Ivan Reitman, the influential film-maker and producer behind beloved comedies including Ghostbusters, Animal House and Twins, has died at the age of 75.
Reitman died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday night at his home in Montecito, California, his family told the Associated Press. No cause of death was given.
“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, Catherine and Caroline Reitman said in a joint statement.
“We take comfort that his work as a film-maker 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.”
Film-makers and comedians lined up to pay tribute on Monday. The director of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, Paul Feig, wrote: “I had the honour of working so closely with Ivan and it was always such a learning experience … All of us in comedy owe him so very much.” Comedian Kumail Nanjiani tweeted: “A legend. The number of great movies he made is absurd.”
Known for big, bawdy comedies that caught the spirit of their time. Reitman was born in Komarmo, Czechoslovakia, in 1946. His mother had survived Auschwitz and his father was in the underground resistance and the owner of the country’s biggest vinegar factory. Reitman was only four when his family fled communist oppression, travelling in the nailed-down hold of a barge headed for Vienna in 1950.
The family joined a relative in Toronto, where Reitman displayed his show business inclinations – starting a puppet theatre, entertaining at summer camps and playing coffee houses with a folk music group. He studied music and drama at McMaster University and began making movie shorts.
In 1975, he produced the off-Broadway National Lampoon Show, starring Bill Murray, John Belushi, Brian Doyle-Murray, Gilda Radner and Harold Ramis – all unknowns who would go on to star in Reitman’s films.
His 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 Meatballs and then again in Stripes but his most significant success came with 1984’s Ghostbusters.
Not only did the irreverent supernatural comedy – starring Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver – gross nearly $300m worldwide, it earned two Oscar nominations and spawned a veritable franchise including a sequel, spin-offs, games and television shows. In 2021, Ghostbusters: Afterlife was released – directed by Reitman’s son Jason, also a film-maker, and produced by Reitman.
Other notable films Reitman directed include Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Dave, Junior and Six Days, Seven Nights. His last directorial effort, the Kevin Costner film Draft Day, was released in 2014.
Deadline reported last year that Reitman was set to direct and produce a sequel to Twins, titled Triplets. Shooting was scheduled to begin in January 2022, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito set to reprise their roles with comedian Tracy Morgan playing their long lost sibling.
Reitman also produced several hits, including Beethoven, Space Jam, Old Schooland EuroTrip. He produced two of Jason’s films , Ghostbusters: Afterlife and the 2009 film Up in the Air. “That was a learning experience for me,” Reitman told the Guardian in November. “At one point we were having a terrible disagreement and Jason said to me: ‘I’ve worked with a lot of different producers and none have talked to me the way you do.’ And I thought: ‘Whoa! He’s right!’ I had to think of him as a professional, not my son, whom I could boss around.”
Reitman is survived by his wife, Genevieve, and their three children.