Reviving Ghost with music

Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, who won an Oscar for the movie Ghost, rewrote it for the stage with deeper emotional lives for the main characters

Anyone who has seen the movie Ghost (1990) will remember the famous pottery scene, where Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore are sensually stroking wet clay together.

It turns out that there was an additional sex scene shot, but it was edited out as soon as the cast and crew saw how sensual the pottery scene was.

Bruce Joel Rubin, who wrote the screenplay and won an Oscar for it, was on the set throughout filming and remembers just how groundbreaking the pottery scene had been at the time.

Rubin, who is now 72 and retired, tells Life over the telephone: "We had body doubles film a lovemaking scene and it was beautifully shot. But once we saw the pottery scene and the enormity of it, we knew you couldn't add anything to that to make it more effective."

He adds with a laugh: "You know the dancing scene after the pottery scene in the movie? We had actually shot that as a prelude to the lovemaking scene.


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"So when you see them dancing after the pottery scene in the movie, their hands are clean with no clay. You don't notice it though, because of how sensual the pottery scene was before it."

Now, that iconic scene has been adapted for the stage in Ghost The Musical, which opens in Singapore on Wednesday.

The musical is directed by Tony Award winner Matthew Warchus (God Of Carnage, 2009) and the music and lyrics are by Dave Stewart of British pop duo Eurythmics and Glen Ballard, who co-wrote Alanis Morisette's Grammy-award-winning album Jagged Little Pill (1995).

The musical script is also written by Rubin, who finds it incredible that the Ghost story has managed to translate so well for the stage.

Since its premiere in the United Kingdom in 2011, the musical has played on Broadway as well as in countries such as China, Australia and South Korea. In 2012, it was nominated for Best New Musical at London's Laurence Olivier Awards.

Rubin, a grandfather of two, says: "I really had no expectations at all that it would do so well, but it really makes me happy.

"I think the musical has the ability to deepen your experience of the movie, so I'm happy to share it with people from around the world. There is a universal aspect to this love story."

1 What went through your head when the producers approached you to do a musical version of Ghost?

I said no at first. I thought the movie was so complete on its own, so I didn't feel a need to do it, which is why I also said no to doing a movie sequel. But the producers of the musical came to see me again and we talked late into the night, and something clicked.

I realised that there was a way of telling the story through song that would expand and deepen the emotional life of the characters. So I said yes and it has turned out wonderful.

2 How many times have you seen Ghost The Musical now?

Way too many times (laughs). But I never get tired of it because I've had the experience of seeing the whole thing come to being.

When we were working on the production, I told the director that I wanted to be there for the whole process and he was uncomfortable at first. Directors tend to worry that the actors will take cues from the writers.

But I made sure that I wouldn't say anything to the actors and that I would just be a bystander. Gradually, the director would bring me into the discussion, to get the tone and feelings right.

3 The central characters in the movie are closely associated with the actors who played them. Which character do you think is the hardest to cast for the musical?

I think they are all hard to cast, but probably the character of Oda Mae is the hardest. Whoopi Goldberg did a remarkable job and won an Oscar for her performance, so for people to find new visions and takes is not easy.

But I have been blown away by all the actors I've seen - they have managed to take on the characters and make them their own.

4 In 2010, a Japanese version of Ghost was released in cinemas titled Ghost: In Your Arms Again starring Nanako Matsushima and Song Seung Heon. Have you seen it?

No, because no one sent it to me. But I haven't felt the need to watch it. All I know is that they switched it around, making Molly the one who died and Sam the one who survived.

5 You won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Ghost. Where do you keep your award?

After I came home from the Oscars, I left it on the nightstand next to my bed and it has been there for the last 25 years. I really didn't want to leave it on a mantelpiece and advertise for all to see and turn it into a point of conversation.

But I heard that there's someone who keeps the Oscar in the bathroom so that guests can make speeches with it, which I think is a great idea. If I ever decide to move it, I'll do the same thing.

6 You have also written movie screenplays for Jacob's Ladder (1990) and Stuart Little 2 (2002), but you quit after The Time Traveler's Wife (2009). Why did you stop?

I've gotten old and I have two young grandchildren whom I am in love with completely. I have more joy playing with them than anything else I've done before.

So the idea of spending the last years on the planet writing something that can be sold - I just don't want to do that anymore. I think I've said all that I can say in the movies that I've written.

7 So what are you busy with these days?

I spend time with my grandchildren and I teach a meditation class. So when I'm not playing with my grandchildren and feeling like a two-year-old myself, I am basically just sitting still.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

I think the last line of Ghost says it all: "The love inside, you take it with you". If people will remember me for anything, I hope it's that message.

• Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2015, with the headline 'Reviving Ghost with music'. Print Edition | Subscribe