LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ivan Reitman, the influential filmmaker and producer behind beloved comedies from “Animal House” to “Ghostbusters,” has died. He was 75 years old.
Reitman died peacefully in his sleep Saturday night at his home in Montecito, Calif., his family told The Associated Press.
“Our family is mourning 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 are reassured that his work as a filmmaker has brought laughter and happiness to countless people around the world. While we privately mourn, we hope that those who knew him through his films will always remember him.
Known for his great, bawdy comedies that captured the spirit of their times, Reitman’s big breakthrough came with the rowdy college fraternity show “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” which he produced. He directed Bill Murray in his first leading role in ‘Meatballs’ and then again in ‘Stripes’, but his most significant success came with ‘Ghostbusters’ in 1984.
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 also earned two Oscar nominations, spawned a veritable franchise, including spinoffs, TV shows, and a new movie. , “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which opened last year. His son, filmmaker Jason Reitman directed.
Other notable films he has directed include ‘Twins’, ‘Kindergarten Cop’, ‘Dave’, ‘Junior’ and ‘Six Days, Seven Nights’. He also produced ‘Beethoven’, ‘Old School’ and ‘EuroTrip’ and many more, including several for his son.
He was born in Komarmo, Czechoslovakia in 1946, where his father owned the largest vinegar factory in the country. When the Communists began imprisoning capitalists after the war, the Reitmans decided to escape, when Ivan Reitman was only 4 years old. They traveled in the nailed hold of a barge bound for Vienna.
“I remember flashes of scenes,” Reitman told the AP in 1979. “Later they told me how they gave me some sleeping pills so I wouldn’t make noise. I was so stunned that I slept with my eyes open. My parents were afraid that I was dead.
The Reitmans joined a relative in Toronto, where Ivan showed his penchant for showbiz: starting a puppet theater, entertaining at summer camps, playing coffeehouses with a folk band. He studied music and theater at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and started making short films.
With friends and $12,000, Reitman made a nine-day movie, “Cannibal Girls,” which American International agreed to release. He produced a $500 weekly weekly revue, “Greed”, with Dan Aykroyd, and partnered with the Lampoon group in their off-Broadway revue which featured John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Murray. This quickly led to “Animal House”.
By the time 1990s “Kindergarten Cop” was released, Reitman had established himself as the most successful comedy director in history. Although not even being a father of three could have prepared him for the daunting task of leading 30 children aged 4 to 7 in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comedy.
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