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Ghostbusters Actors You Might Not Know Passed Away

"Ghostbusters" began with Dan Aykroyd's story, initially set in space with him and Jim Belushi battling the supernatural, but when director Ivan Reitman and writer Harold Ramis joined the spirited affair, they brought the idea more down to earth, literally. Reitman had said, "My psychological approach was to keep the picture a comedy and not get sidetracked by the special effects. I wanted the effects to be the best anyone had ever seen, but also wanted them to work as characters in a comedy."

When released on June 7, 1984, audiences were scared straight, and nervously laughed away their fears as our four beloved "Ghostbusters" — Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore — saved New York from things that go bump (and slime you) in the night. The comedy was a monster quotable hit of that summer, and ended up being the 5th highest grossing summer film of the 1980s, as well as comedies of all time. It was even nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Visual Effects and for its Original Theme Song by Ray Parker, Jr. (its video was also directed by Reitman). It spawned a sequel, a cartoon, endless video games, knock-offs, and more recently, an all female version, and a passing of the baton to the next generation with 2021's "Ghostbusters: Afterlife."

"Ghostbusters" is forever, but unfortunately some of those who helped make sure that "magic did occur" in the franchise are no longer with us. So, let's look back and salute the "Ghostbusters" actors you might not know passed away.

Harold Ramis (Dr. Egon Spengler)

Harold Ramis not only flexed his brain onscreen in "Ghostbusters" but also off of it, helping frequent collaborator Ivan Reitman reshape and refine Dan Aykroyd's out-of-this-world story idea. Ramis was also able to see something larger in the franchise, saying "The empowering message of 'Ghostbusters' is that no matter what monsters we create in the world, if we have the courage, the tools and the technology, the talent, and the fortitude, we can deal with pretty much anything."

Ramis made many contributions to the world of comedy, as his resume as a writer/director/actor/producer reads like a what's what of classics of the genre. The Playboy writer and SCTV alum had a hand in "National Lampoon's Animal House" (and was upset he didn't get cast as Boon), the Bill Murray-starring "Meatballs" (he took the job from Reitman to pay for furniture),"Caddyshack" ("the $8 million scholarship to film school" that served as his directorial debut), "Stripes," "Vacation" (pushing John Hughes to direct his own scripts), "Back to School," the genius "Groundhog Day" (but it soured his relationship with Murray), and later hits with "Analyze This" and "That," as well as directing episodes of "The Office."

Ramis contracted autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis in 2010, and died 4 years later from the disease at age 69.

Spoiler alert: Through the magic of moviemaking, Egon lived to see another day, and appeared in 2021's "Ghostbusters: Afterlife", directed with care by Reitman's son Jason.

David Margulies (Mayor)

Manhattanite David Margulies had long been making a name for himself as a character actor on his hometown island, debuting off-Broadway in 1958, working with James Earl Jones in a 1973 Broadway production of "The Iceman Cometh," and alongside Woody Allen in the 1976 Blacklist drama "The Front." He is best known for playing the skeptical, but open-eared, Ed Koch-esque Mayor of New York in "Ghostbusters" and its sequel. He didn't even have a name in the script, but recalled in a 2019 documentary that Bill Murray's "inspired notion" was that his character and the archbishop were on a first name basis, with Murray casually adding: "and your name is Lenny." Margulies was more than happy to play the straight man, sticking to the script, while his comedian co-stars improvised their lines.

Margulies performed on Broadway 14 times, including the shows "Angels in America" and "Brighton Beach Memoirs," and he also co-starred in the 1986 film version. He additionally raised his brows in the films "All That Jazz," "Dress to Kill," "9 ½ Weeks," "Running on Empty," "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," and "Celebrity," and was a legal eagle as Tony Soprano's lawyer Neil Mink on "The Sopranos" and in various roles on "Law & Order." In his later years, he worked in regional theater, including with Steve Martin, and portrayed Elie Wiesel in the TV mini series "Madoff."

Margulies died of cancer in 2016, at age 78.

Alice Drummond (Librarian)

When recalling how she nabbed the role of the shell-shocked librarian in "Ghostbusters," Alice Drummond credited her "wonderful scream." It was a shriek that even amazed herself for all the "people [who] remember me for being that librarian."

Playing her advanced age in comedies was no stretch for Ms. Drummond, who said in 1995, "I usually play these cute old ladies who are very funny." For instance, it was Drummond who wished "Dan Marino should die of gonorrhea" in "Ace Ventura," and she also appeared on "Night Court," and in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar," and "In & Out." But she also had a penchant for dramas, and enjoyed the "chance to play kind of a straight old lady, like me," in works such as "Awakenings," "Joe Gould's Secret," "Pieces of April," and "Doubt."

Drummond also displayed her quiet grace on stage, debuting on Broadway in 1959, earning a Best Featured Actress Tony Award nomination for 1970's "The Chinese and Dr. Fish," and a Drama Desk nomination for 1976's "A Memory of Two Mondays/27 Wagons Full of Cotton," co-starring with Meryl Streep, John Lithgow, and Tom Hulce.

Drummond died of complications from a fall in 2016, at age 88.

Tom McDermott (Archbishop)

Chicagoan Tom McDermott landed on Broadway in 1942, continuing to work on stage and screen in a career that lasted over six decades (marrying his one-time co-star, Mary Hayden, along the way, in a marriage that lasted 61 years). One of his early key roles was playing Permes Lykos on the trailblazing sci-fi series "Captain Video," which The New York Times noted was "a precursor of Mr. Spock on the later 'Star Trek' series."

He is perhaps best known to mainstream audiences for playing Mike, the Archbishop chummy with the Mayor in "Ghostbusters." He provides needed spiritual guidance for the impending "disaster of biblical proportions," saying it's "a sign from God ... but don't quote me on that."

McDermott also dressed up as a man of the cloth as Friar Francis in Joseph Papp's 1972 production of "Much Ado About Nothing," and as a minister in the Whoopi Goldberg film "Jumpin' Jack Flash."

His final role was as Francis Nurse in the Daniel Day-Lewis starring "Crucible" from 1996. McDermott died from prostate cancer in that same year, at age 83.

Ruth Hale Oliver (Library Ghost)

Ruth Hale Oliver was the first ghost to scare the living daylights out of the "Ghostbusters," even if she wasn't actually onset to break the silence, as there were a lot of special effects involved to make it all happen — but she was certainly there in "spirit." It was a rare opportunity for Ms. Oliver, as she had only one other prior acting gig to her credit — playing a Lady Runner on the 1983 "Agony of D'feet" episode of "Trapper John, M.D."

Oliver published a book of poems at age 15, but her larger calling was foretelling the fortunes of others. In the book "A Time For Astrology," Jess Stearn called her "a humanist very much aware of the social sciences and their limitations in the appraisal of man's place in the sun." Oliver wrote several books on astrology herself, including "Astropsychiatry," "The Development of the Zodiac in Mesopotamia," "Physique, Temperament and Psyche: An Astrological Approach," and "The Basic Principles of Astrology: A Modern View of an Ancient Science."

Oliver's clairvoyance extended to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Galaxy cigarette smokers, and her own daughter Susan, who she predicted that 1964 was "going to be a year of major emergence for you." Susan went onto to have a fruitful career as an actress (and as a pilot), playing Vina on "Star Trek," as well as recurring roles on "Peyton Place" and "Days of Our Lives"

Ruth Hale Oliver died in 1988. Her daughter Susan followed 2 years later.

John Ring (Fire Commissioner) / Norman Matlock (Police Commissioner)

When the Mayor needed to weigh all his options with the paranormal activity engulfing New York City, he brought in his trusty fire and police commissioners to tell it like it is.

John Ring not only played that fire commissioner in "Ghostbusters," but actually reprised his role for the sequel, only to see his scene cut from the final film. That wasn't even the first time he played a fire commissioner in a movie starring Dan Aykroyd — first reporting for duty in "The Blue Brothers." Ring also played a fire chief in "Lean On Me," a police chief in "Amityville II: The Possession," and multiple roles on episodes of "New York Undercover" and "Law & Order." He also worked for Local 560 as a Teamster.

Ring passed away in 2014, at age 82.

Like Ring, Norman Matlock also played the same role in "The Blues Brothers" as he did in "Ghostbusters," a police commissioner. Matlock also appeared as a "Taxi Driver" alongside Robert DeNiro, in "Fort Apache the Bronx," "Kojak: The Prince of Justice," consecutive Spike Lee films "Crooklyn" and "Clockers", and Sidney Lumet's "Night Falls on Manhattan." The UPenn philosophy major was a track star, a teacher, an author of 3 plays, and a studio singer.

Matlock died in 2015, at age 90.

Janet Margolin (The Prosecutor)

With a knowing smile, glasses and a mess of hair, native New York actress Janet Margolin looked right at home as a prosecutor in the opening courtroom scene of "Ghostbusters II." Sadly, she was no match for the ghosts of the Scoleri Brothers, who made her exit from the movie a swift one. Sadly for Margolin, this marked her final movie appearance, as she died of ovarian cancer in 1993 at age 50.

Margolin made her acting debut in the 1961 Broadway show "Daughter of Silence," for which she earned a Best Featured Actress Tony nomination the following year. It led her to being cast as the title character opposite Keir Dullea in Frank Perry's 1962 film about mental disorders, "David and Lisa." In her Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominated work, she told the Los Angeles Times that she "could never have played cheerleaders, but other girls couldn't have played Lisa." She had a very busy '60s, being a part of the star-studded roster of "The Greatest Story Ever Told," seeing eye-to-eye with Yul Brynner and Marlon Brando in "Morituri," dancing with Telly Savalas and Phil Silvers in "Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell," canoeing with Steve McQueen in "Nevada Smith," and playing Woody Allen's lovely love interest in "Take the Money and Run." Margolin would reunite with Allen to play one of his exes in "Annie Hall." Off screen she married twice, and was survived by her second husband, director and "Blossom" actor Ted Wass.

Wilhelm von Homburg (Vigo)

When Wilhelm von Homburg, heavy in make-up, scared audiences as the painting come to life Vigo the Carpathian in "Ghostbusters II," people wanted to know more about him, but there were little answers at the time. Many didn't know his real voice wasn't used in the final movie, having been dubbed over by Max von Sydow — including von Homburg himself, who reportedly found out at a screening and stormed out in response.

Born Norbert Grupe, he immigrated to America and wrestled professionally with his father Richard as the tag team The Vikings. They later called themselves the Von Homburg brothers, and then Norbert embarked on a boxing career as "Prince" Wilhelm von Homburg. He became a swaggering, flamboyant hero back in West Germany, and was known as "the German answer to Muhammad Ali" and "the Beatle boxer," before retiring in 1970.

Along the way, von Homburg booked some acting gigs: a 1964 episode of "Gunsmoke," a background player in Alfred Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain," and for Werner Herzog's 1977 film "Stroszek" (Herzog compared him to "a German Mike Tyson"). It would be almost a decade later before he resurfaced in Hollywood as one of Hans Gruber's "Die Hard" terrorists, followed by playing Vigo in 1989. More roles followed, including "The Package," "The Silence of the Hams," and in a bit of inspired casting, as the vegetative former boxer who gives a town a name in "Diggstown."

Writer/director Gerd Kroske made a documentary about him called "Der Boxprinz" ("The Boxing Prince"), calling it "the last will and testament of a loner." It was released in 2002, but Grupe/von Homburg did not live to see the finished product, as he died from prostate cancer in 2004 at age 63.

Henry J. Deutschendorf II (Baby Oscar)

Ivan Reitman auditioned more than 30 sets of twins to play Sigourney Weaver and "probably" Bill Murray's singular son Oscar in "Ghostbusters II." Then he saw William T. Deutschendorf and Henry J. Deutschendorf II "sitting there with little tuxedo T-shirts and they looked perfect. They looked like they could come from Sigourney." Although Reitman said a third film would have been a "passing of the torch from the original Ghostbusters to a new group led by Oscar," it never came to pass.

Hank, who was named after his uncle Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. (better known as singer/songwriter John Denver) and his brother Will knew "since we were ten years old that we wanted to practice and teach martial arts." In 2007, at only 19 years of age, they did just that, taking ownership of their own branch of the West Coast Martial Arts Academy in San Diego, but left open the possibility to return to the stage, saying they "would love to get into acting if ever we had an opportunity."

Sadly, it was never to be. Hank suffered from schizoaffective disorder, which is a combination of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. His brother Will said Hank endured "hallucinations, delusions, depression, and mania," adding that he "fought for his life every day," but lost his battle and committed suicide at age 29, in 2017. Will, his family, loved ones and friends have launched a personal campaign, Hank's Hope For A Cure, to support the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, "to help others suffering from the same illness" as him.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Mary Ellen Trainor (Brownstone Mother)

Playing a mother in '80s/'90s movies and TV shows was something Mary Ellen Trainor excelled at, having ruled the roost in "The Goonies," "The Monster Squad," "Amazing Stories," "Roswell," and "Parker Lewis Can't Lose." One of her less celebrated mother's days at the office was playing the "Brownstone Mother" in "Ghostbusters II," who hired Stantz and Zeddemore to face her 4-foot nightmares — children at a birthday party. Said party even got referenced in the Bobby Brown lead single "On Our Own," from the soundtrack.

Trainor met writer/director Robert Zemeckis on the set of Spielberg's 1979 film "1941" (also starring Dan Aykroyd), and were married a year later (they divorced after 20 years of marriage). Her first movie was Zemeckis' "Romancing The Stone," and the two would collaborate on several others, including "Back to the Future Part II," "Death Becomes Her," and "Forrest Gump." She is also one of the rare people to appear in both "Lethal Weapon" and "Die Hard," playing police psychologist Stephanie Woods in all four "Lethal" films, and her "Die Hard' reporter Gail Wallens showed up in another film also written by Steven E. de Souza, 1991's "Ricochet." A year prior to "Ghostbusters II," she teamed up with Bill Murray and her "Lethal Weapon" director Richard Donner for "Scrooged."

Trainor died of complications from pancreatic cancer in 2015, at age 62.

Fun fact: Trainor's college roommate was Kathleen Kennedy, who she recommended taking a job with Steven Spielberg, and the rest is movie magic history.

Michael K. Williams (Agent Hawkins)

In the 2016 edition of "Ghostbusters," it was the ladies' time to shine, which meant of course that there would be a whole bunch of men in suits standing in their way, like the FBI Agent Hawkins. Hawkins was played by beloved veteran actor Michael K. Williams, who thought it was "really dope" to work with Melissa McCarthy and company, but was most excited to work with Slimer, telling Entertainment Weekly that he was "a huge 'Ghostbusters' fan and it was a dream come true."

Williams was called "the prophet of the projects," as he was able to rise above a tough adolescence in Brooklyn and used his experiences to channel them into his work. He told the New York Times, "the characters that mean the most to me are the ones that damn near kill me," including Omar White ("He is everything I wished I could be"), Chalky White on "Boardwalk Empire," and Freddy Knight on "The Night Of." He was handpicked by Tupac to play his brother in "Bullet," and worked for directors Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Todd Solondz, Steve McQueen, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Edward Norton. He was also an accomplished dancer and choreographer, working with Madonna, George Michael, Missy Elliot, Crystal Waters and Technotronic.

Williams battled drug addiction for much of his adult life and died in 2021 at age 54 from an overdose of fentanyl-laced heroin.

Bonus: Director Ivan Reitman

True, he wasn't an actor — but it's impossible to imagine "Ghostbusters" without the man that Hollywood studios knew for several decades as the man to call when it came to comedy.

Ivan Reitman's early success in Hollywood can be attributed to two truly creative collaborators, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray. Reitman produced "Animal House," and got Ramis to pledge his writing support, signing him up to help counsel his summer camp comedy "Meatballs," which helped to make Bill Murray a star. Two years later, the trio shot for the stars with the militaristic merriness of "Stripes," and after that, proton-packed in the laughs for 1984's "Ghostbusters." Looking back, Reitman said, "mixing genres, particularly with comedy, core of comedy, science fiction comedies, are particularly hard to do because one of the genres has to weaken the other. And we happened to get away with it."

Reitman was born in Komarno, Czechoslovakia and his family fled when he was 4, eventually making it to Canada. His post-"Ghostbusters" hits enlisted the help of another European immigrant, one known more for blowing things up, not bowling over audiences with laughter. Enlisting Arnold Schwarzenegger to play against type, together they made the strong comedies "Twins," "Kindergarten Cop," and "Junior." Schwarzenegger remembered Reitman as "a great director and friend: he could see something in you that other people didn't, and he could help you show the rest of the world." At the time of Reitman's death, the two were reportedly in pre-production on a long-gestating "Twins" sequel entitled "Triplets."

In addition to directing, Reitman was a prolific producer, working on "Space Jam," "Private Parts," and the 2009 film directed by his son Jason, "Up In The Air." That film was nominated for Best Picture, earning the senior Reitman his first and only Academy Award nomination. Ivan passed the "Ghostbusters" torch off to his son years later, serving as a producer on his "Ghostbusters: Afterlife." 

Upon his father's passing on February 12, 2022 at age 75, Jason said in tribute: "He came from a family of survivors and turned his legacy into laughter ... please enjoy his movies and remember his storytelling gifts. Nothing would make him happier."