'Ghostbusters' director Ivan Reitman dies at 75

Ivan Reitman, who as producer, director or both was a force behind some of the most successful and beloved cinematic comedies of the pas...


Ivan Reitman, who as producer, director or both was a force behind some of the most successful and beloved cinematic comedies of the past 45 years, including ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House’, ‘Stripes’, ‘Ghostbusters’ and “Twins,” died Saturday at his home in Montecito, Calif. He was 75 years old.

His children, Jason, Catherine and Caroline Reitman, confirmed the deaths in a statement to The Associated Press. The cause was not specified.

Mr. Reitman made his mark with films that often featured memorable outrageous scenes and unexpected casting. “Animal House” (1978), which he produced with Matty Simmons, turned “toga party” and “food fight” into catchphrases. “Stripes” (1981), which he both produced (with Daniel Goldberg) and directed, featured Bill Murray and Harold Ramis as unlikely soldiers who smash through the Iron Curtain. “Ghostbusters” (1984), which Mr. Reitman also produced and directed, had his giant marshmallow man, among other special effects, in a film that reunited Mr. Murray and Mr. Ramis to team up with Dan Aykroyd .

These movies turned comedians like Mr. Murray and John Belushi into movie stars. Other Reitman films put established stars in new situations. Arnold Schwarzenegger was known for “The Terminator” and the “Conan” movies when, in 1988, Mr. Reitman paired him with Danny DeVito as mismatched brothers in “Twins.” Two years later, he made Mr. Schwarzenegger a policeman posing as a kindergarten teacher in the family comedy “Kindergarten Cop” (1990).

Although he is perhaps most identified with the comedy type in “Animal House” and “Ghostbusters” – films which, as the New York Times put it in 1993, “cemented Mr. Reitman’s reputation as a man sensitive to young people’s taste for reckless detachment” – the brilliant “Kindergarten Cop” showed a wider range. The same goes for “Dave” (1993), a political comedy about an acting president (played by Kevin Kline) which featured real-life politicians and other public figures in the cast.

Critics sometimes complained that Mr. Reitman’s films could seem too loosely structured and acted, which is often attributed to the fact that his actors tended to include actors from comedic improv backgrounds. But those who worked with him said there was a method behind the on-screen madness he orchestrated. Sigourney Weaver, who starred in ‘Dave’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ movies, described it in a 1993 interview with The Times.

“In ‘Dave,’ he basically let me do whatever I wanted,” she said. “Then he asked me to do what he saw. So he said, ‘Do what you want.’ In these takes, after his direction, I could satisfy both of us.

Mr. Reitman acknowledged that his plans as a director and producer have changed over the decades.

“All of those early movies were really about being in your twenties and being a teenager, as opposed to being in your thirties and forties and fifties and having kids,” he told The Times in 1993. Damn, let’s go start a war in Czechoslovakia. Hey, this is going to be fun! We were really saying, “It doesn’t matter.

“What we’re saying right now is, ‘This is important,'” he continued. “You have to take responsibility for yourself, your little life and the life of your family. And then in the life of your country.

Ivan Reitman was born on October 27, 1946 in Komarno, in what was then Czechoslovakia but is now Slovakia, to Jewish parents who survived the Nazis. Four years later, his family fled the country to escape communism and finally landed in Toronto.

“We came here broke,” he told CBC in 2007 as he was about to earn a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. “I didn’t speak the language.”

He learned to play a few different instruments and in high school was part of a folk group that dabbled in hits of the day by Peter, Paul and Mary and others. He enrolled at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

“I went there because I couldn’t get into the University of Toronto,” he said in a 2011 interview on the “Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show” video series. “I wanted to be a music student. I thought I was going to become a composer.

McMaster, he said, had just started a music program and was eager to have students. But his goals changed when he got involved in a student film club.

“I was able to direct my very first film,” he said. “It was called ‘Orientation’. It was about a freshman coming to college and his first few weeks. Turned out to be the precursor to “Animal House”.

Another early film, which he produced with Mr. Goldberg, earned him some infamy. It was called “The Columbus of Sex,” and in 1969, news agencies in Canada published this report: “Three men who showed a film shot in Toronto at McMaster University on August 8 were charged Tuesday in under the obscenity provisions of the Criminal Code. ”

The three men were Mr. Reitman, Mr. Goldberg and the director of the film, John Hofses. Mr. Reitman was fined $300.

He shook off this setback and began to have success as a producer, including on Broadway; he was one of several producers of “The Magic Show”, which starred Doug Henning and ran for 1,920 performances after it opened in May 1974. In 1975 he was producer of “Shivers”, one of the first films from horror director David Cronenberg.

Mr. Reitman did much of the development work on “Animal House,” one of the defining comedies of its day and a box office hit, but John Landis directed.

“It killed me, I couldn’t realize it,” Mr. Reitman told The Times decades later.

For his next project, however, he was in the director’s chair. It was “Meatballs” (1979), a summer camp comedy starring Mr. Murray, that would be key to many of Mr. Reitman’s successes. They paired up again for “Stripes” and then “Ghostbusters,” which was nominated for two Oscars.

In a 2007 interview with Radio-CanadaMr. Reitman recalled the first time he saw the stars of “Ghostbusters,” in their outlandish ghostly outfits, skirting Madison Avenue for a pre-shoot.

“There was just something so extraordinary about that picture,” he said. “I turned to the script assistant next to me and said, ‘I think this movie is going to work. “”

Five years later, he directed a sequel, ‘Ghostbusters II,’ and he helped produce another spin-off, ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife,’ which was directed by his son, Jason, and released last year. .

Mr. Reitman married the actress Genevieve Robert in 1976. A complete list of his survivors, in addition to his children, was not immediately available.

Mr. Reitman’s other projects as a director include “Legal Eagles” (1986) with Robert Redford, Debra Winger and Daryl Hannah; “Junior” (1994), another comedic vehicle for Mr. DeVito and Mr. Schwarzenegger; “Six Days Seven Nights” (1998) with Anne Heche and Harrison Ford; and “Draft Day” (2014), with Kevin Costner.

In a 1990 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Reitman spoke of the difficulties he encountered while filming “Kindergarten Cop,” in which he used a number of young children. Quarreling with the youngsters was not easy, he said, nor was it about dealing with their parents.

“They could see if little Sally was in the camera or not,” he said. “When they found out she wasn’t, they were like, ‘Sally, maybe if you stood a little closer to Arnold…. “”

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Newsrust - US Top News: 'Ghostbusters' director Ivan Reitman dies at 75
'Ghostbusters' director Ivan Reitman dies at 75
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