Ivan Reitman, the filmmaker, and producer, has passed away. He was the man behind the signature comedies of the late 20th Century including Animal House and Ghostbusters.
Reitman died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday night at his home in Montecito, California. He was 75 years old. His family released a statement:
“Our family is grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father, and grandfather who taught us to always seek the magic in life, 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.”
This one feels especially raw, as just a few short weeks ago quite a few of us, all over the Last Movie Outpost community were watching Ivan Reitman all over the extras for Ghostbusters: Afterlife speaking with passion and laughter about Ghostbusters.
He first became known for the college fraternity classic National Lampoon’s Animal House, which he produced. He then directed Bill Murray in his first starring role in the summer camp flick Meatballs. The again in 1981′s Stripes. After this, his most significant success happened in 1984 with Ghostbusters.
Starring Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Rick Moranis the movie was a box office and pop culture sensation that went on to gross nearly $300 million worldwide. It had two Oscar nominations and gave birth to toys, video games, sequels, reboots, and a television cartoon.
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.
With the horrors of the holocaust fresh in their minds, when the communists began imprisoning capitalists after the war the Reitmans took no chances and decided to escape. Ivan was only 4 years old. They traveled in the nailed-down hold of a barge heading upriver for Vienna. Speaking to the Associated Press in 1979, Reitman recalled:
“I remember flashes of scenes, 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 lived with a family member in Toronto and young Ivan displayed his talents by starting a puppet theater, entertaining at summer camps, and playing coffee houses with a folk music group. He went on to study 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. This was released by American International. On a $500 budget he produced a weekly TV revue starring Dan Akroyd called Greed. He also worked with National Lampoon in their off-Broadway revue that featured John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Bill Murray. This led him to Animal House.
He then hand-picked Murray to star in Meatballs, which was a big break for the comedian. Although long-time collaborator Harold Ramis would say Reitman had no idea if Murray would actually turn up until the first day of shooting.
Other notable movies Reitman directed were Kindergarten Cop, Dave, Junior, and Six Days, Seven Nights. He also produced Beethoven, Old School, and EuroTrip among many others.
Reitman also put Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first major comedy, opposite Danny DeVito in Twins. There was such uncertainty around the project that all forfeited their fees for a share of the profits. This proved to be a stroke of genius as the movie earned $216 million against an $18 million production budget.
In Sept. 2021, it was announced that a sequel, Triplets was in the works with Reitman directing his original cast, plus Tracy Morgan as their long-lost brother. This may now be delayed.
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 He directed some of my favorite comedies of all time. All of us in comedy owe him so very much.”
We will leave the final words to the man himself. When asked why the original Ghostbusters was such a hit and remains a classic to this day, Reitman said:
“I always had a sort of sincere approach to the comedy, I took it seriously even though, it was a horror movie and a comedy, I felt you had to sort of deal with it in a kind of realistic and honest way.”
Rest in peace, Mr. Reitman.