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‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Director Jason Reitman Explains How That Surprising [SPOILER] Casting Happened

It all began with a text

Warning: Major spoilers for Ghostbusters: Afterlife follow below.

The new sequel “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” has a number of surprises for longtime fans of the franchise, in addition to telling an all-new story about Egon Spengler’s granddaughter picking up where he left off and saving the day. But one of those surprises involves the return of a fan-favorite character from the original movie.

The 1984 “Ghostbusters” introduced the world to Gozer, an ancient entity from another universe who wreaks havoc on New York City in the first film. And in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” we learn that Gozer’s return was being heralded in the middle of Oklahoma, where Ivo Shandor had built a throne to worship Gozer’s return.

In the finale of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” Gozer makes its triumphant return, and the character is played by none other than Olivia Wilde. In a recent interview with TheWrap, director and co-writer Jason Reitman explained how the casting came about. “I’ve known Olivia a long time, we’ve wanted to work with each other a long time. I don’t think we expected it to be in this format,” he acknowledged.

Columbia Pictures

Reitman actually pitched the idea to Wilde over text. “I reached out to her like, ‘Hey, you wanna be Gozer?’ I just texted her, and she was down from the word ‘go’.” The filmmaker also noted what a trooper Wilde was, because the demands of a makeup-intense role with so little screentime were intense. “It’s not a fun day because you have to show up at the crack of dawn and be covered in prosthetics and makeup and have weird contact lenses put in your eyes,” Reitman explained. “It’s a beast of a role, but she came at it with complete joy.”

The filmmaker also added that professional dancer Emma Portner provided half of the performance of Gozer, namely anytime the character “had to do unusual body language” and explained that “the body performance of the spirit of Gozer was Portner, who is absolutely extraordinary. She’s literally one of the great dancers alive and totally cool, and did a lot of that work out there in that dirt field.”

As for that other cameo in the finale – with J.K. Simmons playing an entombed Ivo Shandor half – Reitman acknowledged that it’s “not one of my movies if J.K. isn’t involved,” alluding to Simmons’ roles in every film Reitman has made thus far.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is currently playing exclusively in theaters.