Celebrated filmmaker Ivan Reitman has died, his family said in a statement on Monday. He was 75.
Reitman, who will be remembered for his work in classic Hollywood comedies like National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and Ghostbusters (1984), died peacefully in his sleep, his family told the Associated Press.
Reitman was residing in Montecito, California, when he died.
Signed by his three children Jason, Catherine, and Caroline, the Reitman family’s joint statement read: “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,” they said.
“While we mourn privately, we hope those who knew him through his films will remember him always.”
Reitman earned his big break with the raucous, college fraternity satire National Lampoon’s Animal House which he produced. He later directed Bill Murray in his first starring role in Meatballs and then again in Stripes, but his most significant success would come with Ghostbusters.
Starring Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis, the blockbuster grossed nearly $300m in ticket sales worldwide. The film also received two Oscar nominations, spawned a veritable franchise, television shows and a new movie, Ghostbusters: Afterlife that opened in 2021 and was directed by Reitman’s son Jason.
Reitman’s other directorial works include Kindergarten Cop, Dave, Twins, and Six Days, Seven Nights.
Reitman was born in 1946, in Komarmo, Czechoslovakia, where his father owned the country’s biggest vinegar factory. When the communists began imprisoning capitalists after the war, the Reitmans decided to escape to Vienna when Ivan was only four.
“I remember flashes of scenes,” Reitman said in an 1979 interview with AP, while describing his family’s ordeal getting out of Komarmo. “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 relocated to Canada, where Ivan’s interest in the performing arts began to develop and flourish. He started a puppet theatre, began entertaining at summer camps, and playing coffee houses with a folk music group.
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The well-regarded filmmaker studied music and drama at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, before making Cannibal Girls on a $12,000 (£8,861) budget. The indie horror/comedy movie was subsequently released by American international in 1973.
He also produced 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. This eventually led to the fruition of Animal House.
By the time 1990′s Kindergarten Cop came around, Reitman had established himself as the most successful comedy director in history. In 1998, he established The Montecito Picture Company that has produced films like Up in the Air (with George Clooney in the lead), the 2017 Baywatch reboot with Dwayne Johnson, I Love You Man, and Vicky Jenson’s 2009 rom-com Post Grad.
Reitman is survived by his wife Genevive and his three children.