- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
For Carrie Coon, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a loving tribute in more ways than one. Jason Reitman’s sequel to his father Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989) enlists Coon as Callie Spengler, Egon Spengler’s (Harold Ramis) estranged daughter and single mother to Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). The film not only gathers the Ghostbusters extended family to honor the late Harold Ramis, but it’s also a love letter to science at a time when it’s most needed.
“Well, I’m sad that it’s this relevant. I wish it wasn’t so. I wish that we didn’t have to write a love letter to science and that people would believe in it. It’s science!” Coon tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Yeah, it’s depressing to me that it’s necessary, but that’s the power of art. We get to uphold the things that are important to us, and artists are the historians. So I’m glad that I’m participating in a story that is positive about something that’s become inexplicably problematic in the time that we’re living.”
Coon is also setting the record straight about some Gone Girl-related matters, including the myth that the production had to shut down for four days over a New York Yankees baseball cap. While David Fincher and Ben Affleck did, in fact, debate which hat the latter’s character would wear in the film, the issue did not result in a shutdown of that magnitude. During the Gone Girl director’s commentary, Fincher made some sarcastic remarks on the subject and they’ve been debated by fans ever since.
“I do not recall a four-day shutdown over a hat,” Coon says with a laugh. “So I think that might’ve been a touch of exaggeration, though they are both very passionate. And also, David Fincher gives Ben a lot of shit just in general. But Ben really likes it. I mean, the thing that was hard about being on set is that Ben was always behind the camera asking David why he was doing what he was doing and interrogating him like he was a film school nerd. So it was sometimes hard to get Ben to focus.”
Coon is also clarifying her recent comments regarding her Gone Girl performance, which she described as “horrific to watch.”
“When I gave that interview, that delightful interview, I was in my house with my new baby. I have a 13-week-old baby, and I’m horribly sleep deprived,” Coon explains. “All I really meant to say was that between Gone Girl and The Leftovers, I got better because I had worked with David and Ben and Kim Dickens. So I was engaged in a learning process in Gone Girl, and so when I watch Gone Girl, I see my learning process. I see myself learning. That’s all I meant!”
Fincher even wrote Coon about her self-criticism, something she was very much expecting from the sharp-eyed director.
“So David, of course, emailed me as soon as that headline broke,” Coon shares. “He was like, ‘It was really important for Margo [Coon] to be really transparent in her emotional life because Nick [Affleck] is lying and is closed off. It’s a story point.’ And I was like, ‘I know! That’s not what I meant!’ So I was expecting to hear from David and I definitely did. So I just want to be the first person to say I don’t think it’s horrific or grotesque. It’s just as an actor, I was learning and so that’s what I see when I watch my performance.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Coon goes on to discuss some recent comments from her The Leftovers co-star Justin Theroux that she was pleased to read. She also reflects on her first time meeting the original Ghostbusters cast and bonding with Bill Murray over the Chicago Cubs.
Well, Carrie, it’s been seven years since I was introduced to you, and while much has changed since then, you haven’t lost your ability to put tears in my eyes.
Oh, I’m so glad! That’s why they invite me to the party. (Laughs.) “If you see Carrie Coon, there’s going to be crying.” (Laughs.)
You truly had the defining moment of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Was that a pretty emotional sequence for all those involved?
Oh yes. Firstly, it’s always fun when the cast is all together to do something. So often, you’re doing two-person scenes, or there’s a green screen, and that can be very lonely. So it was fun because we were all together for that sequence. And what was palpable while we were making the film — and it was so acute when we were shooting the ending — was the absence of Harold Ramis. So I think there was a heightened sense of what we were missing and also a heightened sense of what a loving tribute Jason has written to the world of the movie. So I think we were all aware of that, but you can’t be too aware of it or you won’t get out of bed. It can be really overwhelming to take on a legacy like that, so you also have to just show up and do your work moment to moment.
You told me previously that Jason Reitman vetted you by calling some of your former directors, but how was he introduced to you? Was he a Nora fan [The Leftovers]? A Gloria fan [Fargo]?
I think he encountered my work in Fargo, if I recall.
That makes sense since Bokeem Woodbine is also in the movie.
Right! That makes sense, doesn’t it? I don’t know if he’s gone back and watched anything else. I haven’t put the pressure on him, but I probably should. (Laughs.)
Then again, there’s also a moment involving leftovers.
Speaking of which, who do you think is entitled to the leftovers after a first date? Paul Rudd’s character was pretty surprised when Callie let him keep them.
Oh man, it’s funny. I would say just the default would be whoever paid. But what do you do if you both paid? That’s a really good question. I’m going to have to think about that. I’ve been out of the dating world for so long. That actually was a discussion on set. You’d think that the single mom with two kids would take the leftovers, but I guess Callie was too dejected to think ahead. “Peanut butter for dinner again, kids.”
As you mentioned, the movie is a tribute to Harold Ramis, but it’s also a love letter to science. And your character, Callie, happens to resent science since it took her father, Egon Spengler, away from her. So her arc is quite timely since we somehow live in an era where science is constantly under attack. Have you thought about how relevant this story point has become since wrapping in October 2019?
Well, I’m sad that it’s this relevant. I wish it wasn’t so. I wish that we didn’t have to write a love letter to science and that people would believe in it. (Laughs.) It’s science! So it’s put us in a bit of a predicament in the world. Yeah, it’s depressing to me that it’s necessary, but that’s the power of art. We get to uphold the things that are important to us, and artists are the historians. So I’m glad that I’m participating in a story that is positive about something that’s become inexplicably problematic in the time that we’re living. (Coon sighs.) I’m also glad because it’s about a young girl [Mckenna Grace’s Phoebe Spengler] who’s interested in science. We’ve discovered in the last several years just how much misogyny still exists in that world, even in the publishing of scientific journals and things. So we’ve got a lot of work to do in that arena. But I’m glad that Mckenna is the hero of the story, and Jason has done it in such an intelligent way. There’s enough homage to the original while still passing the torch to the next generation, which is such a smart way to move it forward. And that was Jason’s original inspiration. He envisioned a little girl, alone, picking up a proton pack, and he didn’t know who she was until Harold passed away.
I was awfully impressed by the argument scene between Callie and Phoebe, especially since Mckenna, as a 13-year-old actor, held her own in a scene with you.
When I was doing chemistry reads with the actresses who were auditioning for the part of Phoebe, Mckenna came in and that was the scene that we read. So I really gave it to her. We really did the scene, and it was really revealing how emotionally accessible Mckenna was in that moment during the audition. She’s just a very fine actor. She’s really open and she’s really listening. That’s not always the case with younger actors. Listening is actually a skill that you have to learn as an actor. Even though it’s the most important skill, it takes a while sometimes. (Laughs.) But Mckenna understands that; she’s really smart. So you feel the responsibility of a scene like that, but at the end of the day, you just have to be present with the other actor and let them impact you. So it’s really easy to do that with Mckenna, and it’s a great privilege. But sometimes, those are the easiest scenes to do. (Laughs.) Sometimes, it’s the more subtle things that are harder. But she’s a wonderful scene partner and I would love to work with her again.
Did you spend any downtime with Mckenna and Finn [Wolfhard] in order to establish some familial rapport? Or can great acting create the impression of chemistry without any extracurricular work?
I would almost call it great casting. After doing The Nest with Oona [Roche] and Charlie [Shotwell] and this film with Mckenna, Finn, Logan [Kim] and Celeste [O’Connor], who are all young actors, I really give a lot of credit to the casting director and to the filmmaker for identifying the kind of people they want in their movie. And that extends to the child actors as well. So I have found that the family dynamics emerge very organically. Finn is so famous, but he’s such a grounded kid. He’s such a great kid and he’s a really good listener. He really listens to what people are saying to him. And Mckenna, like I said, has this very bright and open personality. So they’re just really delightful to be around, and I found that it was very easy for us to fall in love. Every film is a little bit of a love story. And I’ve been really fortunate that that’s all come really easily so far because of the kind of people I’ve had the privilege of working with.
Do you think Jason and Ivan Reitman’s own relationship had some influence on Callie’s story? To your knowledge, are there some autobiographical elements in there?
Jason is very close to Violet Ramis, and Violet wrote very honestly about her relationship and the evolution of her relationship with her father after his death. Her biography that tells that story is really moving and really insightful. She’s clearly a very intelligent and intuitive person. I’ve never met Violet, but I know that they moved forward very thoughtfully with the family to get their permission to incorporate Harold into our story as best as they could. And where we see Jason and Ivan’s dynamic play out is just in the external story of this son taking up the mantle of his father. And then you also see Phoebe taking up the mantle of her grandfather. So that’s where I think you see the parallel. I don’t know specifically about the dynamics between Jason and Ivan because they really seemed to be loving and respectful on set with each other, so I can’t speak to their history. But it’s certainly beautiful how the story of the movie parallels the story of the plot that Jason wrote. Because it’s the family business, and it really felt like we were all being invited to be part of the family.
Callie and Phoebe both got to know Egon by exploring his laboratory, and since directors are often away from home for long periods of time, I have to imagine that Jason also got to know his father through his movie sets. So I kept thinking about young Jason in those scenes.
Yeah, Jason was a kid on the Ghostbusters set, and in fact, the OGs still refer to him as “The Kid,” even when he’s directing them, which I found quite touching and hilarious. (Laughs.) “What does The Kid say?” And so he was actually cut out of the film. He was in the film and then his scene got cut. (Laughs.) But what was really lovely for me is that my 16-month-old son was on set. So I now have pictures of my son on the set with the Terror Dogs and Ecto-1, and I just love the symmetry of having Jason and Ivan there, as well as me with my son. It’s the next generation of Ghostbusters fans. Of course, Jason is the original Ghostbusters fan, and I don’t know anyone else who could’ve told this story so lovingly and so effectively. He’s also such a great filmmaker in his own right. But you’re right! It was probably inevitable that he was a filmmaker because that’s where he was. He was with his dad.
One of my favorite moments in the film involves a bunch of pictures of Callie, and it looks like Jason used personal photos from your real life, which is far more effective than hiring a different person for photos or manufacturing something via photoshop.
Well, they called me and said, “Can you bring all of your childhood photos to set with you?” So I got a collection. I also called my parents and had them send some over. You often have to send your photos in for jobs, but I couldn’t believe the one they chose for the hero shot in the scene. (Laughs.) I was really shocked that that was the choice they made. But it’s interesting to think that my childhood photographs will be preserved in this iconic franchise for the rest of time. (Laughs.) It is kind of strange because those memories that I’m looking at on the wall are very real for me, so as an actor, it certainly makes that moment more accessible.
Was the soccer photo from high school or college?
Oh gosh, I think that was a college photo. Am I slide-tackling somebody? I love slide-tackling.
Can you talk about your first time meeting the original cast members?
Dan [Ackroyd], of course, is a producer on the film, so he was around and he brought his family. And what’s wonderful about sitting around with Dan is that he can tell you ghost stories all day long. He’s such a believer, and of course, he was the person who inspired the original screenplay. So it was wonderful to meet Dan, his daughters and his wife. And then Bill [Murray] and I immediately just started talking about the Cubs because we’re both from Chicago. Well, I’m a transplant, but he’s from Chicago. And his first day on set, there was a Cubs game on and he was trying to get the TV working in his trailer. So that was fun. (Laughs.) It just felt like a little touchstone for home. And then Ernie Hudson is one of the most poised and graceful human beings I’ve ever met. There was just such a warmth and generosity radiating off of him when I met him. I was really moved by him, actually. And then there they all were, together. The first movie came out when I was three years old. So they’ve been in my life since I was three years old, and there I was on set with them. It was completely surreal.
How did your experience working with Paul Rudd compare to the expectations that you had going into Afterlife?
(Laughs.) What the world teaches you about Paul Rudd is that he’s this ageless, funny, kind person, and all of that is just absolutely true. He’s just delightful. So the joke, of course, is that you want to tell everybody that he’s a miserable human being. (Laughs.) You just want to puncture a hole in that, but he’s the best. And he’s a great dad, so he was great with the kids. He comes from that Judd Apatow world, so there was a little bit of improvisation on set. And as you know, the work I do doesn’t generally fit into that comedic mold. So it was really great for me to have a scene partner who was so experienced and made it feel easy to jump into that. I would’ve been pretty intimidated if he wasn’t such a generous scene partner. And he’s just really funny! And Jason is a specific filmmaker. He’s not arbitrary. And yet, he’s also extremely collaborative so he wasn’t precious about the material. So if Paul and I found something that was funny or fun, Jason would say, “That! That! That! Let’s do that. Let’s do that again. Let’s do that on this take.” So he was really open to that, and that’s why Paul was there. Paul was there because he’s so good at that and he just made everybody laugh. All of the guys on the crew were so excited that he was there. He’s just a lot of fun to watch and it’s in the film. He’s got all of the best lines in the film. He’s a hoot.
Have you had any paranormal experiences? Do you believe in ghosts?
I believe that we have a limited capacity to understand what’s in the universe, and that energy, if it cannot be created nor destroyed, then it goes somewhere. It’s somewhere. So I leave open the possibility that there’s some kind of energy that doesn’t dissipate. When I was a little girl, I really wanted to see a ghost and so I had experiences as a young person. Footsteps, doors opening and things. But I desperately wanted to believe that they were paranormal experiences. So ostensibly, yes, I have. It’s more fun to believe in it, isn’t it? It’s more fun.
Ignoring what the contract may or may not say, would you reprise this role in a heartbeat?
Oh certainly, if I was asked. Absolutely. I mean, I’m in the universe, you know? I’m in this world now. I’ll be part of Ghostbusters for the rest of my life, so I might as well get to dabble in it a little bit more. So if they call, I’ll be there.
“Who you gonna call?”
(Laughs.) “Who you gonna call?” Hopefully me.
So I have a very specific Gone Girl question that I’ve been wondering about for a while. It’s well documented that David Fincher and Ben Affleck had a spirited debate over a particular baseball cap in the film, but during the director’s commentary, David said that production had to shut down for four days while they worked it out. Was there actually a four-day shutdown, or was David just being his usual sarcastic self?
(Laughs.) I do not recall a four-day shutdown over a hat. No, I do not recall there being a four-day shutdown. So I think that might’ve been a touch of exaggeration, though they are both very passionate. (Laughs.) And also, David Fincher gives Ben a lot of shit just in general. (Laughs.) But Ben really likes it. I mean, the thing that was hard about being on set is that Ben was always behind the camera asking David why he was doing what he was doing and interrogating him like he was a film school nerd. So it was sometimes hard to get Ben to focus.
Is it true that you have a hard time watching your performance in Gone Girl?
No! Okay, so when I gave that interview, that delightful interview, I was in my house with my new baby. I have a 13-week-old baby, and I’m horribly sleep-deprived. So now you can correct the record. All I really meant to say was that between Gone Girl and The Leftovers, I got better because I had worked with David and Ben and Kim Dickens. So I was engaged in a learning process in Gone Girl, and so when I watch Gone Girl, I see my learning process. I see myself learning. And then by the time I got to The Leftovers, I was able to take what I learned and apply it in my work going forward. So when Gone Girl and The Leftovers came out in the reverse order, I felt like the culmination came out before the learning process came out into the world. That’s all I meant! So David, of course, emailed me as soon as that headline broke. (Laughs.) He was like, “It was really important for Margo to be really transparent in her emotional life because Nick [Affleck] is lying and is closed off. It’s a story point.” And I was like, “I know! That’s not what I meant!” So I was expecting to hear from David and I definitely did. (Laughs.) So I just want to be the first person to say I don’t think it’s horrific or grotesque. It’s just as an actor, I was learning and so that’s what I see when I watch my performance.
Thank you for clarifying that.
Thank you for letting me clarify! It’s been a burden. I was like, “Should I make a Twitter statement? How do I address this issue?” (Laughs.)
So Billy Magnussen says hello and that he adores you. We spoke recently for No Time to Die, and of course, his creepy doll from The Leftovers’ “Guest” came up. Do you have a defining Billy Magnussen doll memory?
Well, I mean, I humped it. (Laughs.) This is my memory of that scene. Carl Franklin, the magnificent director Carl Franklin, told me to go really far. And then as soon as I did the scene, he said, “Alright, let’s pull that back a little bit.” (Laughs.) So that’s my memory of that moment. But I love Billy. He’s such a charismatic performer. He’s trapped in that hot surfer body, but he’s such a smart, energetic actor. So it’s always interesting to watch the choices that Billy Magnussen makes, and I really had a great time working with him. We’d sort of been on the Tony circuit together that year because he’d been doing [Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike]. So it’s been interesting for me to watch his career unfold because there’s such an odd juxtaposition in that body, in that man. He’s really interesting.
But he did say something rather interesting. He said that he regrets not taking your approach to the finale and just letting the mystery be.
Yes, I read that! It was nice to see that, yeah.
You’re an influencer!
(Laughs.) Well, for someone who’s known as such an influencer and trendsetter to say that, I’m happy to hear that. I’m happy that Justin Theroux, fashion icon and notorious hot actor, acknowledged that choice. (Laughs.) I always thought that he probably thought I was a big dork for not giving it up and for protecting it so closely. So I was gratified to hear that, I’ll admit it. I was gratified.
I know you’ll never reveal the way you played Nora’s series finale story, but what if you write an autobiography in 50 years? Is that our one and only chance of finding out?
That’s a great question. Will anybody read biographies in 50 years? Do you think you’ll still read them? Won’t you be swimming through the flood and running away from cannibals then? Won’t we all be? (Laughs.)
Yeah, we’re in bad shape.
So you might be concentrating on your survival. But that way, if we ever run into each other while hiding from cannibals in some abandoned building, then I’ll tell you.
So you’ll make an exception for the end of the world. That sounds like a fair deal to me.
When you tell [your husband] Tracy [Letts] that you had a good day at work, what does that typically mean? How do you define a good day at work?
I hate to say it because it’s kind of a cliché phrase, but it’s when you nail a scene. You know when you nail a scene, and you also know when you just didn’t get it. So there are days when we’ll both come home and say, “I had a scene today and I never got there. I never got there.” Or it’s a mixed bag. It’s usually like, “Ah, I nailed the second scene of the day, but didn’t quite get there on the first scene.” So if you nail all of your scenes in a day, that’s a good day at work, I would say. And we’re both pretty hard on ourselves. Maybe nobody else notices, but we certainly feel the difference.
Do you have any rituals or routines before you head off to set?
Gosh, these days, I’m just escaping my toddler… I find that my process actually changes depending on what I’m working on. So these days, there’s a lot more meditation just because I don’t have a lot of time to breathe because I have two kids now. And so being on set is such a gift because I get to be alone in a room. I get to take a deep breath, and that’s pretty much all I get to do. (Laughs.) And then sleeping. Whenever I can sleep, I sleep. And of course, in order to learn my lines, I have to learn my lines while I’m doing other things because I have an hour when all my kids are asleep or gone. So I work out while I’m learning my lines. That’s kind of my new thing. (Laughs.) It’s pretty boring, but it changes with each job, I would say.
So did you enjoy yourself on The Gilded Age after waiting all that time for it to start back up?
Absolutely. What was most incredible about it is that I got to work with all these extraordinary Broadway theater actors that I admire. The number of Tony awards represented on that set is pretty mind-blowing. And they all have such great facility with language, so they’re all really well-suited to that period. So it was a lot of fun to play with my theater friends, and we’re always grateful to have a job. (Laughs.) So there was just an overall feeling of gratitude on that set, and the costumes are just stunning. It was the best kind of dress-up.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife opens exclusively in theaters on Nov. 19. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day
The Best Man: The Final Chapters