One of the most successful and important comedy directors and filmmakers of the last 50 years has died. Ivan Reitman was the man behind such classic movies as Ghostbusters, Stripes, and Twins; as a producer, he was involved in many more enormous hits. Sadly, Reitman passed away peacefully in his sleep last night in California. He was 75 years old.
His family gave this statement to the Associated Press:
Our family is grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father, and grandfather who taught us to always seek the magic in life. 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.
Reitman was born in Czechoslovakia and moved with his family to Canada when he was four years old. He began working in local television in Canada and then got into filmmaking. Among his early productions were two of David Cronenberg’s first forays into horror, Shivers and Rabid. His breakthrough as a producer came as one of the men behind National Lampoon’s Animal House and he followed it one year later with his breakthrough as a director: Meatballs, a genial summer camp comedy that became a big hit in large part thanks to the undeniably charm of its star, Bill Murray.
Reitman would continue to collaborate off and on with Murray for the rest of his life, starting with another big comedy hit two years later: Stripes, featuring Murray and Harold Ramis as schlubs who decide to join the Army.
Three years later, Murray and Ramis both re-teamed with Reitman again for the movie that would come to define all of their careers: Ghostbusters, with the pair playing ghost hunters in New York alongside Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson. A sequel followed in 1989 — and then several more sequels and remakes came in recent years, which Reitman helped produce.
Most of Reitman’s popular movies focused on and showed a real affinity for outsiders who prove their worth to themselves and everyone around them without losing sight of the unique qualities that made them outsiders in the first place. Ghostbusters might be the single best example of that idea; Peter, Egon, and Ray get kicked out of Columbia University for their kooky ideas, then use their kooky ideas to save New York City from ghosts.
While Ghostbusters was Reitman’s biggest blockbuster, he had several other major box office hits, including Twins, which turned Arnold Schwarzenegger from action hero to family-friendly comedy star. (Reitman then re-teamed with Schwarzenegger for Kindergarten Cop and Junior.) As a producer, Reitman had even more blockbusters to his credit, including Beethoven, Space Jam, Private Parts, Road Trip, and Old School, and his later works included Evolution, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and No Strings Attached. His final film as a director was 2014’s Draft Day, a very solid sports dramedy about Kevin Costner trying to save his job and fix his flailing football team.
Though Reitman wasn’t exactly a young man, he was still busy; he helped produce Ghostbusters: Afterlife (directed by his son, Jason Reitman) and was just out on the Ghostbusters: Afterlife press tour. (I saw him help introduce the film at the premiere back in November.) Reitman was also working on a long-in-development sequel to Twins titled Triplets that was supposed to star Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, and Tracy Morgan.
Sadly, we’ll never get to see Reitman’s Triplets or any of the other films and TV series he had in the works. Thankfully, all of his best films are widely available for rent or to stream right now. Audiences will be laughing at those movies for decades to come.