There’s a much-repeated story about the making of Ghostbusters: that Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis originally wrote the character of Louis Tully – hapless neighbour to Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) – for John Candy, based on one of his characters from Canadian sketch show SCTV.
But Candy couldn’t get to grips with Tully. “He kept coming back and saying, ‘Maybe if I played him in German?’” recalled director Ivan Reitman. Instead, the role went to Candy’s fellow SCTV alumni Rick Moranis. “I think Candy’s an idiot,” Moranis told Reitman about passing on Louis Tully. “This is the greatest part.”
Moranis re-envisioned Tully as a bumbling account – a bundle of over-eager, thumb-twiddling nervous energy. He came up with his own dialogue for Tully, including an improvised party spiel, as Tully regales guests with money saving tips on pharmaceuticals and Nova Scotia salmon. The entire shindig, we learn, is a tax write-off. “That why I invited clients instead of friends,” says Tully.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程That Rick Moranis could make himself the comedy foil to a trio of comedy titans at their absolute peak – Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis – is an insight into what made Moranis such an endearing, lovable performer.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程Looking back at that generation of comic stars who graduated from Saturday Night Live and SCTV, and stormed Hollywood in the Eighties, Moranis felt like the nerdy sidekick of the gang. But by the end of the Eighties, his immense comic talent had made him a star in his own right.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程One interviewer declared “the summer of ‘89 belongs to Rick Moranis,” with roles in Ghostbusters II, Parenthood, and his own blockbuster hit, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – not to mention his second comedy album, You, Me, the Music and Me. “And my fragrance,” joked Moranis.
But less than a decade later, Rick Moranis had all-but disappeared from Hollywood, making a dignified to retreat from celebrity to become a stay-at-home dad after his wife died of cancer. Now, the 66-year-old is set to return to the screen for a Disney+2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程 reboot of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – simply called Shrunk – rekindling the nostalgia and all-round love for Moranis. As he said himself back in 1984: “Everybody loves a nerd.” (The original films are also part of the Disney+ launch line-up.)
Born in 1953, Moranis grew up in a Jewish suburb of Toronto. He got his first taste of the entertainment business in radio, working as an operator – his job was to physically change the records. But he would feed lines to DJs and and impressed station bosses enough to land his own all-night show, aged just 19.
Moranis briefly tried stand-up, armed with his guitar and material that he’s since described as “non-sequiturs, a lot of unrelated little bits.” He even travelled to Los Angeles to try his stand-up act; the stint came to an abrupt end when he naively asked Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore for bus fare.
Moranis recalls his stand-up being compared to Steve Martin, who was then still a banjo-plucking force of nature. “Well, he was much better than I was, needless to say!” said Moranis, speaking to Jesse Thorn on the Bullseye radio show. But the comparison was apt: Moranis and Martin would prove to be excellent fodder, playing opposite each other in multiple movies.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程Among them were Ron Howard’s family ensemble Parenthood, killer plant musical Little Shop of Horrors, and middling-but-watchable My Blue Heaven, a comic spin on Goodfellas’ Henry Hill, with Moranis as an unlikely FBI agent and Martin as an even unlikelier mobster in witness protection.
Moranis appeared in TV pilots, late night chat shown skits, and radio specials before joining SCTV (Second City Television) in 1980. The show was an offshoot of the Toronto chapter of The Second City, itself an offshoot of the original – and legendary – Chicago-based improv troupe. Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, and Amy Phoehler were all members.
SCTV is generally remembered as Canada’s more low-key, mild-mannered counterpart to the more famous Saturday Night Live. But looking back, SCTV’s ideas were sharper and more subversive than the raw bluster and bravado of SNL from that same era. SCTV graduates included John Candy, Harold Ramis, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, and Martin Short.
Beginning in 1976, the show’s conceit was ahead of its time: SCTV was purportedly a TV station for the fictional town of Melonville, with sketches playing out like clips of various programming: news broadcasts, commercials, game shows, musical interludes, cookery shows, sitcoms, movies, and more.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程SCTV was in a state of flux when Moranis joined for its third season. Original cast members Candy, Ramis, and O’Hara had departed, and others dropped down to part time. But the show was revitalised by the breakout success – in fact, pop culture phenomenon – of Moranis and Dave Thomas’s characters Bob and Doug McKenzie, two stereotypical Canadians who hosted a segment called Great White North.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程Bob and Doug were created in reaction to CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) requiring an extra two minutes filled with “Canadian content”, as per Canadian Content Regulations – a government mandate that requires a percentage of all TV and radio content be Canadian-made and focused.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程“I was appalled by this,” said Moranis, speaking on Bullseye. “It didn’t matter what we did. We were Canadian, we were in Canada, everything we were doing was therefore Canadian. And I said, ‘That’s crazy, what do you want us to do? Sit in front of a map of Canada, put on tuques and parkas and snow boots and fry back bacon and drink beer and [putting an exaggerated Canadian accent] talk like this, ay?’ And [CBC] said, ‘Sure, sure do that.’ So we did!”
Bob and Doug were a huge hit in both Canada and the US. They released a comedy album in 1981, The Great White North – number one in Canada for eight weeks – and starred in their own film, Strange Brew in 1983, written and directed by Moranis and Thomas. The success of the characters was a factor in SCTV being picked up by NBC in the States and luring big-name cast members back to the show.
Moranis also played Larry Siegel, a fast-talking, bolshie spoof of movie producer Joel Silver, which became an industry in-joke. His most interesting work on SCTV was a character called Gerry Todd, the world’s first VJ. Inspired by his own experiences in radio and seeing early music videos – including Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime (“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is the future of music,’" he said in 2004) – Moranis conceived Gerry Todd sketches as an on-screen radio show, with jingles, ads, phone-ins, and parody music videos. “Catherine O'Hara always gave me credit for inventing MTV,” he told Sound and Vision in 2004.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程Even now, Gerry Todd feels wonderfully off-kilter (check out a spoof music video of Moranis crooning Turning Japanese – it's still way out there), like a precursor to the surrealist sketches of Mr Show and Tim and Eric. The influence and cult fandom of SCTV continues – Martin Scorsese has directed a cast reunion special, including Moranis, which debuts on Netflix later this year.
Moranis's next movie appearance was in Walter Hill’s 1984 “rock ‘n’ roll” fable Streets of Fire, playing the dorky agent and boyfriend to Diane Lane’s singer Ellen Aim. Then, like the John Candy-Ghostbusters situation, Moranis was meant to play the janitor in John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club, but lost out because of a dodgy Euro accent. (Candy would actually say he didn’t do Ghostbusters because of money, not wanting to play it German.)
Moranis couldn’t get hold of John Hughes before shooting and took it upon himself to play the role as a comedy Russian, with a large beard and gold caps on his teeth. As detailed in Kirk Honeycutt’s John Hughes book, A Life in Film, the performance was too cartoonish for the earnestness of The Breakfast Club. According to co-producer Michelle Manning, John Hughes was “horrified” by what Moranis was doing. “But it’s Rick Moranis – he idolised Rick Moranis,” Manning recalled. Hughes himself said: “Well I can’t fire Rick Moranis.” But Hughes bowed to pressure from producer Ned Tannen.
According to Nick de Semlyen’s book Wild and Crazy Guys, the situation was less than amicable. “You know, John, there’s a wonderful thing in show business called casting,” Moranis said. “And I suggest you do some casting for this part. Because I’ve been trying to get you on the phone and I don’t know what you want here. So why don’t you find somebody else to do this?”
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程Arguably, Moranis is still best remembered for his next big role: Louis Tully in Ghostbusters. Moranis’s nerdy shtick as Tully is joyous – locking himself out of his apartment, the single-take monologue at his tax-deductible party, and his slapstick chase by a demonic Terror Dog through Central Park – but it’s a dual performance.
Once he's caught and possessed by the beast, Tully becomes the “Keymaster”, a childlike demi-god bewildered by the experience of Manhattan – massaging his face with pizza, a colander stuck on his head, and answering to the wrong part of the phone. Moranis runs the full gamut of the SNL era-style comedy, from smartly-nuanced character work to wild-eyed mania.
Moranis had bit parts in other movies – some memorable (Brewster’s Millions), some not so memorable (The Wild Life, Club Paradise). He even managed to turn Darth Vader into a nerd in Mel Brooks’ Star Wars spoof Spaceballs, playing Vader parody Dark Helmet.
For proof of just how lovable he was in this era, see his first lead role in Little Shop of Horrors. The character, perennial loser Seymour Krelborn, is never anything less than the heart and soul – even when he turns to murder, hacking up Steve Martin’s sadistic dentist to feed the Audrey II, his man-eating plant (the biggest model of which required, unbelievably, 55 puppeteers).
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程Behind the scenes Moranis was just as impressive. As recalled in Wild and Crazy Guys, Moranis took control of production when director Frank Oz rushed off for the birth of his child; and for the big musical number Feed Me Seymour, which was filmed at 16 frames per second to match the speed that puppeteers could move the plant's lips, Moranis had to perform and lip-synch at two thirds of the normal speed. The footage was sped up to match the music in post-production – Moranis’s performance is seamless. “One of the greatest moments of my life was shooting that thing,” Moranis told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程Moranis returned as Louis Tully for 1989’s Ghostbusters II in a beefed-up role. Yet he was alarmed by the level of mania surround, with his face plastered across merchandise, and thought the sequel was a “disappointment”, as he told Empire in 2013. But Ghostbusters II has some of Tully’s best moments.
Parenthood was released the same year; it's a film that still manages to surprise with its heart-pinching pathos. Playing opposite Steve Martin as a smug brain-box brother-in-law Nathan, it’s perhaps Moranis’s coldest role – until he has to win back in wife's affections by singing The Carpenters’ Close to You in front a classroom of her pupils (“Nathan, we’re trying so hard to keep these kids off drugs,” she protests).
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程Honey, I Shrunk the Kids would be Moranis’s big blockbuster success – a not-so-small $222.7 million at the box office – with him playing a haphazard scientist who shrinks his kids with a malfunctioning ray gun. It’s still charming family fun, all oversized Cheerios, stop motion bugs, and a goggle-eyed Moranis searching the garden with his head-mounted magnifying glass.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程By 1989, Moranis’s success led to him being offered directing jobs on studio comedies. But already, Moranis had his priorities on order. “I’ve said no to them primarily because I want to spend time with my family,” he said in 1989. Moranis was also reflective about how things had changed. “I don’t think I could do SCTV today,” he said in the same interview. “I couldn’t maintain a family life. I don’t know how those people did it. Because we were working 18 hours a day. I was spending more time with Dave Thomas than Pam was [Thomas’s producer wife, Pam Thomas]. He’d work with me from six in the morning til midnight and then he’d go home and sleep with her.”
Two years later, in February 1991, Moranis’s wife, Ann Belsky, died of cancer. Choosing to focus on raising his two children, Moranis's film appearances became less frequent and less memorable. Even before his wife passed away, Moranis had become disillusioned with the shift from comedy actor to bona fide movie star.
“There were two phases of it,” he told Nick de Semlyen about his career. “The phase where I was being hired to be a comedian, to make things as funny as I could with the other comedians on the set. You felt nothing other than the fun of making the comedy. When I crossed that line and became a commodity, when the executives swarmed in, it became a different kind of animal that wasn’t enjoyable to me.”
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程He starred in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid in 1992, the dreary live action Flintstones in 1994 – playing Barney Rubble to John Goodman's Fred – and a handful of others, before disappearing after the 1997 direct-to-video three-quel Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程He did the occasional project: the Brother Bear animated films, commercial voiceovers, and a Bob and Doug McKenzie reunion special in 2007 (Bob and Doug were also resurrected for a cartoon series in 2009, but Moranis didn’t provide a voice). He made two more comedy albums, including My Mother's Brisket & Other Love Songs in 2013.
Speaking in recent years, Moranis has insisted he was never retired. "I took a break, which turned into a longer break,” he said in 2015. “But I'm interested in anything that I would find interesting. I still get the occasional query about a film or television role. and as soon as one comes along that piques my interest, I'll probably do it.”
Moranis turned down a cameo in the female-led Ghostbusters. "I wish them well," he told THR. "I hope it's terrific. But it just makes no sense to me. Why would I do just one day of shooting on something I did 30 years ago?" But now he's set to return to Shrunk, whose leaked plot seems strikingly similar to Moranis's own life: his inventor character has retreated from the world, after failing to heal his wife's tumour.
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程For the outside, Moranis's retreat to family life was an admirable move. But he's pragmatic about his decision. He told Jesse Thorn that any admiration "had less to do with the fact I was doing what I was doing, and more to do with what they thought I was walking away from – as if what I walking away from had far greater value than anything else one might."
He said: "The decision in my case to become a stay-at-home dad – which people do all the time – I guess wouldn’t have meant as much to people if I’d had a very simple kind of make-a living-existence […] because I came from celebrity and fame and what was the peak of a career that was intriguing to people. To me it wasn’t that – it wasn’t anything to do with that.”
2020欧洲杯小组赛赛程As he's also said, it was more about putting his creativity into family life. "I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever," he told THR. "My life is wonderful."