot of wonderful movies.”
Reitman said that aside from himself and Aykroyd, Ghostcorps principals will be his longtime Montecito partner Tom Pollock, Ali Bell and Alex Plapinger, and Sony. They’ll take space on the Culver City lot, even as they continue operating Montecito as a separate production company. They have several pictures percolating at Paramount and they are getting close on a movie adaptation of Baywatch.
“My primary focus will be to build the Ghostbusters into the universe it always promised it might become. The original film is beloved, as is the cast, and we hope to create films we will continue to love.”
This is early days and the Russo Brothers, who are prepping their second Captain America pic Captain America: Civil War (Sony’s signature superhero Spider-Man is expected to make an appearance), have also been mentioned as being coveted by Marvel to direct the next two Avengers movies — taking over for Joss Whedon — so we’ll see the configuration when this makes it to the start gate.
That uncertainty doesn’t scare Reitman, particularly given how long it took to resuscitate the franchise after waiting years for original Ghostbuster Bill Murray to read the script. They are all very happy to be relaunching the franchise with Feig’s version.
“Sometimes things happen at the speed they are supposed to happen,” he said. “The deals were so strong on that second movie that the franchise became frozen in place 25 years. Nothing got done, we all had the power to block whatever we didn’t like, but we finally got together and found a way.”
Those Ghostbusters deals simply don’t exist anymore in Hollywood. Stars don’t get first dollar gross anymore, but that opens different doors that include back door paydays and, sometimes, being a part owner in a promising new concern like Ghostcorps.
WME reps the Russo Brothers, Tatum is with UTA and Management 360, and Pearce is repped by WME and PBJ Management.