Behind the Lines: A Hole in the Head

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Peter: Egon, this reminds me of the time you tried to drill a hole in your head, remember that?

Egon: That would have worked if you didn’t stop me.

– Ghostbusters (1984)

Sound like just another goofy line in one of the best movies of the 1980s? Well two things are interesting to know about this little moment in the movie; firstly Harold Ramis’ response was not scripted but ad-libbed on the spot. In fact much of the film was ad-libbed especially Bill Murray’s scenes.

Secondly and perhaps most incredibly the idea behind the line was inspired by a real event. John C. Lilly was a neuroscientist who in the 1970s while working with dolphins proposed drilling holes in his head to unlock some of the brain’s higher functions which he believed were being blocked physically. Fortunately (for him) he never went through the experiment but he remained a controversial and some would say eccentric scientist for many years. Harold Ramis was partly inspired by him when conceiving Egon’s character hence the reference in the movie.

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