‘Ghostbusters’ scribe Katie Dippold talks fan backlash, new Amy Schumer/Goldie Hawn comedy
With three days to go until its U.S. release, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot has racked up generally positive (if not overwhelmingly so) reviews. It’s also racked up a fair amount of scorn from fans of the original who—for a variety of reasons—resent Feig’s take on director Ivan Reitman’s original tale of four ordinary(ish) New Yorkers standing between the Big Apple and a ghostly apocalypse. Katie Dippold, co-writer of this new Ghostbusters with Feig, spoke out about the backlash at a special post-screening Q&A, hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences as part of its “Spotlight on Screenwriting” series.
“I hadn’t even started writing when [the backlash] started,” explained Dippold, in conversation with moderator Melissa Silverstein. Some of that backlash came from fans dismayed that Feig’s Ghostbusters eschews the sequel route in favor of starting afresh with four brand new Ghostbusters, played by Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. It’s a reasonable complaint, as things go, and one that Dippold understands, if not agrees with. “I truly get the passion, because I really love the original very much,” she says. “But I wouldn’t want anyone to touch those characters, do you know what I mean?... Maybe I’m naïve, but I was hopeful that this version lets those characters be. I don’t want to tell people what happened to Venkman!”
“Then there’s the other group” of Ghostbusters haters, Dippold continues, “that truly hates women, and will say the nastiest, most horrible things I’ve ever read in my entire life.” There are legitimate reasons, in the run-up to Ghostbuster’s release, to not be excited about it; people have different tastes, after all, and Feig himself admitted in an FJI interview that his comedic stylings don’t translate all that well to short, punchy trailers. But for all that, the hatred directed in Ghostbusters 2016’s direction—before any trailers had come out, before the casting, before it had even been written—was way out of proportion to any other reboot of a nostalgia-friendly property.
Dippold concedes that the backlash may have affected her work on the film in a subconscious way (there is a scene with improvised dialogue that more or less directly addresses the film’s more sexist detractors), though she tried to ignore it as best she could. In a way, the rancor she was facing tied into one of the themes of the movie: “For me, a big message that we were trying to [include] was believing in yourself, and having a passion and sticking to it… Everyone’s so worried about getting validation, whether it’s through Instagram or whatever it is. Who cares about any of that? Just follow your passion and find like-minded, strange people.”
Some of the “like-minded, strange people” Dippold is working with next are Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, co-stars of her next film, a yet-untitled mother-daughter comedy. Directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50,Warm Bodies,The Night Before), the genesis of the film came from Dippold’s own life. Her parents divorced when she was in college (“This is going to become my therapy session now”), and subsequently, her mother became “a little more cautious. Like, the second you leave her house, you hear doors lock. So I started thinking, what if I took her on some crazy trip? Off the beaten path? So the movie’s basically that, but everything the mother feared would go wrong, goes wrong. It’s like them trying to get through the Amazon rainforest, just trying to get to safety.”
“My goal with it was always for it to be a hard comedy mother-daughter movie, rated R,” she continues. So naturally, Amy Schumer, reigning queen of R rated comedy, was the perfect fit for the daughter role. For the mother, Dippold and Levine pulled off a coup in securing Goldie Hawn, who unofficially retired from acting over a decade ago. “Seeing Goldie Hawn back in action, for me, is like a dream come true,” says Dippold. “She’s really amazing.” The film is currently midway through production and will be released by Twentieth Century Fox on May 12, 2017.