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updated: 2/25/2014 5:22 AM

Ramis: 'I didn't want to glorify the violence'

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  • Harold Ramis, left, is perhaps best known for starring in the hit "Ghostbusters" with Bill Murray, center, and Dan Aykroyd. He also cowrote the film.

      Harold Ramis, left, is perhaps best known for starring in the hit "Ghostbusters" with Bill Murray, center, and Dan Aykroyd. He also cowrote the film.
    Associated Press

  • FILE - In an undated file photo, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, center, and Harold Ramis, right, appear in a scene from the 1984 movie "Ghostbusters". Harold Ramis died early Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, in Chicago from complications of autoimmune inflammatory disease, according Fred Toczek , an attorney for Ramis. He was 69. (AP Photo, File)

      FILE - In an undated file photo, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, center, and Harold Ramis, right, appear in a scene from the 1984 movie "Ghostbusters". Harold Ramis died early Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, in Chicago from complications of autoimmune inflammatory disease, according Fred Toczek , an attorney for Ramis. He was 69. (AP Photo, File)

  • John Cusack, left, and Connie Nielsen star in Harold Ramis' "The Ice Harvest."

      John Cusack, left, and Connie Nielsen star in Harold Ramis' "The Ice Harvest."

  • Director Harold Ramis stretched his talents with the crime tale "The Ice Harvest," a dramatic neo-noir starring Chicagoan John Cusack, right.

      Director Harold Ramis stretched his talents with the crime tale "The Ice Harvest," a dramatic neo-noir starring Chicagoan John Cusack, right.

  • Director Harold Ramis stretched his talents with the crime tale "The Ice Harvest," a dramatic neo-noir starring Chicagoan John Cusack.

      Director Harold Ramis stretched his talents with the crime tale "The Ice Harvest," a dramatic neo-noir starring Chicagoan John Cusack.

  • Director Harold Ramis, left, talks to star Billy Bob Thornton on the set of "The Ice Harvest," a dramatic neo-noir stretch for the noted comedy filmmaker.

      Director Harold Ramis, left, talks to star Billy Bob Thornton on the set of "The Ice Harvest," a dramatic neo-noir stretch for the noted comedy filmmaker.

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  • Video: Harold Ramis dies

 
 

At a New York press junket for "Ghostbusters," I asked star Bill Murray why Harold Ramis, who cowrote the screenplay with Dan Aykroyd, gave all the good lines to Murray and not himself.

"That's just the kind of guy he is," Murray said.

That was in 1984. It was one of those moments that, for me, defined Ramis, who died Monday at his North Shore home.

Another came 15 years later when I interviewed him for directing the mob comedy "Analyze This" starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal.

I asked Ramis to name the toughest challenge making it. He surprised me with this humanistic response:

"Doing the violence," Ramis said. "I've never featured real violence in a movie before. I wanted there to be action, but I didn't want to glorify the violence. The movie's not about that.

"I worry about movies that make violence look like fun. Or that seem to relish the physical suffering of strangers. It doesn't matter how many extras you kill in a movie, apparently. You can kill them any way you want. You can blow them up. You can machine gun them."

As long as it's fun for the audience?

"Yes. That struck me once watching a movie in a theater. 'The Untouchables.' One bad guy gets shot in the head on the stairs in the train station and the audience cheered.

"I thought, hey, why are they cheering? I mean, this guy could have been there on his first day on the job. He might have had three kids. Or taken the job to support his sick mother. Who knows?

"It's so easy to celebrate this carnage in the movies when they manipulate us to feel that it's OK."

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