Harold Ramis in October 2009.
|Born||Harold Allen Ramis
November 21, 1944
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Died||February 24, 2014
Glencoe, Illinois, United States
|Cause of death||Complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis|
|Alma mater||Washington University in St. Louis|
|Occupation||Actor, director, writer, comedian|
|Home town||Chicago, Illinois|
|Spouse(s)||Anne Plotkin (m. 1967; div. 1984)
Erica Mann (m. 1989; his death 2014)
The best description of the Old Testament that I heard was that it starts out as mythology, then it becomes legend, then it becomes history. In the mythological period – there is a distinct mythological period in the Old Testament, where the time spans are impossible and really just imagined.
I used to be married to a woman who pursued every spiritual trend with tremendous passion and dragged me along. I don't believe in anything. I'd seen mediums and readers.
A psychologist said to me, there are only two important questions you have to ask yourself. What do you really feel? And, what do you really want? If you can answer those two, you probably can leave your neuroses behind you.
Comedy and tragedy co-exist. You can't have one without the other. I'm of the school that anything can be funny if seen from a comedic point of view.
As a director on 'The Office,' there's a tremendous weight that comes with directing features. I was being asked to direct a show that had already won an Emmy for Best Comedy. Steve Carell and the cast had already won the Screen Actor's Guild Awards.
We were tremendously encouraged by the testing of Analyze That. Audiences loved it. They were telling us that they liked it as much as the original. We recorded the laughs in the theater.
Ernie Hudson was new to the comedy world, and being the fourth Ghostbuster, he would have ideas, and he would talk to Ivan Reitman, and Ivan would kind of put him off. I could see how disappointed he was.
As much as we'd like to believe that our work is great and that we're infallible, we're not. Hollywood movies are made for the audience. These are not small European art films we're making.
How one handles success or failure is determined by their early childhood.
I never work just to work. It's some combination of laziness and self-respect.
Multiplicity was a movie that tested really well. People seeing the movie really liked it, but then the studio couldn't market it. We opened on a weekend with nine other films.
With both Caddyshack and Vacation, it's not like the subjects were serious enough that they engaged my interest for another round. I love the characters, and the actors were great, but I didn't see the need to make another Vacation movie.
I had this 'War and Peace' thing of wanting to experience war as a kind of incredible human enterprise. I even applied to Officer Candidate School. Then the practical side of me kicked in and I thought, 'I really don't want to get drafted.' So I went down to the physical and checked every psychological disorder and drug on the medical history form.
'Analyze This' is a good movie because Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal are really good. But without the material to put on the play, of course, they couldn't be good. For me, it starts with the writing. I always think that the writer is doing the vast majority of the director's work, in a sense.
If life only has the meaning you bring to it, we have the opportunity to bring rich meaning to our lives by the service we do for others.
We all wish we could be in more than one place at the same time. People with families feel guilty all the time-if we spend too much time with our family, we feel we're not working hard enough.
There's a personal story of my own that I will write at some point, and it's a film that I will happily make. It could very well be the next thing I do, unless someone shows me something great.
My job is to come up with something that you like and you agree with that you would play wholeheartedly. If we disagree, I may not be doing my job correctly.
My characters aren't losers. They're rebels. They win by their refusal to play by everyone else's rules.
I believe things happen that can't be explained, but so many people seem intent on explaining them. Everyone has an answer for them. Either aliens or things from the spirit world.
I always point out to my Passover guests that the Hebrews were not living in isolation. They were at the crossroads of several great, elaborate cultures with their own mythology and religion and art and architecture and cultural belief. In fact, so many of the mythologies of the world describe the same events, just from different points of view.
Everybody has a Bill Murray story. He just punishes people for reasons they can't figure out.
Life doesn't care about your vision. Stuff happens, and you've just got to deal with it. You roll with it; that's the beauty of it all.
Films are big hits when they touch a lot of people. Things are not funny in a vacuum, they're funny because we respond to some personal dislocation, some embarrassment, some humiliation, some pain we've suffered, or some desire we have.
I never read Playboy before I started working there and stopped reading it the day I quit.
The simple idiot's advice I give to screenwriters who say they want to sell a screenplay is, 'Write good.'
It seems that, culturally, young people function more in groups. They know each other through digital media. All the young comedy people who work in TV are really used to working at the table with lots of writers around. They're comfortable in the group; they don't assert their own egos over everyone else.
That's one of the great things about DVD: In addition to reaching people who didn't catch the movie in theaters, you get to have this interaction of sorts.
I would happily have done any of the 'Bourne Identity' sequels. There are good sequels, but I'm not good at making them.
There's a critic that I love, Manohla Dargis of the 'L.A. Weekly.' I like the underground point of view; it's my old radical sympathies. Maybe I like her because she likes my movies.
The comic edge of 'Ghostbusters' will always be the same. It's still treating the supernatural with a totally mundane sensibility.
You just make sure you don't screw it up. It's going to work as long as you don't mess it up. Hopefully you have plenty of those moments in a big comedy.
I've been directing for 25 years almost, and I've only directed nine films in that time because I like to be careful.
I can't imagine a successful comedy movie without a successful comedy performance at the heart of it.
I really only worked for about a month on 'Meatballs.' What happened was that Ivan Reitman figured out that studios wanted to meet everybody involved with 'Animal House' except the producer. So he thought he'd better start directing.
My only conclusion about structure is that nothing works if you don't have interesting characters and a good story to tell.
Chicago still remains a Mecca of the Midwest – people from both coasts are kind of amazed how good life is in Chicago and what a good culture we've got. You can have a pretty wonderful artistic life and never leave Chicago.
Billy Crystal knows how to make people laugh. He's got 30 years on stage… there's no telling him what's funny.
No matter what I have to say, I'm still trying to say it in comedic form.
I would remake 'Club Paradise.' I thought the story was cool, the setting was great. Everything lined up, except I wrote it for Bill Murray and John Cleese.
We are all several different people. There are different aspects of our nature that are competing.
There was a moment when we were casting 'Groundhog Day' when Bill Murray was not at the top of my list. He'd been getting crankier and crankier. By the end of 'Ghostbusters II', he was pretty cranky. I thought, 'Do I want to put up with this for twelve weeks?'
I'm not a believer in the pratfall. I don't think it's funny just to have someone fall down.
It's like the old rule-if you introduce a gun into the first act of a play, it's going to be used in the third act. So if you do a movie about criminals, you have to accept there's going to be Some action.
I had a dream cast when Dan first went off and wrote 'Ghostbusters 3' by himself. It was so long ago that my dream cast was Ben Stiller, Chris Farley, and Chris Rock. That would have been cool. Now, a lot of time has passed, and there are a lot of young funny people.
Nothing reinforces a professional relationship more than enjoying success with someone.
You probably can't name more than a handful of comedies that would qualify for Best Picture. I can think of a lot of comedy screenplays; Woody Allen has had numerous nominations for his screenplays. But most comedies are calculated. They tend to pander. They're not about anything important.
My first few films were institutional comedies, and you're on pretty safe ground when you're dealing with an institution that vast numbers of people have experienced: college, summer camp, the military, the country club.
I feel a big obligation to the audience, almost in a moral sense, to say something useful. If I'm going to spend a year of my life on these things, I want something that I feel that strongly about.
Acting is all about big hair and funny props… All the great actors knew it. Olivier knew it, Brando knew it.
If Chevy Chase had not been an actor, he might have been a very popular guy in advertising, or whatever field he would have gone into, because of his charisma.
Whenever a critic mentions the salary of an actor, I'm thinking, He's not talking about the movie.
I was raised Jewish and fully embrace the core beliefs of Judaism – the ones that I identify as core beliefs, which are essentially freedom and justice. But the supernatural aspects of religion were never important to me.
You can't not have feelings about country clubs, whichever side you're on.
I'm at my best when I'm working with really talented people, and I'm there to gently suggest or guide or inspire or contribute whatever I can to their effort.
First and foremost, you have to make the movie for yourself. And that's not to say, to hell with everyone else, but what else have you got to go on but your own taste and judgment?
I always claim that the writer has done 90 percent of the director's work.
The movie 'Vacation' had a whole different ending. They never even got to the amusement park, Wallyworld, at the end of 'Vacation.' The last 20 minutes of the film was entirely different – and bombed so badly that the audience just stopped cold.
The first comedy screenplay that I wrote was Animal House and I always thought I could and should be a director but no one was about to give me that opportunity on Animal House.