Early screenings of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” came with a recorded preamble from director/co-writer Jason Reitman. In the short video Reitman described the movie as “the world’s greatest Easter egg hunt.” If you’ve seen the movie (in theaters now!), you know that this is very much the case – with shoutouts not only to the 1984 original but its 1989 sequel “Ghostbusters II” and even a nod to a ghost that was immortalized as a toy and based, in part, on a popular, long-running cartoon spin-off show “The Real Ghostbusters.”
When it comes to Easter eggs, these are deliberately and methodically placed, and there are so many that it will probably take way more than two viewings to catch them all.
When TheWrap got on the phone for an extended chat with Reitman, we had to ask him what his five favorite Easter eggs from the movie were – and where to find them. Here’s what he said.
His Dad’s Other Movies
Reitman is the son of original “Ghostbusters” filmmaker Ivan Reitman. (Jason actually has a brief cameo in “Ghostbusters II” as a disappointed kid.) This familial bond informs much of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which explores the generational legacy of Egon Spengler’s family, led by his estranged daughter (played with flinty grace by Carrie Coon) and continued by his apple-doesn’t-fall-far-from-the-tree granddaughter (Mckenna Grace).
In the video where Reitman described the movie as the greatest Easter egg hunt, he also talked about what it was like making the movie with his father, who was often on set, sitting right next to him. So it does make sense that one of Reitman’s favorite Easter eggs are a pain of references to his father’s other movies.
One has to do with the wildly inappropriate films that Paul Rudd’s summer science teacher decides to show his kids. “When Paul Rudd says ‘Cujo’ – imagine if Beethoven got rabies and started attacking children,’” Reitman said. “’Beethoven’ is obviously one of my father’s films.” (“Beethoven,” released in 1992, was written by John Hughes under a pseudonym, directed by Brian Levant and produced by Ivan Reitman. It was a box office smash.)
But wait, there’s more! “When Podcast (played by Logan Kim) is giving a tour of the town, there’s a movie theater and on the marquee it says ‘Cannibal Girls,’ which actually was my father’s first independent horror film that he ever directed,” Reitman explained. The familial connection to “Cannibal Girls” runs even deeper – Jason’s mom, who was a model and actress in Quebec at the time, helped fund “Cannibal Girls” because Ivan was still a struggling filmmaker. “My mom helped pay for his movie,” Reitman said. In other words: a movie called “Cannibal Girls” was actually a heartwarming family affair … at least behind-the-scenes.
For his second favorite Easter egg, Reitman got out his iPhone. (This wouldn’t be the last time he did this.) He put it up to his computer’s camera.
“This is the fabric of Phoebe’s T-shirt,” he said, referring to Egon’s granddaughter and the main character of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” a precocious girl played in a star-making turn by Grace. “What do you see?”
Taking a closer look, it was actually the series of images on the cards at the beginning of the original “Ghostbusters,” when Bill Murray is hitting on a coed while supposedly conducting research into psychic phenomena – there were the squiggles, the star, the circle, the square, the x. “Isn’t that amazing?” Reitman asked. “It’s just an example of everyone’s passion for the film. That was not my idea. That was our costume designer, Danny Glicker, who surprised me one day is like, ‘What do you think of this?’ And it was a T-shirt and he goes, ‘Look closer.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God.’
“Everyone was coming to the table with this stuff,” Reitman added.
This next one is really hard to spot and if you’ve already found this one, we salute you.
“One of my favorite lines from the original is Egon is asked if he ever had toys and his response is, ‘I had half a slinky, but I straightened it.’ And Phoebe has a straightened slinky in her room,” Reitman revealed. As to where it is, he says it’s on her desk in an early scene in Chicago, where the cash-strapped family is living before traveling to Oklahoma and investigating Egon’s old house. (They hope it is worth something; it isn’t.)
Reitman acknowledges this Easter egg isn’t one of the most obvious ones. “It’s very hard to spot. I mean, I’m going deep with you,” Reitman said.
For his fourth-favorite Easter egg, Reitman threw a curveball.
“This is an audio one,” he proclaimed. “When the movie starts, over the Columbia logo, the first thing you hear is the sound of an instrument that people often think is a theremin but is actually an ondes Martenot and it is the sound of ‘Ghostbusters’ is that ‘ooo,’ like that. It’s that whining thing that you associate with ‘Good Vibrations’ by the Beach Boys. It’s an instrument that Elmer Bernstein incorporated into the a Ghostbusters score beautifully, because it’s a very haunting sounding instrument, but he found a way to do melodic lines. And I wanted people right from the get-go to know they’re in a ‘Ghostbusters’ film.”
So, how did he replicate that distinctive “Ghostbusters” sound? Or did he?
“We actually opened up the original master tracks from ’84 and took the sound from ’84 and put it into this film,” Reitman said. “Some part of your brain sonically already knows you’re in a ‘Ghostbusters’ film.”
But that wasn’t enough! Did you really think it was enough?
“We also then went and found the original performer who lives in England and in COVID recorded her from Abby Road over Zoom to do the movie,” Reitman said.
Talk about commitment. These might sound excessive, but the granular detail is readily apparent.
His Dad’s Hands
When Reitman said, “I’m giving you the best one,” we knew we were in for something good. There’s a moment in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” when the original surviving Ghostbusters (Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson) arrive to help save the day. Murray fires up his proton pack and says, “I love that tune.”
But here’s the thing – they didn’t get Murray turning on the proton pack. As Reitman is telling me this, he gets out his phone – there’s a shot of his dad, Ivan Reitman, with the Ghostbusters jumpsuit on, holding the proton pack. They used him for the insert of Bill Murray firing up the machine.
“That’s one of the great moments of my life,” Reitman said. When faced with the dilemma he said, “Put dad in the suit.”
For (Jason) Reitman, it was a singular experience. “I just remember holding his hand and directing his hand and yeah, for me, that was the full circle moment,” Reitman said. He has the photo framed in his house and recently shared it on Instagram (see above).