Reviving ‘Ghostbusters’ and keeping the original spirit

Melissa McCarthy (from left), Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones in a scene from “Ghostbusters,” opening nationwide on July 15.

LOS ANGELES — Forget everything you think you know about the new “Ghostbusters” movie.

For all the scrutiny, hand-wringing and vitriol, you’d think it was about a presidential campaign, not just a kindhearted comedy based on a 32-year-old idea that features four funny women instead of four funny men. But between the Sony hack, a course-shifting death and an elusive movie star, a few internet trolls were decidedly the least of anyone’s worries.

As producer Ivan Reitman puts it: “The movie is the only answer to the question, ‘Is the movie good, or not?’ ”

In the long and twisty development process, the big question internally was never about gender. It was about whether to reboot or pass the torch.

Reitman, who directed the original “Ghostbusters,” had been working on a third film, a pure sequel to “Ghostbusters II.” Bill Murray wasn’t enthusiastic about a sequel and demanded that his character be killed off after five minutes. And then Harold Ramis, co-star and co-writer of the original, died in February 2014.

“It just broke all of our hearts,” Reitman said. “There was no way to do that movie without him and with a reluctant Bill.”

Shortly after, “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig entered the picture, through then-Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal, with interest from comedy superstars Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. Feig brought on Katie Dippold, who wrote “The Heat,” to co-write the screenplay, and they were off.

Feig added up-and-coming “Saturday Night Live” cast members Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon to round out the four Ghostbusters.

“I knew very early that we were in very good shape when I saw the four of them together,” said Reitman.

Reitman had a simple rule: he didn’t want this film to be an insult to the first, a spoof, send up, or silly version.

And it’s not. The story is its own creation about the formation of the Ghostbusters, set in the present day where the 1984 Ghostbusters don’t exist and only a few eccentric scientists believe in the paranormal.

Ramis also gets a little tribute, which eagle-eyed viewers will surely spot. His family visited the set that day, which Wiig said was an emotional day, and his son, Daniel Ramis, has a bit role at a heavy metal show.