|Famous For: Spaceballs; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; and Ghostbusters||Currently Known For: 20-Year Hiatus from Acting|
Currently Known For 20-Year Hiatus from Acting
“I’m happy with the things I said yes to and I’m very happy with the many things I’ve said no to. Yes, I am picky and I’ll continue to be picky. Picky has worked for me.” Whatever you do, don’t mention the “r” word around Rick Moranis because, as the 64-year-old actor, comedian, screenwriter, producer, musician and songwriter promises… he is not retired! First turning heads with his comedy in the 1970s with Second City Television, Moranis found a home on the silver screen throughout the 1980s with classics like Strange Brew, Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, Little Shop of Horrors and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Although things were going incredibly well for the former comedian turned actor, Moranis surprised everyone when he slowly stepped away from the spotlight in the mid-1990s to focus on raising his children after the death of his wife in 1991. Arguing that he never officially retired and might one day return to the spotlight, let’s take a look at Moranis’ early career and why he politely declined making a cameo in the Ghostbusters reboot in 2016.
A Canadian at heart who fondly recalls singing “God Save the Queen” every morning in school, Frederick Allan Moranis was born on April 18, 1953 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Raised in a Jewish family, Moranis didn’t have any connections to show business but had a unique knack for entertaining people, which he discovered in the mid-1970s when he became somewhat of a local celebrity working as a disc jockey for several radio stations in Toronto. Eventually writing, developing and producing his own radio show, he caught the attention of a young actor named Dave Thomas who encouraged Moranis to join him on the stage of Second City Television.
Making a name for himself thanks to his impressions of celebrities like Merv Griffin and Woody Allen, Moranis was onto something huge when he and Thomas put their heads together and created Bob and Doug McKenzie, dimwitted brothers who were stereotypically Canadian in the most awful ways. The characters debuted on Second City Television in The Great White North sketch, which sent audiences wild as the CBC network requested the characters return every week in a new sketch. Happy to oblige, Moranis and Thomas got to work and later released their Grammy Award-nominated album, Great White North. Coincidentally, their creativity also earned them a membership into the Order of Canada for their contribution to Canadian culture.
Riding the heels of his success as a senseless McKenzie, Moranis made his feature film debut in the 1983 classic, Strange Brew, which launched him to even bigger stardom. In 1984, he starred in Streets of Fire and The Wild Life before he joined Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray in Ghostbusters where he played the nerdy Louis Tully. Afterward, he enjoyed another wave of success as Seymour Krelborn in Little Shop of Horrors, as Lord Dark Hulmet in Spaceballs, and as Wayne Szalinski in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Even reprising a few of his roles in Ghosbusters II; Honey, I Blew Up the Kid; and Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, Moranis seemed to be settling into his own in Hollywood when tragedy struck at home when his wife lost her battle with breast cancer in 1991.
Left to raise his two children on his own, Moranis slowly stepped away from the spotlight as he mourned his wife’s death. “I was working with really interesting people, wonderful people,” he said. “I went from that to being at home with a couple of little kids, which is a very different lifestyle. But it was important to me. I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever. My life is wonderful.” With his last major film coming in 1997 with Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, Moranis says he never officially retired from acting but, instead, took a break that simply kept extending as he focused on life with his children and voice acting, a career that kept him close to home.
“It wasn’t a formal decision. It began in an entirely already busy year where I declined a film that was being shot out of town as the school year was beginning,” Moranis recalled. “But I was fortunate to be able to continue to make a living writing and doing voice work in Manhattan.” That voice work includes voicing a variety of characters like The Toy Taker and Mr. Cuddles in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys, Rutt in Brother Bear and Brother Bear 2, and Holly in Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Kids. He also reprised his role as Bob McKenzie in the 2007 television special, Bob & Doug McKenzie’s Two-Four Anniversary, and even created and produced the 2009 animated children’s sitcom, Bob & Doug.
Amid his work behind the scenes in television and film, Moranis also released his Grammy Award-nominated album The Agoraphobic Cowboy and My Mother’s Brisket & Other Love Songs, both of which feature his unique style of comedy and plenty of jokes. Of course, when it comes to jokes, Moranis doesn’t try to keep up with the latest trends and, instead, sticks to what he knows saying, “I don’t know who is out there, and I don’t know what they’re doing.” What he does know, however, is that he’ll continue to be selective with his next projects, which is exactly why he didn’t jump on board for the reboot of Ghostbusters in 2016.
“I’m interested in anything that I would find interesting. I still get the occasional query about a film or television role and as soon as one comes along that piques my interest, I’ll probably do it. But Ghostbusters didn’t appeal to me,” he said. “On the last couple of movies I made—big-budget Hollywood movies—I really missed being able to create my own material. In the early movies I did, I was brought in to basically rewrite my stuff, whether it was Ghostbusters or Spaceballs. By the time I got to the point where I was ‘starring’ in movies, and I had executives telling me what lines to say, that wasn’t for me. I’m really not an actor. I’m a guy who comes out of comedy and my impetus was always to rewrite the line to make it funnier, not to try to make somebody’s precious words work.”
Still refusing to settle for any project that doesn’t meet his standards, the 64-year-old Moranis hasn’t been spotted on the silver screen in two decades, but that doesn’t bother him at all. Why? Because he found even greater meaning in fatherhood… and, to him, that’s priceless.