Ivan Reitman, who helped bring to life some of the best cinematic comedies in a remarkable career, has died. He was 75.
Born in 1946 in Komamo, Czechoslovakia, Reitman was the son of an Auschwitz survivor and a member of the Czech resistance. He moved to American in 19540 to escape the postwar Communist regime and was raised in Toronto, Canada.
Reitman’s career behind a camera started relatively young; he attended Hamilton’s McMaster University, where he started making short films. It was also where he met a bevy of talented performers including Martin Short, Eugene Levy and Rick Moranis.
Upon returning to Toronto, he hired one Dan Aykroyd to work on a comedy show Reitman was producing for a local TV station, and the two became fast friends and lifelong collaborators.
Reitman’s first film as director and producer was 1971’s Foxy Lady, though he’s better known for horror spoof Cannibal Girls (which shows up on marquees in both Ghostbusters II and Ghostbusters: Afterlife), starring Levy, Andrea Martin and several others Reitman had known for a few years.
In those early days, he also developed a reputation as a key supporting of others’ work, including producing David Cronenberg’s initial horror output.
1978 saw him producing what would go on to become one of the crown jewels of that blossoming movie career, a little film about a misfit college fraternity called Animal House, which went on to become a huge hit. It also solidified another creative partnership, that of Reitman and writer Harold Ramis.
He followed that up with two successes starring Bill Murray, Meatballs and Stripes, which led to he and Aykroyd revisiting a script that Aykroyd had written to star in with his Blues Brothers partner John Belushi, who’d died before it saw cameras. Reitman saw the potential and had Ramis work with Aykroyd on the script for what became Ghostbusters, directed and produced by Reitman, and starring Aykroyd, Ramis, Murray and Ernie Hudson.
One of the most successful and influential comedies, Ghostbusters displayed what became a key factor in Reitman’s style – having a solid script but combining that with actors who could riff when needed. A sequel, 1989’s Ghostbusters II, has its fans but didn’t enjoy the same level of impact.
Able to leap between genres and make movies that appealed to a wide variety of audiences, Reitman is known for directing or producing the likes of Dave, Beethoven, Twins, Heavy Metal, Evolution, Kindergarten Cop, Junior, Old School, Up In The Air, Draft Day, and, most recently, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which sees his filmmaker son Jason continuing on the story.
In addition to his son, Reitman is survived by his wife Genevieve and daughters Catherine, a TV actress-writer-producer, and Caroline.