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Bill Murray Stopped "Ghostbusters 3" From Happening, Co-Star Dan Aykroyd Says

The original series would have reportedly continued if the actor had signed on.

For a franchise about un-killable spirits, the Ghostbusters franchise certainly seemed dead itself for decades. Now, it's back in the zeitgeist, of course—Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, out March 22, marks the third installment released in theaters since 2016. However, the series was originally supposed to continue on in the late 20th century. After 1984's Ghostbusters and 1989's Ghostbusters II, another sequel was planned. However, Ghostbusters III languished in "development hell" for years and was ultimately never made. But why would Hollywood let such a lucrative series mold in the grave for so long? According to Ghostbusters co-writer and actor Dan Akroyd, his co-star Bill Murray was to blame. Read on to find out why.

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Murray had no love for the first sequel.

While the entire main cast returned for Ghostbusters II, the film turned out to be a disappointment, underperforming at the box office and earning tepid critical reviews. One of those underwhelmed by the second chapter was Murray, who felt the sequel lacked the magic of the original.

"When we did the sequel it was rather unsatisfying for me, because the first one to me was the goods. It was the real thing," Murray told Gizmodo in 2008. "The sequel, it was a few years later [and] there was an idea pitched. They got us all together in a room and we all just laughed for a couple of hours and thought up a few ideas. So we had this idea. But it didn't turn out to be that idea, when I arrived on set. It was a whole different movie."

The Lost in Translation star claimed that "the special effects guys got their hands on" the movie and took it in a direction he wasn't pleased with—and one that ultimately disappointed audiences.

"So there was never any interest in a third Ghostbusters because the second one was so disappointing for me at heart," he added.

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He called the script for the third film "crazy."

Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in 1989
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Akroyd later summarized Murray's reluctance to work on a third Ghostbusters film by saying that his co-star simply didn't think the proposed scripts were any good.

"I never begrudged him not being in the third movie, though I wrote a nice part for him, where the Ghostbusters go to hell," Akroyd told Entertainment Weekly in 2015. "He's got very high standards and a high bull[expletive] detector."

Indeed, when speaking to Variety in 2014, Murray praised the first film again (calling it "a spectacular movie"), but had far less enthusiasm for the sequel ("It had a few good scenes in it")—and none at all for the proposed ideas for film three.

The actor described the proposed script for Ghostbusters: Hellbent, penned by Aykroyd and following the team as they travel to an alternate, hellish version of New York City, as "crazy bizarre and too crazy to comprehend." He was similarly displeased with a script in which his character, Peter Venkman, had been killed off and appeared only as a ghost. "It was kind of funny, but not well executed," Murray said.

Though he did finally agree to lend his vocal talents to 2009's Ghostbusters: The Video Game alongside the other members of the original team, the four main cast members—Murray, Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Harold Ramis—would never again appear together onscreen, as Ramis died in 2014.

A feud with Ramis made things more difficult.

Harold Ramis in 2009
Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

But the real impediment to continuing the franchise may not have been a lack of enthusiasm, but the frayed relationship between Murray and Ramis, who co-wrote the first two films and played fellow Ghostbuster Egon Spengler.

A few years after Ghostbusters II, the pair, who had also worked together on the early-'80s hits Caddyshack and Stripes, collaborated on the sci-fi romantic comedy Groundhog Day, which Ramis directed and co-wrote. Murray stars as Phil Connors, a disgruntled TV weatherman who gets trapped in a time loop on the titular holiday, and though the film is today considered a (no pun intended) timeless classic, its production ended the friendship between the two.

According to Slashfilm, Murray and Ramis simply had different visions for the film—Murray, who was going through a difficult time in his marriage to his first wife, Margaret Kelly, wanted it to learn into the existential nature of the Connors' temporal predicament. Meanwhile Ramis favored a lighter, more comedic tone.

These differing aims led to bitter battles between the two, even before filming began, with Murray working with original screenwriter Danny Rubin, whose original script Ramis had reworked to be more audience-friendly, to craft his own darker take and refusing to discuss the revisions with Ramis.

The animosity reportedly continued on set, with arguments between the two growing so heated that Ramis ultimately forced his star to hire an assistant to act as a liaison between the two. But as the director told EW, even that went badly, as Murray proceeded to hire someone who was deaf and only communicated through American Sign Language, which Ramis could not interpret.

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He eventually returned to the franchise.

Paul Rudd, Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, and Bill Murray at the Ghostbusters: Afterlife premiere in 2021
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Sony Pictures

Though Groundhog Day became a classic, the damage was done, and Murray appeared to have had his fill of working with Ramis. According to a 2004 article in the New Yorker, it may have been a matter of ego, as "some of the pair's [mutual] friends believe that Murray resents how large a role Ramis had in creating the Murray persona" through his movies.

While the former collaborators did eventually reconcile—Murray brought Ramis a box of donuts on his deathbed, according to Vulture—it was too late to get the original Ghostbusters all back together on the big screen.

In 2016, all three of the living original Ghostbusters did appear in the 2016 female-led reboot film directed by Paul Feig, though not as their franchise characters. At the time, Murray said that he agreed to appear because he wanted it to be clear that he supported the film and its new cast.

Then, a few years later, the actor picked up his proton pack again in the legacy sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife, directed by Jason Reitman, son of original director Ivan Reitman. He makes a cameo in the 2021 film—this time again as Venkman—alongside his fellow founding spook hunters Aykroyd and Hudson, as well as other original cast members Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver. (CGI of Ramis and body doubles were used to orchestrate a Spengler cameo as well, though fans were mixed on its inclusion.)

"The script is good. It's got lots of emotion in it," Murray told Vanity Fair at the time. "It's got lots of family in it, with through lines that are really interesting. It's gonna work."

He was right. The film was a box office success, grossing more than $200 million on a $75 million budget. Now officially back in the fold, Murray will be back for Afterlife's sequel, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller is a pop culture writer living in New York. Read more
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