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(Credit: YouTube / Columbia)

Film

How the 'Ghostbusters' SFX team created the iconic ghost 'Slimer'

While he might look a little clumsy by today’s standards, there are few ghosts as memorable nor as iconic as Slimer from the original 1987 Ghostbusters movie. The first ghoul to be caught by the fledgling ghost-hunting trio, the creation of this green ball of iridescent goo won the Ghostbuster’s special effects crew an Acadamy Award nomination, which is no small feat considering Slimer is literally a puppet on a stick.

What’s more incredible is that Slimer was created at the very last minute. As the puppet’s creator, Steven Johnson recalled during a 2018 interview, writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis asked him to scrap the model he’d spent six months working on and recreate it to look like the recently deceased John Belushi, who had originally been cast as Peter Venkman but had died before filming began: “I didn’t know until the last f–king day, Johnson began. “I’d been working for six months sculpting hundreds of Slimer variations, and they finally said ‘make him look more like Belushi’ and I said what the fuck are you talking about? … So I pulled out a stack of headshots of John Belushi, poured a gram of cocaine on it and started chopping lines up”.

After consuming three grams of cocaine, Johnson entered a state of what he later described as a “cocaine-induced delusional paranoia,” at which time he “literally thought that John Belushi’s ghost came to me to help me out”. According to Johnson, the ghost of Belushi convinced him to continue his work, while pointing out that he might want to lay off the white stuff.

The finished product, as you can see in the video below, was a charmingly simple piece of puppetry, controlled by a puppeteer inside a black suit of one-inch thick foam latex. Slimer’s facial expressions, meanwhile, were controlled by off-camera puppeteers via a system of pressure cables, which meant that he had to be photographed from a fixed position. To create the illusion of movement, the camera was pushed towards the puppet on dolly tracks, which tricked the viewer into thinking that Slimer was flying towards the camera. What do you think, has CGI taken some of the charm out of special effects?