Ernie Hudson (And Winston) Kept Getting Screwed Over By The 'Ghostbusters' Franchise
When we think about the Ghostbusters character Winston Zeddemore, it’s hard not to immediately see Ernie Hudson’s face. It’s quite the achievement, given that Winston is the Ghostbuster with the least amount of screen time by far, but hey, at least we know that he doesn’t like jello.
See, Winston was originally going to have a much bigger part in the Busters of Ghosts squad and be a member from the very beginning. In an op-ed for Entertainment Weekly in 2014, Hudson wrote that the initial script for the first Ghostbusters movie was amazing and that Winston had an entire and elaborate backstory that explained how he was an Air Force major and a demolition guy -- a far more badass take on the character than just “guy who doesn’t like wobbly desserts.” Hudson was so excited about playing Winston that he signed on at half of what his pay rate at the time was because he truly believed that it would be a career-changing role.
However, that belief was trashed the night before filming began when Hudson received a new script and saw that Winston was changed significantly. Said Hudson: “The character was gone. Instead of coming in at the very beginning of the movie, like page 8, the character came in on page 68 after the Ghostbusters were established. His elaborate background was all gone, replaced by me walking in and saying, ‘If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.’ So that was pretty devastating.”
When Hudson got to the set the next day and begged director Ivan Reitman to rethink the changes made to Winston, Reitman said that it was a studio call because they wanted to give Bill Murray more screen time. That’s right: Instead of giving us a fourth member that had a full and complete character (that could blow stuff up, no less), they reduced Winston to some sort of everyman character that we hardly see in the movie anyway, so we could have more horny Venkman. How poorly some decisions age.
Making matters worse, Hudson’s face was kept off some of the original movie posters, and his character’s surname was laughably misspelled in the credits of the movie, just in case you weren’t totally sure how little anyone cared. Hudson has said that while he had no problem with his fellow cast members and that they, at least, were all-inclusive, he has bad memories of that time, explaining: “I always felt like the cousin who had come to visit and was trying to find a place at the table.” Or, in Winston’s words:
That was only Chapter 1 of how Ernie Hudson and his character got screwed by the Ghostbusters franchise. Following the success of the first film, Columbia Pictures Television and DIC Enterprises decided to do the spin-off animation, The Real Ghostbusters. They told Hudson that he pretty much had the part and didn’t need to audition ... but they still wanted him to come in and read the character. Which is, for all intents and purposes, an audition, but whatever. During the reading, the director at one point told Hudson that he didn’t sound like Winston “when Ernie Hudson did it in the movie,” which is such a bizarre and frankly insulting way of saying that something’s not working for you. That, or those people were really high at the time and didn’t know that it was actually Hudson with them in the room.
Following the “not-an-audition-but-also-most-definitely-an-audition” Hudson was told that the role was his (which he really wanted because the actor absolutely loves Winston), only to find out via the grapevine that they had cast someone else. It’s not the worst thing to cast a different actor for a part. It happens all the time. The way they did it, however, just leaves a bad taste in your mouth that no amount of jello could fix.
And, of course, Winston got squeezed out five years later in Ghostbusters II, again proving that Hollywood is just as slow as everyone else in getting things right. Luckily it seems like the new Ghostbusters: Afterlife might finally serve some justice for Winston, as Hudson says that director Jason Reitman made his character full and complete. Hey, if Ernie Hudson’s happy, we’re happy.
Zanandi is on Twitter and wrote a comic for Trailer Park Boys that you can order here.
Top Image: Columbia Pictures