What the Hell Happened to Rick Moranis?

rick moranis

The last few celebrities I have spotlighted all had pretty dramatic stories which resulted in the end of their A-list status.  But today’s story doesn’t include the usual celebrity excesses.  This is the story of a guy who basically walked away from it all and never looked back.

Rick Moranis first rose to prominence on SCTV alongside John Candy, Eugene Levy and Martin Short.  Moranis was best known for playing Doug McKenzie in the Great White North sketches which would later serve as the source material for the film Strange Brew.

moranis - strange brew

Strange Brew tells the story of the McKenzie brothers played by Moranis and Dave Thomas (no relation to the founder of Wendy’s).  The McKenzie’s are idiots in the Wayne and Garth and/or Bill and Ted tradition.  Only Canadian.

When I was a kid, Strange Brew ran on cable roughly every 6 hours.  As a result, my friends and I were constantly ending sentences with “eh” and calling each other “hosers”.

Strange Brew was a modest hit in 1983.  And has since developed a cult following.

moranis - wild life

1984 was a big year for Moranis.  First he appeared in a movie I had completely forgotten about.  The Wild Life was a Fast Times at Ridgemont High knock-off from the makers of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

I have never seen this movie, but I am going to have to hunt it down.  It was actually written by Fast Times writer (and future auteur) Cameron Crowe.  In a desperate bid to confuse fans of Fast Times, they actually cast Sean Penn’s brother, Chris Penn, in the lead role!

The movie actually has an impressive ensemble.  In addition to Moranis and Penn, there’s Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson, and a pre-Twin Peaks Sherilyn Fenn!  Damn it, Netflix!  Why isn’t this movie available?  (Probably because it was dismissed as a Fast Times knock off and instantly forgotten.)

Moranis - Ghostbusters

In 1984, Moranis also appeared in a little film called Ghostbusters.  In a small role as an accountant who has an unrequited crush on his neighbor and is turned into a dog, Moranis just about steals the show from comedy heavyweights, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.

Ghostbusters was originally written with a completely different cast in mind.  Dan Aykroyd wrote his original draft as a vehicle for himself and his buddy, John Belushi.  He also wrote roles with Eddie Murphy and John Candy in mind.  The original concept was heavy on fantastical elements with the Ghostbusters traveling through time and space to fight huge ghosts.  For budgetary reasons, the script was reworked by Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.

But additional changes were needed.  Belushi died of a drug overdose and Murphy and Candy were unavailable.  So Bill Murray stepped in for Belushi, Ernie Hudson took the part written for Murphy and Moranis replaced Candy.  Originally, Louis Tully was conceived as a stuffy business man.   But the character was reenvisioned as a nerd for Moranis.

Ghostbusters was a smash hit and established Moranis as the go-to guy in Hollywood for loveable nerds.  A sequel, cartoon series, comics, video games and toys followed.

Moranis - Streets of Fire

Rounding out 1984, the busy Moranis also appeared in Streets of FireStreets of Fire starred Michael Pare.  Who’s Michael Pare?  He’s the guy who would have been a star if Streets of Fire had been a hit.

Streets of Fire was a billed as a “rock and roll fable” and was intended to launch a trilogy.  But instead it bombed and the sequels never got made.

moranis - brewster's millions

Continuing his string of scene-stealing cameos, Moranis appeared in Brewster’s Millions as the self-proclaimed King of the Mimics, Morty King.  The joke was that he walked around repeating everything Richard Pryor said without making any effort at all to sound like Richard Pryor.

Next: Little Shop of Horrors and Honey I Shrunk the Kid

Posted on June 21, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. Rick Moranis is the only subject in this series who made their own decision to leave it all behind, and for the right reason too – his children. Bravo!

    New subject: Ray Liotta

    I just saw Street Kings 2 (brand new direct-to-dvd release), and while the movie was highly flawed, LIOTTA STILL FREAKING HAS IT! Why is he not making big films anymore?!! Dig deep LeBeau, I need answers.

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    • By all accounts, Moranis seems like a great guy. I read some accounts from regular folks who bumped into him. One guy had pictures of him at a hockey game and said Moranis insisted on giving him a jersey.

      Liotta is someone I’ve been considering. The two reasons I haven’t featured him yet are that 1. He was never really A-list. 2. He’s still around. He’s not quite as high profile as he was immediately following Goodfellas. But he’s still working a lot. He hasn’t had a dramatic fall-off from his career peek. But he’d probably be an excellent candidate for the new “Fetch” feature. He’s one that really straddles the line between the two.

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  2. Agree with everything you’ve said, BUT when you covered Alicia Silverstone you opened up Pandora’s Box ; )

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    • She was definitely bordeline. I figure she was A-list from Clueless to Batman and Robin. Maybe Excess Baggage. That’s 95-97. It’s a short run. On the upside, that makes for a short article :)

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  3. I was just thinking “where has Rick Moranis been?” today, funny that you covered his story so recently.

    It was very informative; I knew about most of his movies but I’d never really sat down and looked at them in order. He was a great “nerdy good guy.” I’m a 80′s/90′s kid so I think Louis Tully from Ghostbusters is my favorite of his roles.

    Interesting to see he left it all behind for the sake of his children, that was very cool of him.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed our look at Moranis. From every account I’ve come across, he’s one of the good guys. Recently, Dan Aykroyd has vowed to bring him out of retirement for Ghostbusters 3, but personally I don’t see that happening.

      When I started writing about missing celebs, I knew Moranis was someone I wanted to cover. He was a pretty big star for a while there. And then he just disappeared. I was sad to hear that there was a tragedy involved. But it sounds like he made the right choice for his family in the long run.

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  4. Love your run-downs. A perfect choice for your blog would be Steven Seagal or Wesley Snipes, who looked like he was going to be the next Denzel before “One Night Stand” (still a lark) and “Blade: Trinity”. Not to mention his going into the hoosegow.

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    • Thanks for the kind word. I have considered both Snipes and Seagal and I am sure I will get to them both eventually. In fact, Snipes is one of the front-runners for my next write-up. I’d have written him up sooner except everyone essentially knows what happened to him. There’s a few old stories I want to track down first. As for Seagal, I’ve actually never been a fan. I have only seen a couple of his movies. But I’m sure I’ll get around to him.

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  5. i miss snipes and seagal too. i miss their theatrical films than this straight to video bullshit. kurt russell you should mention as well like i said.

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  6. I’m a pop culture nut–what stories are you looking for specifically?

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    • That would be telling!

      There are a few stories I remember hearing about Snipes being hard to work with. I’m looking for his on-set behavior. The one story I have in mind involves the sex scene from Money Train. Unfortunately, the story has been told a few different ways. So it’s hard to really say how legit it is.

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  7. There’s a little more to explaining Rick Moranis’ career status than giving him a complete pass with the face-saving excuse that he wanted to spend time with his kids. Let’s face it, the career trajectory on his most recent films was pretty clearly heading downward. I’ve seen an interview saying he was disappointed with the type of roles he was being offered. He said he liked his earlier roles where he had more freedom to ad lib, and didn’t enjoy working on the “Honey” movies so much because he was just there to read lines off a script.

    To me Rick Moranis’ career path seems extremely similar to that of Christopher Lloyd’s, who would make a great subject for one of these articles if he hasn’t been done already. I think Lloyd and Moranis are in the position they’re in for very similar and unfortunate reasons. They’re both probably capable of doing more than Hollywood wants them to do, but they got typecast as these very over-the-top, cartoonish characters. But it’s death for comedy when you’re called upon to do the same thing over and over again. So once they got typecast as a particular comedic type, their days were numbered. I’m not saying they could have made a leap to dramatic roles like Tom Hanks, but they probably could have found different types of comedic roles to stretch their boundaries if they had been luckier. Lloyd, of course, probably has the greater range at his disposal.

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    • Really excellent points. I think you are spot-on in your Llyod/Moranis comparisson. I was recently unfortunate enough to sit through Piranah 3DD. Poor Christopher Lloyd. In the 80s, he had so much potential.

      Early on in his career, Moranis could do all sorts of roles. He was a sketch comedian. The McKenzie brothers were a long way from Louis Tully. But after a few high-profile roles in which he was a goofy nerd, he became typecast as the guy you get when you need someone to wear glasses.

      You are absolutely right that Moranis’ career was in a downward spiral before he left. But I do think the decision to walk away entirely was about spending time with his family after a tragedy. If he had stuck around, he wouldn’t be a-List. But he’d probably be doing cameos like Christopher Lloyd.

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      • It’s in that case, kind of ironic that Rick Moranis’ career arguably went into decline so to speak when he became more of a leading man actor instead of a character actor in the early part of his career.

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        • It was surprising that Moranis had as much success as he did as a leading man. He would have had more flexibility in supporting roles. As a leading man, he was stuck with loveable nerd roles. And how many of those are there?

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  8. Yeah, he basically was offered the apple by the snake and had no choice but to take it. Little Shop of Horrors and Spaceballs were either too much fun to do or too perfect as showcases for his lovable nerd character for him to pass them up. But doing those so soon after Ghostbusters clearly typecast him. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids basically sealed the deal for him but it was too lucrative an opportunity to pass up even if he knew he’d be typecast. You’re absolutely right that the McKenzie Brothers showed he could do other types of comedic characters. To me, he’s such a professional, that I could see him getting noticed again in some scene-stealing supporting or cameo roles in which he could expand his range. Obviously his kids are old enough now that family issues shouldn’t be preventing him from making a comeback.

    To me, Lloyd is even more interesting to study, because he has shown an even more incredible range and has been praised as a really strong, potentially serious actor by critics like Roger Ebert (for Twenty Bucks). He played a slow-witted bumbler on Taxi, an eccentric genius in Back to the Future and a coldhearted villain in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. So many of his well-known roles involved makeup that his basic appearance shouldn’t have risked typecasting him the way it did to Christopher Reeve. But it’s mind-boggling how fast he descended after the Back to the Future series into Suburban Commando, Dennis the Menace, Camp Nowhere, the Pagemaster and, yes, eventually even Baby Geniuses. As far as I can see, Lloyd was capable for many years of making a comeback or reinventing himself as someone who did serious, substantial or at least interesting movies. I’m not sure why he was relegated to so much low-rent children’s fare and I don’t know why he didn’t find better opportunities than he did. I find it hard to understand why there wasn’t a director who could figure out something for him to do that audiences wanted to see.

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    • More great insights. I agree completely.

      On Looyd, I think Zemekis was the director who “got” Llyod the best. Or at least made the best use of him. But then Zemekis kind of went off into his technical playland and disappeared himself. I think Lloyd cashed too many easy paychecks. He would do any script he was offered and he ended up cheapening himself. It’s the only reason I can think of why he didn’t have a stronger career as a character actor.

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  9. This is on comic actor that I truly do miss. Rick is/was naturally funny and amusing to watch.

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  10. The peculiar thing about Moranis is that although he wound up typecast as a nerdy, nebbish tool, by all accounts (particularly Dave Thomas’s book chronicling the history of SCTV) he was actually more alpha than beta in real life, particularly early in his career: Thomas paints a picture of a supremely confident writer and performer whose pitch sessions for sketch ideas were best described as “blitzkrieg”. That comes across much more frequently on SCTV than it ever did on the big screen, no doubt owing to the two-fold advantages of A) being afforded the luxury of playing a much wider variety of character types, and B) affording himself that luxury by being able to write his own material. Essentially, the only writer who ever really “got” Rick Moranis was Rick Moranis.

    Moranis the film actor, on the other hand, was largely a hired gun, parachuting into someone else’s movie and generally stealing the show with a supporting role, or failing that getting a lead role that straight-jacketed him. The Moranis of SCTV was not only really funny, but frequently breathtaking. Watching him absolutely crushing Joel Silver with his “Larry Siegel” character, a good ten years before everyone from Steve Martin to Saul Rubinek were playing thinly-disguised versions of Silver and at a time when *no one* outside of Hollywood circles had any idea who the hell Joel Silver was, was a classic case in point. He had apparently met Silver circa 1980-81 to pitch him ideas, and he was clearly taking notes—everything about Siegel, even down to the name of his secretary, was Joel Silver. It wasn’t just Boorish Hollywood Producer. It was a *person*. When John Candy’s Johnny LaRue comes crawling into Siegel’s office to offer him a desperate pitch—of a concept that he himself had just been offered as a parting fuck-you from SCTV boss Guy Caballero, and which LaRue hated—the scene required A Producer. Rick Moranis did a note-perfect Joel Silver instead. The depth of those characterisations on SCTV were largely absent from his screen work, where he was basically required to look nerdy and rely on his admittedly-crackerjack comic timing.

    I really do miss seeing Moranis on the big screen, as I think anyone of a certain age does. But unless he ever got another shot at writing his own ticket, as he and Thomas had done with STRANGE BREW, it seems unlikely that he would ever have gotten a chance to show audiences what he was really capable of. Louis Tully was funny as hell, but it wasn’t the only club he had in his bag. You’d never guess that from looking at his subsequent roles, however.

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  11. I suggested Liotta but you may be correct in that he’s never really been considered “A-List”, and he has popped up in big films every so often. “Narc” was the last film I saw him in, and he should have won an oscar for it.

    I think Ben Stiller should be given his own section along with Janeane Garofalo, both of whom are movie poison. Stiller has made all kinds of bad movies, most of which make money but I can’t fathom why.

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    • When I started the series, being A-list was a requirement which ruled out Liotta. But I have loosened that restriction. So, Liotta’s in.

      Stiller is still too successful. For now. Garofalo barely has a film career to support an article. Although after writing the super-sized Nicolas Cage article, I’d welcome a short write-up!

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    • Janeane Garofalo somehow, strikes me as more of a character actress than a full-fledged leading lady? Has she ever headlined a mainstream movie besides “The Truth About Cats and Dogs”?

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      • Off the top of my head, no. She had pretty sizeable roles in Reality Bites and Mystery Men. And she starred in a few independent movies. But Cats and Dogs is the only starring role in a Hollyoood movie I can remember. Even then, she co-starred with Uma Thurman.

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      • The Lost Roles of Janeane Garofalo:

        http://splitsider.com/2011/08/the-lost-roles-of-janeane-garofalo/

        Janeane Garofalo has done it all. She’s an accomplished stand-up whose influence continues to resonate today. She was also a key player in The Ben Stiller Show, The Larry Sanders Show and Wet Hot American Summer, three major works in the comedy nerd canon, and she’s guest starred on Seinfeld, NewsRadio, Mr. Show, and Stella. Garofalo has balanced an eclectic array of positions in the entertainment industry, having worked as a radio host, an author, a movie star, and lately, a dramatic actress. Over the years, Garofalo has drawn admiration for her work in cult comedies and ire from conservatives who disagree with her political views. Along the way, she’s had more than a few brushes with superstardom, but has largely avoided many of the big roles that came her way. Read on to learn which one of the Friends she almost played, why she turned down a role in David Fincher’s Fight Club, and about the project that would have seen her co-starring with a big green ogre.

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  12. 25 A-List Hollywood Actors Who Fell the F Off:

    http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/02/25-a-list-hollywood-actors-who-fell-the-f-off/rick-moranis

    Rick Moranis
    Best Known For: Ghostbusters (1984), Spaceballs (1987)
    Most Recent Project: Big Bully (1996)

    Goofy glasses-face Moranis had one of the busiest decades of comedy stardom in recent memory, landing plum roles in Ghostbusters, Spaceballs and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. But he quickly grew tired of Hollywood. After losing his wife to breast cancer in 1991, Moranis found himself the single father of two children. The demands of raising his kids combined with his distaste for the attitudes of studio executives made his decision easy: He walked away.

    Since his retirement, he has been named a member of the advisory committee of Humber College’s comedy program, and received a Grammy nod for his work on the 2005 country comedy album The Agoraphobic Cowboy.

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    • 8 Great Actors Whose Bad Experiences Caused Them To Quit Hollywood:

      http://whatculture.com/film/8-great-actors-whose-bad-experiences-caused-quit-hollywood.php/5

      1. Fed Up Of Executives Telling Him What To Say – Rick Moranis

      The name Rick Moranis was never going to be synonymous with acting range – best remembered for a run of popular comedies, his background as a comedian in some way guaranteed he’d become typecast in a certain kind of role. But it’s still fair to say that he embodied that role perfectly, and for a while his stardom was floating high.

      The control the studios began to exercise over the material he could use increased in tandem with his fame. Moranis said, “By the time I got to the point where I was “starring” in movies, and I had executives telling me what lines to say, that wasn’t for me. I’m really not an actor. I’m a guy who comes out of comedy, and my impetus was always to rewrite the line to make it funnier, not to try to make somebody’s precious words work.”

      The loss of his wife to cancer and the increasing strain this put on his professional and personal life led Moranis to take a break from acting in the late 90s so that he could focus on raising his children. As he put it around the time, “I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn’t miss it.”

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  13. The Lost Roles of Rick Moranis:

    http://splitsider.com/2013/02/the-lost-roles-of-rick-moranis/

    The only cast member of seminal sketch show SCTV who wasn’t a performer at the Second City theater, Rick Moranis joined the show late at the start of its third season in 1980. He quickly proved himself on the series, though, showcasing his abilities to play a diverse array of characters. From smooth-talking radio DJ Gerry Todd to cover song crooner Tom Monroe, from a member of the clean-cut ’50s vocal group 5 Neat Guys to his impeccable impressions of Woody Allen and Michael McDonald, Moranis demonstrated a versatility that went underused after he went to Hollywood in the mid-’80s and became a movie star. Moranis starred in his fair share of classics (Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Parenthood), but Hollywood quickly began casting him as only dweebs and wimps in a series of forgettable family comedies when he was capable of doing so much more.

    A few years after the tragic death of his wife, Rick Moranis retired from movies in 1996 to raise his kids full-time, telling the press, “I just found that it was too difficult to manage raising my kids and doing the traveling involved in making movies. So I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn’t miss it.” Moranis resurfaced in 2005 with the release of a country music record called The Agoraphobic Cowboy, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album, and according to Dan Aykroyd, he’s on board to reprise his role as Louis Tully in the long-in-gestation Ghostbusters sequel (if it ever happens). Let’s take a look at the roles Rick Moranis almost played but didn’t over the years, including parts in Ace Ventura, The Breakfast Club, a Strange Brew sequel, and more.

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  14. Whatever Happened To…?:

    http://www.bigthoughtsfromasmallmind.com/2010/07/whatever-happened-to_28.html

    Rick Moranis

    Of all the SCTV alumni I find it odd that Rick Moranis is not prominent in front of the camera anymore. Heck, Eugene Levy is still managing to mix his big budget works with all those straight-to-DVD American Pie movies. Could Rick Moranis not do the same? The latter part of Rick Moranis’ career has consisted of family friendly movies. He has consistently shown that his comedic timing can provide good laughs to even the weakest feature. I think it would be hilarious to see Moranis in a comedy where he plays against type. Maybe a foulmouthed role is exactly what Rick Moranis needs to break his squeaky clean image. I could see Moranis making a splash in a raunchy Todd Phillips Hangover-style comedy; or even reteaming with Steve Martin for an adult skewed comedy.

    Career Highlights: Strange Brew (1983); Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989); Ghostbusters (1984); Spaceballs (1987); Ghostbusters II (1989); Little Shop of Horrors (1986); Brewster’s Millions (2005); Parenthood (1989); Splitting Heirs (1993); Little Giants (1994);

    Low Points: Honey I Blew Up the Kids (1992); Big Bully (1996); The Flintstones (1994); My Blue Heaven (1990); Brother Bear (2003)

    Last Seen On The Big Screen: Brother Bear (2003)

    Where You Will See Him Next?: Since bringing back the Bob & Doug McKenzie characters, yet again, for Canadian television, Moranis has been fairly quiet on the acting front. It seems he is spending most of his time on the production side of things.

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  15. Rick Moranis Is Ready to Return to the World:

    http://www.vulture.com/2013/05/rick-moranis-return.html

    Rick Moranis. Rick … Moranis. He starred in your childhood, then disappeared from your life. You looked him up a few years ago to verify that the absence you felt was real; Google suggested results for “Rick Moranis dead,” “Rick Moranis death,” and “Rick Moranis retired.” Only the latter was true, as you discovered in posts like “Where’d Rick Moranis Go?” and “What the Hell Happened to Rick Moranis?” You learned that Moranis’s wife died of liver cancer in 1991 and he retired from the screen in 1997. Sometime later, he said, “I’m a single parent and I just found that it was too difficult to manage raising my kids and doing the traveling involved in making movies. So I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn’t miss it.” You mourned, as if Google’s rumormongering had been right all along.

    Now you can put all that in the past, because Rick Moranis has an album coming out. It’s called My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs. This is the cover art. This is the beginning of Rick Moranis’s reentry into the culture, the birth of a one-day sentiment that goes something like, “My Mother’s Brisket was to Moranis what Hatfields & McCoys was to Costner.” You hope.

    Moranis also released a record eight years ago, The Agoraphobic Cowboy (here’s a Spotify link). It fell closer to Jeff Bridges’s country album than a Weird Al LP, but the silliness was there. It was nominated for a Best Comedy Album Grammy, but it was also something you could just put on for twangy background tunes. (There was a lot of banjo.) Moranis did an interview with CMT about the album and said, “Up until this, I’ve always sung in character. This is the first time I’m sort of singing as myself, oddly.” The project was a one-off; it did not signal a comeback. Honey, I Shrunk Your Hopes.

    And yet: My Mother’s Brisket will arrive in 2013, a time when roughly 19 million media outlets both niche and huge will request an interview with any former Ghostbuster without missing a tweet. They’ll all ask if Moranis plans to ever act again. He’ll get to thinking about it, thinking about how his kids are older now and how he really did have some good times with Harold Ramis and Mel Brooks and even doing that Flintstones movie. Judd Apatow will write a part for him, or your favorite indie auteur will. Wayne Szalinski shall return.

    That’s all in the future, though. For now, there’s no actual information except a promise that you can pre-order the album on May 21 and join a mailing list. You opt in, dying for details, but receive a boilerplate, “Thank you for signing up! You have been subscribed to the newsletter and will be receiving a confirmation email shortly.” And now you wait. You can only wait.

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  16. 5 Roles That Prove Rick Moranis Needs To Start Acting Again:

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/5-roles-that-prove-rick-moranis-needs-to-start-acting-again

    Retired actor Rick Moranis is releasing a brand new album, which we hope means an imminent return to acting. Here are some of the roles that made him a star in our hearts.

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    • I think it is hysterical that Moranis’ album has sparked a Return of Rick Moranis rumor. And that so many seem to be jumping on board. There is no reason to think Moranis has changed his thoughts on acting.

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    • 17 Career Comebacks We’d Love To See:

      http://www.hitfix.com/galleries/overlay/17-career-comebacks-wed-love-to-see/11.js

      Rick Moranis
      Best known for: “Ghostbusters,” “Little Shop Of Horrors,” generally being awesome
      Last seen in: the straight to video “Honey We Shrunk Ourselves”
      Comeback plan: I think “universally beloved” is a good way to describe the amazingly talented Moranis, and I can’t think of an audience member who wouldn’t be thrilled to see him show up in anything at this point. Sure, I hope they make good use of him if they end up making “Ghostbusters 3,” but more than that, I’d love to see him create some new characters. There are very few comic performers who are able to create as much instant empathy for the characters they play as Moranis, and while I’m sure his country music albums are genuinely great, he belongs in our movie theaters.
      - Drew McWeeny

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  17. RICK MORANIS IS WILLING TO RETURN FOR GHOSTBUSTERS 3:

    http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/rick-moranis-is-willing-to-return-for-ghostbusters-3

    Rick Moranis retired from acting back in 1997 after the untimely loss of his wife to cancer. Moranis has since been a single parent and enjoyed doing voicework for some animated films but mainly staying out of the limelight. In a very rare interview with Empire, Moranis was asked about the still in development GHOSTBUSTERS 3. The man who played the bumbling accountant/lawyer friend to the Ghostbusters, Louis Tully, gave a very surprising answer to whether he would come back for the second sequel.

    “I haven’t talked to Danny (Aykroyd) about it,” he says. “Somebody he’s associated with called me and I said, ‘I wouldn’t not do it, but it’s got to be good.’ You know, I’m not interested in doing anything I’ve already done, and I thought the second one was a disappointment.”

    “But I guess I’m interested in where that guy is now. I sort of see him as being Bernie Madoff’s cellmate in jail. Both of them being so orderly that they race to get up and make their beds.”

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    • Disappointing Childhood Movies Vol. 3 – Ghostbusters II:

      http://znculturecast.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/disappointing-childhood-movies-vol-3-ghostbusters-ii/

      In June of 1984 Columbia Pictures released Ghostbusters into theaters, where it became one of the highest grossing films of all time and a beloved 1980s classic. The incredibly talented main cast, including Bill Murray (one of the most beloved actors of all time), Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver (who served as a sort-of Sci Fi queen in the 80s), and Harold Ramis, combined with highly successful director Ivan Reitman to form a zeitgeist seen only a few times per decade at most. The film spawned a hit soundtrack, a glut of merchandising, several tie-in video games, a long-running cartoon adaptation, and a film sequel, released a half-decade later in 1989.

      Though Ghostbusters appeared to be several geniuses coming together to form a super film (and indeed kind of was), the truth is that there were rivalries, arguing, and creative control issues behind the film. Bill Murray was arguably the biggest comedic actor in 1984 (perhaps tied with Eddie Murphy), and famously feuded with Harold Ramis, who co-wrote Ghostbusters with Aykroyd (himself another legendary control freak). With Reitman, a rising Hollywood studio director, at the helm, a world-famous actor in Murray on the set, and the creative input of Ramis and Aykroyd (who co-starred in addition to writing the thing), three separate creative forces came together in service of the film.

      In the years since Ghostbusters made the approximate gross domestic product of a small country, the fortunes of its primary creative team waned somewhat. Bill Murray took a self-imposed exile from big-budget films. After Ghostbusters, Murray wouldn’t star in a commercial studio release again until 1988’s Scrooged. Even today Murray tends to shun highly visible commercial roles, opting to appear in smaller fare by filmmakers like Wes Anderson. Reitman would go on to direct Legal Eagles, one of the most expensive films ever made at that point in time. The film was not a box office success and generated poor reviews from critics. Aykroyd found some measure of success as he wrote and starred in middling box office hits like Dragnet and Spies Like Us, but none of these had the lasting culture cache of Ghostbusters. Lastly, Ramis’ lone notable credit was as a part of Baby Boom, a Diane Keaton vehicle released in 1987.

      So when Columbia came calling about a sequel, the creative team behind Ghostbusters likely should have been ecstatic. The opportunity to go back to the well and milk it for another huge Hollywood success sounds like it would have been awfully appealing. But when Ghostbusters II was released in June of 1989 (just one week before Tim Burton’s Batman, which became a cultural zeitgeist of its own), reviews were negative and audiences responded with a resounding shrug. Roger Ebert, on his nationally broadcast television show with Gene Siskel, noted that he saw it in a packed theater, and only one person laughed during the entire running time of the film. Though it opened with what was at the time a record-breaking weekend, the film ultimately wound up with only 112 million in the United States, or way less than half of what the original grossed five summers earlier.

      Perhaps the most angering aspect of Ghostbusters II is just how bad its screenplay is. Presented with an opportunity to knock fans out of their box theater seats, Ramis and Aykroyd instead give us pink slime, Peter MacNicol, and an animatronic Statue of Liberty. The film lampoons the nasty, sarcastic nature that is the stereotype of the average New Yorker, playing it lamely into the plot of the film. MacNichol plays Janosz, an effeminate museum worker and art restorer (and also Weaver’s coworker) possessed by the painting of Vigo the Carpathian, an awesomely terrifying portrait that has stood as one of the few positive things about the movie. Vigo, an evil 17th century magician, plans to use the negative energy of New Yorkers to fuel his evil pink slime so that he can possess Peter MacNichol and transfer his own conscience into Sigourney Weaver’s baby and thus be resurrected into the 20th century where I guess he can continue his sorcery and evil.

      The main problem with Ghostbusters II was that it largely re-tread the areas the first film explored, which lead to incredibly diminishing returns. The film also seemed to lose a lot of the bite and edge so apparent in the first product, as it had a much more family-friendly feeling behind it (the film also spawned an absolute ton of tie-in merchandise and toys and the marketing behind it was understandably inescapable). Opening at a children’s birthday party with the embarrassed-looking main cast a flop as entertainers probably wasn’t a wise decision. The addition of a baby to the cast (adding a kid is almost always a deal-breaker) was another bad idea. It was almost like the five years between the films had softened the creative team considerably, as the crass, blue-collar feeling of the first film led to the family-friendly aspirations of the second.

      Still hungry for fame, critical attention, and mainstream acceptance upon making the first one, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Reitman just looked like paunchy old men by the time the sequel arrived. Even side characters like Rick Moranis’ nerdy Louis Tully and Annie Potts’ funny secretary Janine Melnitz feel shoe-horned in, as if the filmmakers included them only because the audience expected them to return. Only Murray and Weaver escape embarrassment, as the two seem literally too cool for this shit at several moments in the movie. Murray’s long-standing feud with Ramis probably compelled him to just do whatever he wanted in the movie, lending a sort of cavalier, laissez faire feeling to his role (at one point in the film he actually distances himself from the actions of his supposed friends). Weaver is just too awesome to look bad in any movie she’s ever been in.

      The film just isn’t very good, top to bottom. There are noticeable groan-worthy one liners, accented bad guys, a kid-friendly atmosphere, and a ton of bulls*** about New Yorkers coming together in peace and harmony to the tune of (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher (ugh!). In many ways Ghostbusters II was a victim of its original incarnation’s massive success. There was absolutely no way that a sequel film would have ever lived up to the mammoth hype the first experienced. A cultural zeitgeist only happens so often. Still, I can’t help but feel that the creative forces behind the film are also heavily to blame. Was this the best that Ramis, Aykroyd, and Reitman could do? The best moments in the film are the ones that feel closer in spirit to the original film (the courtroom scene remains a highlight to me), but so much of Ghostbusters II is an unexplainable mess. I can’t imagine why anyone out there is still clamoring for a third film in the franchise. The horse died almost 25 years ago. Let it rest in peace.

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    • What Ever Happened To Rick Moranis?

      http://www.cinemablend.com/new/What-Ever-Happened-Rick-Moranis-42231.html

      Bless Rick Moranis. The prolific comedian-actor had an incredible run in the 80’s, moving from SCTV to Ghostbusters, moving on to Walter Hill’s Streets Of Fire, Little Shop Of Horrors, Spaceballs, Parenthood and ultimately his own franchise, Honey I Shrunk The Kids. Ultimately, the roles dried up and Moranis was demeaning himself in a series of demeaning sidekick and wimp roles. And ultimately, six years after his wife’s passing, Rick Moranis fled filmmaking entirely, leaving behind an unimpeachable legacy.

      While Rick Moranis has popped up sporadically in film and television, he’s mostly stayed home with his kids, enjoying life as a single father. He recently stopped by the podcast Bullseye with Jessie Thorn, and Uproxx collected the most notable portions. And his reasons from avoiding the limelight seem modest, respectable, believable.
      “Stuff happens to people everyday, and they make adjustments to their lives for all kinds of reasons. There was nothing unusual about what happened or what I did, I think the reason that people were intrigued by the decisions I was making and sometimes seem to have almost admiration for it had less to do with the fact that I was doing what I was doing and more to do with what they thought I was walking away from, as if what I was walking away from had far greater value than anything else that one might have. 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 had had a very simple kind of make-a-living existence and decided I needed to spend more time at home. Nobody would pay attention to it, but 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. I didn’t have anything to do with that. It was work, and it was just time to make an adjustment.”

      The actor also doesn’t seem all that enthused about a third Ghostbusters, though he hasn’t been onscreen since 1996’s Big Bully, an unfortunate Tom Arnold vehicle. An approach to get him to act again would have to be very gracious and cater to his kids: he did offer a voice on the Ghostbusters video game, a break from his usual aversion to the spotlight. Otherwise, he seems happily retired.
      “I’m comfortable with where I live. There’s certain places I’m not interested in being. I’m not interested in doing anything I’ve done in the past … I have no idea. It’s not something I’ve given any thought to at all.”

      Whatever the case, we’re not going to see him in any Ghostbusters or Spaceballs follow-ups any time soon (never mind a Honey I Shrunk The Kids relaunch), though it’s not like he hasn’t kept busy. Along with the endeavors mentioned in the podcast, he’s been a Grammy-nominated musician, with two albums to his name. Listen to Rick Moranis riff on his own homebody lifestyle and Willie Nelson below.

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  18. He did a great interview in The Nerdist podcast, the guy is amazing.

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  19. I think it takes real talent to be funny. I think that comedy selects for more intelligence than other categories of entertainment. These guys are probably smarter than the studio managers, and the writers they hire to create these so called mega movies. Instead of trusting the artists to contribute and write their parts, they limit their talents and ruin their performances. Christopher Lloyd is funny. But I think he just got beat down by the movie making machine. Rick Moranis is funny. But again I think he is tired of being forced to diminish his talents and not be true to himself. The industry forces them, the most introspective individuals, to migrate away from the industry. Mr. Moranis’s loss of his wife is terrible, but it might be a convenient excuse to change his career path.

    I watch some of these movies and wonder how well the directors, producers, and writers would do in a real industry, not one based on fantasy? Words have meaning, stories must be coherent. What the Hell happened to good story telling? What the Hell is happening…..

    I hope Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Moranis are doing well.

    Brad Deal

    PS. I really liked Piranha. Anytime to see Elizabeth Shue and Christopher Lloyd is worth a look. Just be sure to have a couple of beers first…

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    • I think it’s like anything else. There’s some brilliant comedians out there. And plenty of idiots too. Not to get too off track here, but I think there are all kinds of different forms of intelligence. Someone who is incredibly witty might struggle with math. Very few people excel in all areas. Moranis and Lloyd seem like smart guys. They probably would have made better movies if studios had trusted them to do their own thing. But they were both victims of their own success. Audiences wanted them in the kind of roles they were used to seeing them in. So that’s the kind of roles they got offered.

      The same thing goes for storytelling. There are great stories being told in movies. Audiences pay to see CGI robots instead. So when you ask WTHH to storytelling, you can start by blaming audiences who would rather watch Transformers than something coherent.

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  20. Let’s bid Rick a happy 61st today!!!!!!

    Like

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