Before comedian John Belushi died, close friend and comedian Dan Aykroyd was crafting a script for the two of them, and he hoped Belushi would be his co-star. The script was Ghostbusters, which became an American comedy classic.
Unfortunately, Belushi did not live to star in the film. Instead, Ghostbusters starred Aykroyd, along with Harold Ramis and Bill Murray. Ramis recalled how the film was ahead of the “paranormal” curve, which Hollywood eventually embraced.
“No one had done it,” Ramis told Psychology Today in 1996 about the groundbreaking nature of the film. “I don’t like to do things that I feel like rye seen before. Dan had written Ghostbusters for himself and John Belushi. When he wrote it, it was really out there, the paranormal thing. But the best thing about it, I thought, was the mundane edge it had; that where I thought the comedy had to go. I played more to the science of it.”
John Belushi still made it on screen
Belushi was supposed to take on the role of Peter Venkman in the film, which was ultimately filled by Bill Murray. Although Belushi had died, special effects designer, Steve Johnson told Bloody Disgusting that Belushi was an inspiration behind “Slimer.”
“That was the most annoying horrendous experience I’ve ever had working with art directors, producers, and directors, ever,” Johnson recounted. “In the beginning, they asked for a ‘smile with arms’ but before I knew it, it was a goddamn bleeding nightmare. ‘Give him 13 percent more pathos, put ears on him, take his ears off, less pathos, more pathos, make his nose bigger, now his nose is too big, make his nose smaller. Make him more cartoony, make him less cartoony.’ I almost f**king severed my own head during that process.”
Johnson then conjured Belushi’s image during a drug-fueled moment. “So I pulled out a stack of headshots of John Belushi, poured a gram of cocaine on it and started chopping lines up,” he said. Johnson believes Belushi’s ghost arrived to give him inspiration and tell him to stop doing drugs.
Eddie Murphy was also supposed to be in ‘Ghostbusters’
Ghostbusters was also supposed to include comedian Eddie Murphy, who’s star was quickly emerging at the time. “I wrote it for Eddie Murphy,” Aykroyd said in the Netflix series The Movies That Made Us. “It was me, John Belushi, and Eddie Murphy. We were supposed to be the original Ghostbusters.”
Aykroyd apparently pitched the film to Murphy on the set of Trading Places. Murphy was reportedly skeptical about the role at the time. But Belushi’s untimely death changed the trajectory of the film. “The morning that John died I was typing a line out for him,” Aykroyd said. “I got the call that he had gone, so even though he wasn’t there anymore I finished the movie.”
In fact, the note to include Belushi in the film as “Slimer” came from Ramis and Aykroyd. “The night before (Slimer) was meant to be approved, all the executives were coming by the next morning to sign off on him, I get a note saying ‘He’s gotta look like John Belushi.’ His buddies Harold (Ramis) and Dan decided this was a way to keep him in the movie as a slobby, obnoxious ghost-like his Bluto character in Animal House,” Johnson shared. “And that’s exactly what it was but I’m thinking ‘It’s a smile with arms, how am I going to get this to look like John Belushi?'”