‘Ghostbusters’ director Ivan Reitman dies at 75

His family announced the death in a statement to The Associated Press, which did not give a cause. Publicists for two of his children — filmmaker Jason Reitman and actress, producer and writer Catherine Reitman — did not share additional details.

Mr. Reitman was one of the most successful comedy filmmakers of his time, known for channeling an irreverent, anti-establishment sensibility into films that tapped into the talents of “Saturday Night Live” stars such as John Belushi, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. His films rarely received critical acclaim, but they grossed over $2 billion at the box office and inspired filmmakers such as Todd Phillips, whose comedies “Road Trip” (2000) and “Old School” ( 2003) were among the over 70 films. and television shows produced by Mr. Reitman.

“He has a great sensitivity for the pulse of an audience,” Aykroyd told Canadian magazine Maclean’s in 1986. “He knows how to build those reaction points, the ups and downs that make a movie work.”

Mr. Reitman has directed nearly 20 films, often involving rebellious goofballs in outlandish situations. The ending of his US Army comedy “Stripes” (1981) saw Murray, Harold Ramis and other soldiers accidentally invade Czechoslovakia, while the climax of “Ghostbusters” (1984) featured the demonic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, a corporate mascot that roams the streets of New York, wreaking havoc.

“This film is an exception to the general rule that big special effects can destroy a comedy,” wrote film critic Roger Ebert in a review of “Ghostbusters,” which starred Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis as of a trio of New Yorkers catching ghosts. The film has grossed some $230 million in the United States and has spawned books, comics, TV shows, a remake and two sequels, including ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ (2021), which was produced by M Reitman and directed by his son.

Mr. Reitman was the son of Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust and fled communist Czechoslovakia. He grew up in Canada, where he made satirical shorts and low-budget horror comedies. He launched his mainstream film career with “Animal House” (1978), which he produced with Matty Simmons, capitalizing on the success of comedy magazine National Lampoon. Shot for less than $3 million, the film starred Belushi as a member of the rowdy Delta Tau Chi fraternity and earned over $140 million at the US box office.

“It killed me, I couldn’t direct it,” said Reitman, who was passed over by more experienced filmmaker John Landis.

Mr. Reitman then directed Murray in his first starring film role, as a summer camp counselor in “Meatballs” (1979), and helped launch Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career as a comedian, pairing him with diminutive Danny DeVito in “Twins” (1988) – they played the main characters separated at birth – and cast him alongside a pack of unruly children in “Kindergarten Cop” (1990) .

By then he had earned a reputation as a “schlockmeister,” as he put it, for making broad and sometimes bawdy comedies. But he also showed a more serious side while earning a Best Picture Oscar nomination as producer for ‘Up in the Air’ (2009), directed by his son, and an Emmy nomination as a producer. executive of “The Late Shift” (1996), a TV movie about the power struggle over who would succeed Johnny Carson as host of “The Tonight Show”.

Mr. Reitman has also branched out as a director, notably in the political satire “Dave” (1993), starring Kevin Kline as an ordinary man who poses as the president and ends up serving as a commander in chief. He also produced, directed and wrote the story for “Legal Eagles” (1986), a legal comedy and crime thriller starring Robert Redford, Debra Winger and Daryl Hannah.

The film is partly inspired by romantic comedies of the late 1940s and 1950s, which represented “an island of optimism in a world increasingly perceived as chaotic,” Reitman told The New York Times. .

“When people talk about making movies that way, it’s not so much about recreating the movies of the 1940s as it’s about recreating the sensibilities where people stood up for what was right, where people trusted each other, where it there was an order to life,” he said. “What I struggle with is finding a contemporary way to tell a story while keeping those sensibilities in play, because I think , deep down, that I am like that.”

Ivan Reitman was born in Komarno, Czechoslovakia — now part of Slovakia — on October 27, 1946. His mother was an Auschwitz survivor, and his father owned the country’s largest vinegar factory and fought with the resistance. during World War II, according to the Associated Press.

Shortly after the Communist takeover, Mr. Reitman fled the country with his family, hiding under the floor of a tugboat. “We were five days in that boat,” her father, Leslie, later told The Times. “It was very hard for him. It affects a child. Maybe what he missed as a very young child was what he wanted back in high school and college – the stuff crazy.

The family moved to Toronto, where his father bought a dry cleaning business and then a car wash. Later, Mr. Reitman and his family donated the property to the Toronto International Film Festival, helping to build a year-round home for the organization.

Mr. Reitman sang in a folk group before studying music at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1969. He staged student plays and conducted the film club, making his own short films after taking a summer course through the National Film Board of Canada.

One of his first films, a 20-minute satire titled “Orientation” (1968), screened in Toronto cinemas. A year later he produced ‘The Columbus of Sex’, an art film which depicts the sexual exploits of a young man and sparked an obscenity trial, in which Mr Reitman was found guilty and sentenced to a fine of $300.

His directorial debut, the comedy “Foxy Lady” (1971), marked the film debuts of Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin, who both starred in its sequel, the low-budget horror comedy “Cannibal Girls” (1973), about a group of man-eating women.

Mr. Reitman also worked on stage, producing the Broadway musical “The Magic Show” which starred magician Doug Henning and ran from 1974 to 1978, and “The National Lampoon Show”, an off- Broadway which opened in 1975 and led the way. path for his work on “Animal House”.

He then earned two Tony Award nominations as producer and director of the 1983 musical “Merlin,” which reunited him with Henning and featured music by Elmer Bernstein.

Mr. Reitman also produced the horror film ‘Shivers’ (1975), helping to launch director David Cronenberg’s career, and increasingly focused on production in the early 1990s, with credits on comedies such as “Beethoven” (1992), “Space Jam” (1996) “Private Parts” by Howard Stern (1997), “Trailer Park Boys: The Movie” (2006) and “I Love You, Man” (2009 ).

As a director, he has worked with stars such as Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Harrison Ford, Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, directing romantic comedies including ‘Fathers’ Day’ (1997), ‘Six Days Seven Nights” (1998), “My Great Ex-Girlfriend” (2006) and “No Strings Attached” (2011).

He also dabbled in science fiction with “Evolution” (2001) and directed a sports drama, “Draft Day” (2014) with Kevin Costner, in his last feature as a director. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2009.

Survivors include his wife, Geneviève Robert, and his three children, Jason, Catherine and Caroline Reitman. Complete information about the survivors was not immediately available.

As director, Mr. Reitman sought to strike a balance between freedom and control, giving the actors leeway to interpret their roles while striving to ensure the cohesion of the film as a whole.

“There’s a point where actors can say whatever they want, and then part of the fun for me as a director is taking that raw work and structuring it and reworking it and making it fit the character work and plot, which also evolves,” he told The Times. “It’s a way of being a co-writer on a movie while it’s being shot. doesn’t allow for the same kind of focused direction and polished style that leads to wide recognition for the film’s creator.