There was a time when Bill Murray was widely considered to be the face or figurehead of the Ghostbusters franchise. But in recent years, that has changed, and not just because the actor had previously distanced himself from Ghostbusters, but largely because one of his fellow 'Busters has finally become more center-stage. But this wasn't always the case.
Ernie Hudson, who, like Murray, is of course best known for starring in the Ghostbusters films, having so far appeared in Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989), Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), and the two video games, Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009) and Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed (2022).
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But Hudson didn't always get the recognition he deserved. Even casual fans will recognize that the actor is oddly absent for the first half of the original 1984 film, and even from some scenes in the 1989 sequel. Diehard fans, on the other hand, will know that there's a backstory behind why the character of Winston Zeddemore was criminally side-lined.
While that's all ancient history, as both Hudson and his ghost-busting counterpart have since become the face of the franchise -- and deservedly so -- Hudson recently talked at great length about these experiences, and how he was not only excluded from large portions of those two first films, but also from a lot of the promotional material.
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Hudson recently appeared as a guest on The Howard Stern Wrap Up Show, and though as gracious as ever, he didn't mince his words on his past relationship with the franchise. Host Rashaan Rogers asked the actor if Ghostbusters was the biggest role of his career, however, Hudson's answer may surprise you.
"No, none of that," he replied. "They were doing Ghostbusters, and the movie was being made by a lot of people really successful; Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, you know. They had already made a number of movies, and I was the guy who was brought in. So finding my place in the middle of that, and they were all welcoming and inclusive, the studio wasn't, and the studio continued not to be. So, it made it very, very difficult because I was a part of, but then, very selectively, I was sort of pushed aside."
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Hudson went on, adding that he was excluded from much of the marketing, saying, "You know, when the posters came out, I was not on the poster. I went to the 30th-anniversary release of the movie, and I was invited to a theater in Chicago to introduce the movie, and I get there, and all the posters are three guys."
Hudson isn't wrong -- there are, in fact, several Ghostbusters posters that don't feature Winston Zeddemore, which many fans understandably consider blasphemous.
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It is well-documented that the actor was brought in at last minute following major script rewrites. Originally, the studio wanted actor Eddie Murphy as the lead role, whose refusal of the offer led to Hudson being brought into the film at a much later point than originally planned, and ultimately side-lined as a secondary character.
With that said, Winston Zeddemore is in no way perceived as a secondary character by fans and audiences, and is considered to be an equal to his fellow Ghostbusters Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis). Despite not having as much screentime as his peers, Hudson brings just as much to the table.
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Fortunately, Hudson ended up reprising his role as Winston in Ghostbusters: The Video Game alongside Aykroyd, Murray, and Ramis, and more recently, in the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and video game Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed. Now, he's set to return in the sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which is out later this year.
"When you start out in the business, I was always told it's almost impossible to succeed," Hudson continued in his interview on The Howard Stern Show. "But if you get in a major movie from a major studio and it comes out, and it opens up number one, it'll change your career. Well, Ghostbusters didn't do any of that for me. I was working pretty non-stop, I did Ghostbusters, then it was two and a half years before I got another movie."
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Hudson also explained why the original Ghostbusters was the hardest film he's ever had to do, but that he has since managed to "make peace" with it. Here's what he said:
"Ghostbusters, I would say, is probably the most difficult movie I ever did, just from the psychological perspective. I got nothing bad to say about anybody, but it was hard, and it was hard for a long time, it probably took me ten, twenty, well, ten years anyways, to finally get past that and just embrace the movie and enjoy the movie. It was very hard. Ghostbusters was very hard to make peace with."
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Now, Hudson is set to reprise his role in the upcoming sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which releases in theaters this December. It remains to be seen just how big his role is in the film, though. While you could make the case that his character does have a prominent role in the 2021 sequel, he's still lacking the screentime he deserves.
Recently, however, Hudson did reprise his role as Winston Zeddemore in the video game Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed, in which he's now the head of the Ghostbusters in New York, as so teased at the end of Afterlife. If that's an indication as to where things are going for his character, then we have nothing to worry about. As the old saying goes, "Better late than never!"
“It took a long time for the studio, and even now, we’re negotiating a new movie that’s gearing up to start shooting in March", Hudson said of his involvement with the upcoming sequel", "and I’m like, “Guys, you know, there’s a place that I, I’m not an add-on,” so, if I’m going to do it, it has to make sense.”
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As per the Ghostbusters/Sony Pictures website, here's the synopsis for Ghostbusters: Afterlife:
From director Jason Reitman and producer Ivan Reitman, comes the next chapter in the original Ghostbusters universe. In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, when a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind. The film is written by Jason Reitman & Gil Kenan.
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Ghostbusters: Afterlife stars McKenna Grace (Phoebe), Logan Kim (Podcast), Celeste O'Connor (Lucky), Finn Wolfhard (Trevor), Carrie Coon (Callie), Annie Potts (Janine Melnitz), Sigourney Weaver (Dana Barrett), Paul Rudd (Gary Grooberson), Olivia Wilde (Gozer the Gozerian), JK Simmons (Ivo Shandor), Bill Murray (Dr. Peter Venkman), Dan Aykroyd (Dr. Ray Stantz), and Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore).
Ghostbusters 4 will be released on December 20, 2023.