By Mitchell Brown, Reporter
Most of, if not all, the attendees at the inaugural StealthCon were familiar with the works of Ernie Hudson. But on a cloudy Feb. 13, in an almost hour-long question and answer session, he let the audience go beyond Winston Zeddmore – his famed character in the 1984 hit film “Ghostbusters.” He gave the audience a glimpse into the mind of a seasoned professional actor from a working-class background whose worldview is filtered through a philosophical and spiritual lens.
“I am excited to be here,” Hudson said as he walked on stage, greeted by a round of applause. He told the audience at the University of Central Missouri’s Hendricks Hall that he was ready for their questions. “Any things that you’ve been wondering about for the last 30 years, since when you first saw Ghostbusters… Where marshmallow man lives? if he has any children?,” Hudson quipped.
Given that StealthCon was geared toward science-fiction and superheroes, a majority of the Q&A dialogue centered on “Ghostbusters,” but Hudson also took the audience down his own memory lane, delving into his upbringing.
“I grew up in a town called Benton Harbor, Michigan,” Hudson said. “It was one of the poorer towns in the country.”
“My grandmother raised me,” he said. “She was born in 1895.”
Hudson explained that his grandmother put an emphasis on education, and it was a big deal for him to graduate high school.
“Around the 12th grade, it dawned on me that I had the rest of my life to go, and I got to live it, so what am I going to do with my life?” he said.
A few years after high school, Hudson lived an anything for a check economic existence, similar to the mercenary mentality of Winston in Ghostbusters.
“I really tried to get a good job,” Hudson said. “It seemed like I did every job imaginable, working in a factory, I’ve sold insurance, I’ve worked for the telephone company.”
“I also got married at 18,” he said.
Hudson explained how his initial interest in acting came as a result of an argument with his first wife. He described a situation in which he had to get out of the house for a little bit.
“I got in my car, and I was driving around, and I drove past this building, and there were people lined up outside,” Hudson said. “I didn’t know what it was, so I just stopped the car. They were there to see a play.
“I didn’t want to go home, so I got in line, and I went in, and I saw the play,” he continued.
“I don’t remember the name of it. This girl had gotten pregnant, and her father was disowning her, and there was drama, and I was like wow!”
“After it was over I just sat there,” he reflected.
After being inspired by a night at the theater, Hudson made the transition from blue-collar work to college.
“During that time, I realized that if I was going to have any type of ‘good life,’ I had to go to college,” Hudson reflected. “It was kind of like the only way out. Otherwise, what are the options?”
“I got into college, and I needed one credit that was an elective, and I took this acting class, and the first time I walked on stage I just knew,” he said. “I felt at home.”
Hudson said he was leery of committing to acting full-time because of the lack of steady income commonly associated with it.
“You might see an actor on a TV show, and he might make a couple thousand bucks, but that’s just one job,” Hudson explained. “He might not work again for a year.”
He also spoke of viewing famous actors as a world removed from his life.
“Seeing actors in magazines, I don’t know any of these people. They didn’t seem real. It’s like they lived on Mount Olympus.,” Hudson said.
But in 1984, lightning struck for Hudson when Ghostbusters hit the silver screen. Hudson had an inkling that the movie would do well.
“I knew based on the cast who was in it that the movie would do business,” he said. “I figured it would open in first place and probably have a good summer, and like most movies, I thought it would just disappear.”
“Most things they have a run, and then you see them on television at midnight, but Ghostbusters kept going,” Hudson continued. “I’ve done a lot of movies that didn’t last a summer.”
Although Hudson said he suspected the movie would be a hit, he didn’t foresee the longevity of the film’s influence.
“Now it’s been over 30 years, and people still love the movie,” Hudson remarked.
He attributes a fandom that spans generations to a universal appeal of the film.
“We are all in this mix together, and there are some stories that touch us in a universal way,” Hudson said. “This is why (Ghostbusters) plays in Greece or Rome.”
Hudson attributes the universal draw of the movie to humans’ fear and uncertainty pertaining to a spiritual realm and things that go bump in the night.
“The whole spiritual, religious theme plays through our culture, around the world… What happens after,” Hudson said. “We are all faced with death. We know that at some point we have to transition. Ghostbusters is one of those movies that deals with it, but in a very funny way.”
Hudson was able to segue from one movie dealing with the supernatural to another when a young lady in the audience asked “What was it like working with Brandon Lee?”
Hudson played the role of (police) Sergeant Albrecht in 1994’s “The Crow.” The movie was based on the 1989 comic series of the same name released through the independent Caliber Comics. James O’Barr created the comic book as a way to deal with and grieve over the death of his high school sweetheart. Death would visit the set of “The Crow” in 1993 when Brandon Lee, playing the movie’s lead role of Eric Draven, was accidently killed on set during the filming of a scene in which an explosive charge used to simulate the appearance of gun fire went off.
Hudson said he had met Lee in Vancouver eight years before “The Crow.”
“He was just a nice young man, very cool,” Hudson said. “Then when ‘The Crow’ came up, he wanted me to play the part of the sergeant.
“I was very happy to do the movie, but when the accident happened, which was so bizarre and strange, it was very hard to make sense out of it,” Hudson said. “It’s hard to imagine how something like that can happen, but it did.”
“I think had Brandon lived, he had the chance to become a really big star. He surely had the talent, but life happens,” he said. “I feel blessed to have known him.”
The talk moved back to “Ghostbusters” when the subject of the upcoming Ghostbusters 3 was brought up. The movie is set for release this summer and will feature a female Ghostbusters squad. Hudson announced that he and other actors from the original movie have cameos in the film, but he was not at liberty to divulge plot details. Concerning Ghostbusters 3 he said “I think it’s going to be funny. It’s a good script.”
When talking about the highs and lows of his career, he noted that now he is able to turn down roles, and that he would rather do a convention than take an unfulfilling movie role.