Few have had more influence on the current crop of "guy comedies" than Harold Ramis. The 60-year-old writer/director, whose began his career editing the jokes page at Playboy, is responsible for some of the wildest flicks of the past three decades. Animal House, Caddyshack and Groundhog Day still have dudes quoting lines and debating funniest scenes, but it's the new release of a special slime-covered DVD set of the Ramis-scripted Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II that has the yuk-master giving us the lowdown on his comedy classics, his next project and why Bill Murray won’t return his phone calls.
TVGuide.com: Did you think Ghostbusters would be a kid-friendly blockbuster?
Harold Ramis: Not really, I always admired Danny [Aykroyd], and this was a script he had started as a project for himself and John Belushi, so I wasn’t there when the idea was hatched, but as soon as I read it, I just loved the themes. Commercially, it did seem like a movie for everybody, but I always saw it as an adult film — the kid thing was a bonus. I certainly didn’t write it any differently. We always said at the Second City [the Chicago comedy troupe where Ramis trained], “Work from the top of your intelligence.” I’ve always tried to do that. Just because you act like a fool doesn’t mean you’re stupid.
TVGuide.com: So was the Murray character going to be played by Belushi?
Ramis: In Danny’s original script the characters weren’t well defined; part of the fun was tailoring them for Bill, Danny and me. What we came up with was that Danny was the heart, I was the brain and Bill was the mouth of the Ghostbusters.
TVGuide.com: Is Bill Murray as quirky as people say he is?
Ramis: He redefines quirky! [Laughs] He is the most fascinating and talented pain in the ass we know. I’m sure from his point of view there is something instructive about the [people] or things he decides to go after; it’s usually justified on some level — but that doesn’t make it pretty to see. Hey, he couldn’t be the actor he is if he didn’t have that explosive potential. We watch him with such fascination because we genuinely don’t know what he’s going to do. Is he a good guy or a bad guy?
TVGuide.com: Might you two ever work together again?
Ramis: Bill has kind of moved on in his life since Groundhog Day. I’ve had no contact with him. I did ask him to appear in my new film, The Ice Harvest, [but] I didn’t hear back from him. Too bad, he would have been great in it.
TVGuide.com: The Ice Harvest is a noir-ish story with John Cusack. Sounds like a change of pace for you.
Ramis: Well, we thought of it as a dark film for a small audience, but it was so popular in test screenings that they’re going to open it wide around Thanksgiving. It’s the most subtle, mature and wise script I’ve read. We did change the existential ending just a bit; we didn’t want people leaving the theater bummed out, saying, “If I want to be miserable I’ll stay at home.”
TVGuide.com: It must be nice to see films — like Wedding Crashers — that are so obviously influenced by your work succeed. I heard you might be doing a flick with Owen Wilson?
Ramis: Yeah, I've got an idea he likes. It’s funny, those guys treat me like I’m Charlie Chaplin, this old master of comedy, but I feel as young as they are. But then I look in the mirror and go, "Whoa, who the hell is that guy?!”