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Q&A with 'Ghostbusters' director Paul Feig: 'I always feel like I'm a Michigander'

Posted: 11:46 PM, Jul 14, 2016
Updated: 2016-07-15 00:19:23-04

The highly anticipated new Ghostbusters movie hits theaters this weekend, and the man behind it is Michigan native Paul Feig. The Bridesmaids director created and executed the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters team in the reboot.

Feig grew up in metro Detroit, attending Chippewa Valley High School. He recently called to talk with WXYZ about the movie, his love for everything Michigan, and the influence his childhood neighbors had on his comfort in working with women on screen.

WXYZ DETROIT: This movie, the people who are attached to it, and the excitement that is built around it: Is 'Ghostbusters' a movie you can't talk enough about?
PAUL FEIG: Yeah, you know what it is? I feel like there's been so much talk about it and around it, that I'm just at the point now, where I just want people to see it. It's so funny, it's like having a critical conversation about a song before anybody's listened to it. Debating whether the song is good or not, but 'You gotta hear the song first before we can talk about whether it's good or not. So, I can't believe the movie will finally be out. As a film maker, that's all you really work towards. You don't work towards trailers. You don't really work towards articles or interviews. You work towards that thing that is the reason I got into the business, which is an audience sitting in a dark room for two hours and hopefully they're very entertained by your movie.

Oh, so it's *not* to have people pick apart a trailer? That's so crazy!
[Laughs] Weirdly, no! You would think that's my favorite part of the process.

You based 'Freaks and Geeks' on Chippewa Valley, and now you have 'Ghostbusters.' I talked with my Aunt Tina, who grew up next door to you. She said because you grew up with a group of six sisters, they're taking credit for a new, all-female 'Ghostbusters' movie.
She really should! I mean, honestly, that was such a formative part of my life, growing up next to the Sampsons. When you say six girls who were pretty much my close friends, I was an only child and close with my mom, and then had all these fantastic girls that lived next door...all we did was hang out every day, all day. We did all kinds of creative things: haunted houses, we opened a dance studio in our garage. Some guys kind of grow up so separated from girls, or it's just their sisters who they fight with or don't hang out with, so they get a different take on women. (For me) it was just like, 'These are my friends, they're so much fun.' That was really how I grew up.

I got a tip from a little birdie, that actually happened to be your wife, that there may or may not be a cool Michigan reference in the movie. Is that true?
Oh! Yeah, there is. There is a joke at the end that Kate McKinnon says that hopefully the people in Michigan will appreciate.

What can you say about your memories (in Michigan) and how it shaped what you've done with your career?
Well, I love Michigan so much. I loved growing up in the Detroit area. It formed every part of my personality, every part of my sense of humor. I love the Michigan, Midwestern sense of humor. You have a very specific thing we find funny. I think people are so honest, so we demand honesty from the entertainment we watch and the characters we watch, and we don't like things that are kind of big and crazy if it's not grounded in some kind of reality. We like three-dimensional humans, and we're very analytical of people and very cautious of people. So that forms this really great take on the world, a very smart take on the world, a very open take on the world, but also one that demands a level of honesty that I think is important for humans.

Any plans to come back here and film, and work on anything (despite the film/TV tax incentives ending)?
I'd love to shoot back there. I mean, like you said, it's a bummer that they lost the tax incentive because sadly, in Hollywood, all we try to do is try to save money because everything is so expensive. But nothing would make me happier than shooting something back there. I mean, to return back to my home...I just love the Detroit area. You know, I've lived out in LA more than half of my life now, but I don't feel like it.

Really!?
Oh yeah! I always feel like I'm a Michigander. Even if you see where I live in LA, it's very Midwestern-looking. I kind of gravitate towards a much more suburban-looking, green with trees look to keep that feel. When you're out in LA, you're essentially out in the dessert because you're out west. It's not the same when you go back to Michigan, when you see all the trees, and the red brick. These weird things that you grow up with, that mentally get inside your head, that become your comfort zone. Whether you know it or not, your soul just kind of relaxes the moment you get back in it when you've been away from it.

That relaxation hits on summer nights for people. As a Tigers fan, it's probably tough to keep track of the team, but do you keep your Detroit sports fanhood loud out in LA?
I try. I mean, I'm not the biggest follower of sports. I was always a Tigers fan, even got to see Mark "The Bird" Fidrych pitch when I was a kid. I try to keep up as much as I can just because that's the only team I root for. 

Doing the math, you had to be around 22 years old when the original 'Ghostbusters' came out. I'm sure like anybody that got to see that for the first time, you were enamored with the stars. What was it like putting those stars back on set with your Ghostbusters in this movie?
It was unbelievable. Those are my absolute comedy heroes. I saw it opening night back in '84 when I was still in USC film school at the time. Being a fantatic and lover of Bill (Murray), of Dan (Aykroyd), Harold (Ramis), seeing how amazing and big it was; then flash forward all this time, and suddenly I have them on my set, and they're helping out, and they're so cool. I remember I had a very distinct dream when I was a teenager that I was best friends with Dan Aykroyd. I remember waking up, going like, 'Damn it, it was a dream!' I thought for sure I was really close with Dan Aykroyd, but now I know him, and he's nice, and he's helped out. You do pinch yourself. Being a kid from Michigan, you watch movies, and go, 'That must be on another planet,' but I have been able, over the course of my career, to get to work with these people, and my heroes. You really gotta pinch yourself. 

The working relationship you've built up with Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig -- to work with two megastars and comedian powerhouses -- has that been a 'pinch yourself' moment, the fact that 'he's my go-to director,' and 'she's my go-to star'?
It's really cool, because when we did Bridesmaids, (Melissa) had been on TV shows, but hadn't really done any kind of big role in a movie, and I been sort of drummed out of the movie business because my first two movies had not done well. So we both kind of went into it like, 'We're kind of newcomers and there's nothing at stake.' Then suddenly, the movie goes and does hugely well, Melissa's getting nominated for an Oscar, and then suddenly we're going to make more movies. Everybody in Hollywood, the only goal is to make the projects you want to make and suddenly I'm at a point where -- it's not 100% where I can get anything made -- but, I have a better shot at getting things made than a lot of people. I do not take that lightly, because the pressure with that is making sure you uphold the level of quality so that they let you keep making it. It keeps you on your toes.

Brad Galli is an anchor and reporter at WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli