Ivan Reitman, “Ghostbusters” director, has died at 75

US-ENTERTAINMENT-GHOSTBUSTERS
Filmmaker Ivan Reitman at the “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” New York premiere at AMC Lincoln Square on November 15, 2021 in New York City. ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Ivan Reitman, the influential filmmaker and producer behind many of the most beloved comedies of the late 20th century, from “Animal House” to “Ghostbusters,” has died. He was 75.

Reitman died peacefully in his sleep Saturday night at his home in Montecito, Calif., his family told The Associated Press.

“Our family is grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father, and grandfather who taught us to always seek the magic in life,” children Jason Reitman, Catherine Reitman and Caroline Reitman said in a joint statement. “We take comfort that his work as a filmmaker brought laughter and happiness to countless others around the world. While we mourn privately, we hope those who knew him through his films will remember him always.”

Known for bawdy comedies that caught the spirit of their times, Reitman’s big break came with the raucous, college fraternity sendup “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” which he produced. He directed Bill Murray in his first starring role in the summer camp flick “Meatballs” and then again in 1981’s “Stripes,” but his most significant success came with 1984’s “Ghostbusters.”

Not only did the irreverent supernatural comedy starring Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis gross nearly $300 million worldwide, it earned two Oscar nominations and spawned a veritable franchise, including spinoffs, television shows and a new movie, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” that opened this last year. His son, filmmaker Jason Reitman, directed.

Paul Feig, who directed the 2016 reboot of “Ghostbusters” tweeted that he was in shock.

“I had the honor of working so closely with Ivan and it was always such a learning experience,” Feig wrote. “He directed some of my favorite comedies of all time. All of us in comedy owe him so very much.”

“A legend,” comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani said on Twitter. “The number of great movies he made is absurd.”

Among other notable films he directed are “Twins,” “Kindergarten Cop,” “Dave,” “Junior” and 1998’s “Six Days, Seven Nights.” He also produced “Beethoven,” “Old School” and “EuroTrip,” and many others, including his son’s Oscar-nominated film “Up in the Air.”

He was born in Komárno, Czechoslovakia, in 1946 where his father owned the country’s biggest vinegar factory. His mother had survived Auschwitz and his father was in the resistance. When the communists began imprisoning capitalists after the war, the Reitmans decided to escape, when Ivan Reitman was only 4. They traveled in the nailed-down hold of a barge headed for Vienna.

“I remember flashes of scenes,” Reitman told the AP in 1979. “Later they told me about how they gave me a couple of sleeping pills so I wouldn’t make any noise. I was so knocked out that I slept with my eyes open. My parents were afraid I was dead.”

The Reitmans joined a relative in Toronto, where Ivan displayed his show biz inclinations — starting a puppet theater, entertaining at summer camps, playing coffee houses with a folk music group. He studied music and drama at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and began making movie shorts.

With friends and $12,000, Reitman made a nine-day movie, “Cannibal Girls,” which American International agreed to release. He produced on a $500 budget a weekly TV revue, “Greed,” with Dan Aykroyd, and became associated with the Lampoon group in its off-Broadway revue that featured John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Murray. That soon led to “Animal House.”

Reitman seized the moment after the massive success of “Animal House” and raised money to direct “Meatballs,” which would be tamer than the hard-R “Animal House.”

He hand-picked Murray to star, which would prove to be a significant break for the comedian, but Ramis later said that Reitman didn’t know if Murray would actually show up until the first day of the shoot. But it was the beginning of a fruitful and long-running partnership that would produce the war comedy “Stripes,” which Reitman said he thought up on the way to the “Meatballs” premiere, and “Ghostbusters.”

Reitman always took comedy and the power of laughter seriously.

“The great cliche is about how damn tough comedy is. But of course, nobody really gives that any respect,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2000. “It’s such a visceral thing, laughing. So getting to the point where you can get an audience of 600 people laughing is really precise and intricate work. … My sense is we’re laughing at the same things we’ve always laughed at, but the language of the filmmaker and the performer shifts.”

Source : Cbs News