As someone who observes the film industry from a journalistic standpoint more so than a fan these days, it’s easy to get jaded and cynical about all of Hollywood, full of overpaid actors with too-fragile egos, studios churning out quantity over quality, making movies to win awards, award season, etc. Thankfully there are ways to drown out that noise with little reminders of why movies and a lot of the people who make them are awesome. Case in point, Oscar-nominated director Jason Reitman’s innovative and wholly entertaining project Live Read, which brings together a group of known and working actors to read live a script from a beloved or classic film in front of an audience.
Thursday night’s performance was a read of the 1984 classic “Ghostbusters,” directed by Reitman’s father Ivan and the featured players were: Seth Rogen as Peter Venkman, the role originated by Bill Muray; Jack Black as Ray Stantz, originally played by co-writer /actor Dan Aykroyd; Rainn Wilson as Egon Spengler, originated by co-writer/actor Harold Ramis; Phill Lamarr (“Pulp Fiction”) as Winston Zeddmore; Kristen Bell as Dana Barrett originated by Sigourney Weaver; Kevin Pollak as mayor of New York City and EPA operative Walter Peck; Mae Whitman (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) as Janine Melnitz, originated by Annie Potts and Paul Rust (“Inglourious Basterds”) as Louis Tully, originated by Rick Moranis.
Here are the top 10 things we loved most about this hilarious and special event:
-There are no rehearsals for live reads. Reitman prepares the scripts for the actors and hands them out accordingly. For “Ghostbusters,” he had to go back and look at a transcription from the film in order to add in all the famous one-liners that Murray improvised.
-Before getting started with the read, Reitman delighted the crowd with the news that his father was in the audience to watch. The younger Reitman promised his dad that he was going to “try and not eff up” or “ruin his inheritance.”
-Young Reitman was seven years-old when the movie came out, and on the following Halloween, when everyone dressed as Ghostbusters, he was the only kid who had a real Ghostbusters gun as part of his costume.
-Seth Rogen does an excellent Peter Venkman! He was not channeling Bill Murray, but put his own stamp on the quirky, unpredictable ladies man, including the delivery of classic Murray improvs like “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass” and “I feel so funky.”
-If you ask Jack Black what his favorite movies are, there is a strong chance “Ghostbusters” is among them. Black looked like a kid in a candy store throughout the reading. It was obvious that he was absolutely thrilled to be playing Ray and he nailed the part, especially during the scenes when Ray has to explain certain scientific terms to Venkman and gets all worked up about them or when he slides down the fireman’s pole for the first time. Black’s charisma and sometimes breathless exclamation was a perfect fit for that character.
-Speaking of perfect fits, Rainn Wilson’s take on Egon was superb in that he nailed Ramis’ very dry manner of speaking. But he also added a fine layer of the Rainn Wilson/Dwight Schrute brand of know-it-all-ness to lines like, “Don’t cross the streams” and “I feel like the floor of a taxi cab.”
-The original script had a dream sequence experienced in which Ray dreams he’s visited by a female ghost who unbuttons his pants and leaves him in a state of “pleasure overload,” which had the younger Reitman, who served as the narrator, stopping after that particular descriptor to acknowledge the awkwardness of reading that line in front of his father.
-“THERE IS NO DANA! THERE IS ONLY ZOOL!” continues to be this writer’s favorite line in the movie, along with that entire scene between possessed Dana and Venkman, and Kristen Bell’s dreamy, zoned-out and hyper sexualized-but-forceful delivery of the line only reemphasized that fact.
-Mae Whitman and Kevin Pollak can turn one word of dialogue into an entire stolen scene/moment. Both actors played several different roles during the read and received the most enthusiastic applause for their efforts. Whitman’s standout moment was in the delivery of Janine’s lengthy and rapid-fire questioning of Ghostbuster wannabe Winston’s paranormal beliefs, while Pollak killed it as the scary voice in Dana’s fridge who yelled “Zoooooool!!” and with his Casey Kasem and Larry King impressions.
-Original “Ghostbusters” helmer Ivan Reitman got the final shout-out of the night and received a standing ovation from the cast and audience.
The only downside of Reitman’s brilliant event is that it’s not yet available to wide audiences. The Live Read program is part of Film Independent at LACMA’s series and headquartered in Los Angeles and the small group of lucky attendees are prohibited from taking photos or recording the performances in any way, so you have to rely on detailed recaps from the west coast.