Ghostbusters Director Ivan Reitman Dies Aged 75

Influential filmmaker Ivan Reitman, who directed beloved comedies Animal House and Ghostbusters has died ‘unexpectedly’ at age 75. 

His family said Reitman died peacefully in his sleep Saturday night at his Montecito, California home.  

‘Our family is grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father, and grandfather who taught us to always seek the magic in life,’ his 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.’ 

It is unclear if Reitman had been suffering any illnesses prior to his death.  

Known for big, bawdy comedies that caught the spirit of their time, the director-producer’s most significant success came with his 1984 film Ghostbusters which grossed nearly $300million worldwide.

The supernatural comedy – starring Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis – earned two Oscar nominations and spawned a veritable franchise that included television shows and a new movie, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which was directed by his son, Jason, and opened last year.  

He was also the co-owner of The Montecito Picture Company which is responsible for the production of dozens of films. 

The Hollywood Walk of Fame Star holder and Lifetime Achievement Award winner got his big break at age 34 when he produced the raucous, college fraternity sendup National Lampoon’s Animal House.

He then went on to direct many notable films, including hits that starred award-winning actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also served as the governor of California, and Bill Murray. 

Reitman directed Murray in 1979 in his first starring role in Meatballs and then again in Stripes, a 1981 American war comedy.

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, EuroTrip and many others, including several for his son.

The influential filmmaker’s death was a hard hit to the cinematic community, with many of his fans and former colleagues offering their condolences Sunday night.

Paul Feig, who director of the 2016 Ghostbusters remake said it was a ‘honor working so closely with Ivan’ and ‘such a learning experience.’

He outlined how Reitman was a ‘generous’ and supportive man that has made a lasting impact on his career.

‘I’m in absolute 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. Thank you for everything, Ivan. Truly,’ Feig wrote on Twitter. 

‘One of the most special moments to me was after our last test screening of Ghostbusters:ATC after we did some reshoots and our scores went through the roof. Ivan met me out in the lobby and said “I’m so happy for you I feel like crying.” That’s the kind of generous man he was.’ 

He added: ‘Sending so much love to the great @JasonReitman for the loss of his amazing father Ivan. Jason and Ivan have always been so supportive of me throughout my career and I’ll never be able to truly repay them both. This is such a sad day.’ 

The influential filmmaker's death was a hard hit to the cinematic community, with many of his fans and former colleagues offering their condolences Sunday night

The influential filmmaker’s death was a hard hit to the cinematic community, with many of his fans and former colleagues offering their condolences Sunday night

Harold and Kumar writer-director Jon Hurwitz gave a shout-out to Reitman’s ‘legacy of classics, in a tweet naming several of his well-known titles. 

Comedian, actor and writer Sam Brown said he was ‘deeply saddened’ by Reitman’s passing hailed him a ‘legend,’ saying: ‘Trevor Zach and I had the pleasure of writing with him on a project and it was such an honor. With no hyperbole the man was a legend. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and the people who worked with him everyday.’ 

W. Earl Brown, who appeared in Reitman’s sports drama Draft Day, attributed his desire to pursue a movie career to the filmmaker.

Guy Branum, who appeared in Reitman’s romcom No Strings Attached, said Reitman was responsible for the creation of several of his ‘favorite movies’.

‘I got to be in a movie because Ivan Reitman saw me on TV and thought I was funny,’ Branum tweeted. ‘He was impossibly kind, astoundingly funny, and made so many of my favorite movies. I’m so sorry for his family’s loss.’

Reitman was born in Komarmo, Czechoslovakia, in 1946 where his father owned the country’s biggest vinegar factory. When the communists began imprisoning capitalists after the war, the Reitmans decided to escape, when he was only four. They traveled in the nailed-down hold of a barge headed for Vienna.

‘I remember flashes of scenes,’ Reitman he recalled in a 1979 interview. 

‘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 the filmmaker 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.

By the time 1990’s Kindergarten Cop came around, Reitman had established himself as the most successful comedy director in history. Though not even being the father of three children could have prepared him for the arduous task of directing 30 children between the ages of four and seven in the Schwarzenegger comedy.

Reitman slowed down as a director after Six Days, Seven Nights – only four films would follow: Evolution, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, No Strings Attached and 2014’s Draft Day.

However, he continued producing and, with Ghostbusters: Afterlife, even found himself on the press circuit with his son, Jason, providing emotional moments for both with the passing of the baton.

When asked late last year why the 1984 film continued to fascinate, Reitman said that it was hard to define.

‘I always had a sort of sincere approach to the comedy,’ he said. ‘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.’

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