We’ve all been there: You get jerked around by studio executives for months on end while you’re trying to create a plausible practical-effects model of a gelatinous green ghost, until finally you get some cocaine, go to town on it, and are visited by the ghost of John Belushi to help you finish your design. Tale as old as time.
Or at least a tale as old as effects guru Steve Johnson, visual effects maestro and man who designed Slimer for the original Ghostbusters back in 1984. Johnson has already published Rubberhead, a book of stories from his 30-plus years in the industry doing effects, makeup, and more, and is currently Kickstarting the second of a planned five books covering his entire career. As part of the project, Johnson gave an interview to Bloody Disgusting in which he explains the origin of Slimer, and how a hardcore cocaine binge helped him complete the arduous ordeal. He’s discussed in the past how the production was “a goddamn nightmare,” but here, he opens up on just how batty he was being driven by the gig:
That was the most annoying horrendous experience I’ve ever had working with art directors, producers, and directors, ever. In the beginning they asked for a “smile with arms” but before I knew it, it was a goddamn bleeding nightmare… “Give him 13 percent more pathos, put ears on him, take his ears off, less pathos, more pathos, make his nose bigger, now his nose is too big, make his nose smaller…” Are you kidding? “Make him more cartoony, make him less cartoony.” I almost fucking severed my own head during that process.
Then, the day before it was due, he found out that Harold Ramis and Dan Ackroyd had always wanted Slimer in John Belushi’s likeness as a tribute to their deceased friend—something no one had bothered to tell Johnson throughout the six-month process of creating the ghost. (“I said, What the fuck are you talking about?” he adds.) So that night, Johnson took an eight ball of coke, cut up a gram of cocaine on top of a stack of headshots of Belushi, and that’s when things started to get creative:
“I was three grams into the night and in a cocaine-induced delusional paranoia and I literally thought that John Belushi’s ghost came to me to help me out,” Johnson says, explaining the ghost encouraged him and even modeled for the likeness. And with that pharmaceutical-grade help, the Slimer design was approved the next day. That’s a hell of a story for a hell of a drug. You can contribute to Johnson’s Kickstarter to get more stories just like that one; maybe we’ll find out his creature work on Big Trouble In Little China was the result of a mushroom-fueled vision quest.