Ivan Reitman, the influential filmmaker and producer behind beloved comedies from Animal House to Ghostbusters, has died aged 75.
Reitman died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday night at his home in Montecito, California, his family told 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,” children Jason Reitman, Catherine Reitman and Caroline Reitman said in a joint statement.
“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.”
Known for bawdy comedies that caught the spirit of their time, Reitman’s big break came with the raucous, college fraternity sendup National Lampoon’s Animal House, which he produced.
He directed Bill Murray in his first starring role in the summer camp flick Meatballs, and then again in 1981’s Stripes, but his most significant success came with 1984’s Ghostbusters.
Paul Feig, who directed the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters, tweeted that he was in shock.
“I had the honor of working so closely with Ivan and it was always such a learning experience,” he wrote. “He directed some of my favorite comedies of all time. All of us in comedy owe him so very much.”
“A legend,” comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani said on Twitter. “The number of great movies he made is absurd.”
Among other notable films he directed are Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Dave, Junior and 1998’s Six Days, Seven Nights. He also produced Beethoven, Old School and EuroTrip, and many others.
He was born in Komarno, Czechoslovakia, in 1946 where his father owned the country’s biggest vinegar factory. His mother had survived Auschwitz and his father was in the resistance.
When the communists began imprisoning capitalists after the war, the Reitmans decided to escape, when Ivan Reitman was only four. They travelled in the nailed-down hold of a barge headed for Vienna.
The Reitmans joined a relative in Toronto, where Ivan displayed his show biz inclinations: starting a puppet theatre, entertaining at summer camps and playing coffee houses with a folk music group. He studied music and drama at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and began making movie shorts.
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