Soon thereafter, I narrowly missed the chance to ask the man himself at Comic-Con 2004.
This week I worked as an extra in a courtroom scene on the TV show Bones, and who happened to be guest starring as the defense attorney? Yes, Mr. Eddie Hudson.
I should mention here that as extras we are not supposed to talk to the "talent" at all, ever. Usually this is not a problem, because the stars avoid the extras like lepers. I've even heard stories about one actress who routinely refers to extras as "the cockroaches."
But Ernie Hudson is not "talent" with quotation marks. He is a hard-working, down-to-earth human being, and beyond a doubt the nicest celebrity I've ever met (Sorry, Bruce Campbell!). After seeing him casually chatting with other extras, I knew that this was the chance I had been waiting for to finally ask my question and hopefully find my answers.
I was far too nervous and star-struck to take direct quotes, but I can tell you the gist of what he had to say on the matter in my own words. Don't go posting this on aint-it-cool or whatever, I wouldn't want to misrepresent him.
When I asked him why he wasn't on the Ghostbusters 2 DVD cover, he basically shrugged and said that this is one of those things that he has no control over.
I countered that he was one of the Ghostbusters. One of the team. Didn't he have a right to be pictured wit the rest of the team?
It was here that he explained something that never occurred to me: He wasn't part of the team.
When I look at my original argument, I see now that experiencing these films as a ten-year-old forever removed my current-day corporate cynicism. I viewed the issue completely from a story-universe standpoint, not from a real-world standpoint.
I've always thought of Winston Zeddemore as a full-fledged Ghostbuster. Sure his character was hired as a gag (Three scientists need help, and they hire a black guy! Oh my sides!), but to a kid that doesn't matter. He wears the uniform, he carries the Proton Pack, he catches the ghosts. He's even got a few snappy one-liners to his credit. For all intents and purposes, he's a Ghostbuster.
But legally, behind the scenes, Ernie Hudson wasn't a "star" of the movie. While the other three Ghostbusters each earned something like 10% of the movie's gross (which is currently measured in billions), he was paid a rate comparable to any other actor in the film. Contractually speaking, Winston Zeddemore was no more significant than Walter Peck, and was paid accordingly.
When I asked him if this clear injustice bothered him, he just kind of shrugged, smiled, and explained that one just moves on and makes more movies. He didn't seem at all upset, or bitter, or anything that I was feeling on his behalf. I sort of got the impression that even though Ghostbusters was a milestone in my life and the lives of much of my generation, to Ernie Hudson it was just another project.
So in the end, I guess I never got the answer to my question of why Winston isn't on the Ghostbusters 2 DVD box. But if Ernie Hudson has found peace with his exclusion, I suppose I can too.