Ivan Reitman, Legendary Director Of Ghostbusters And Producer Of Animal House, Has Died At 75

Ivan Reitman, the legendary director of "Ghostbusters" and "Stripes" and producer of "National Lampoon's Animal House" and "Space Jam," has died unexpectedly at 75 in his home in Montecito, California, according to The Associated Press.

A statement from Ivan Reitman's children, filmmaker Jason Reitman ("Juno," "Up in the Air") and daughters Catherine Reitman and Caroline Reitman confirmed the filmmaker's passing:

"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."

Ivan Reitman (left) and Jason Reitman (right) recently worked closely together on "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," a revival of the original "Ghostbusters" franchise which served as a bittersweet big screen farewell to the late Harold Ramis, another fallen member of the blockbuster paranormal comedy. But Reitman's success in Hollywood goes beyond catching spooks, specters, and ghosts while wearing a cocky smirk.

Slobs vs Snobs

As a director and producer, Ivan Reitman began his career rather unceremoniously with "Foxy Lady" and "Cannibal Girls," but he found his niche in frequently pitting lovable losers and sarcastic slobs against the snobbiest members of high society and authority. 

The Canadian filmmaker helped launch the big screen career of "Saturday Night Live" cast member John Belushi by producing the classic comedy "National Lampoon's Animal House," a groundbreaking, chaotic frat house comedy which not only incited many drunken nights at universities everywhere, but resulted in many imitators in media, including the short-lived TV series adaptation "Delta House," which he executive produced a year after the film premiered. 

Reitman also helped launch the blockbuster comedy career of fellow "SNL" cast member Bill Murray by directing the summer camp comedy "Meatballs" and producing/directing the madhouse military movie "Stripes," which also featured fellow Canadian comedians Harold Ramis and John Candy. All three of the actors nearly reunited in what would become Ivan Reitman's most beloved contribution to pop culture history.

In 1984, Ivan Reitman directed and produced "Ghostbusters," the sci-fi comedy following Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as a quartet of paranormal exterminators. (John Candy was the original choice for the role of Louis Tully, alongside Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barrett, but creative differences took him away from the project, allowing yet another Canadian, actor Rick Moranis, to take the role.) The film made over $229 million worldwide on a budget of just $30 million and is considered to be one of the best comedies ever made. 

"Ghostbusters" not only spawned a sequel in 1989, but it also inspired the animated series "The Real Ghostbusters," the franchise reboot "Ghostbusters: Answer the Call," and the recently released "Ghostbusters: Afterlife." Outside film and television, the "Ghostbusters" franchise has also launched books, comics, video games, snacks and endless amounts of merchandise, not to mention an entire production banner called Ghost Corps., which Reitman co-founded with Dan Aykroyd in 2015 to oversee a slew of new "Ghostbusters" multimedia

An Eclectic Comedy Career

Ivan Reitman also had plenty of fun with Arnold Schwarzenegger by directing and producing "Twins," "Kindergarten Cop," and "Junior," albeit with diminishing returns in both box office and quality. Reitman continued to work with some of the biggest names in Hollywood through the 90s, including Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver in the political romantic comedy "Dave," the team-up of Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in "Fathers' Day," and the survival adventure "Six Days, Seven Nights" with Harrison Ford and Anne Heche. 

Though Reitman's best efforts may have been as a director, the filmmaker's work as a producer and executive producer resulted in plenty of hits as well. His involvement in films like "Heavy Metal" and "Space Jam" showed Reitman had a love for animation, and he also helped launch the family comedy franchise "Beethoven" (but was smart enough to stay away from any sequels after "Beethoven's 2nd"). But Reitman always had plenty more inappropriate comedy in him, having a hand in the likes of Howard Stern's "Private Parts," "Road Trip," "Old School," "EuroTrip" and "I Love You, Man."

Returning to his "Ghostbusters" roots in 2001, Reitman directed and produced "Evolution," featuring David Duchovny and Orlando Jones as a team of scientists dealing with an alien invasion, complete with Seann William Scott in an everyman wannabe firefighter and Dan Aykroyd as the governor of Arizona. Reitman even tried his hand at the superhero genre as comic book movies became all the rage in the 2000s, but he did it with his own comedic style in "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" starring Uma Thurman.

Over the past decade, Ivan Reitman only directed two films for the big screen, the romantic comedy "No Strings Attached" (not to be confused with "Friends with Benefits") and the underrated sports drama "Draft Day." More recently, he produced the R-rated comedies "Father Figures" and "Baywatch."

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

It's only appropriate that Ivan Reitman's final project that he saw to the very end was "Ghostbusters: Afterlife." Reitman had produced "Up in the Air" for his son Jason Reitman, but the franchise sequel marked the first time that the younger Reitman worked on a film tied to his father's blockbuster legacy. The two worked together more closely than ever to bring back the spirit of the original "Ghostbusters" to the big screen, right down to the right color slime.

Though "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" was delayed due to the pandemic, before the film ever premiered, Jason Reitman experienced a touching moment with his filmmaker father. After seeing a screening of the film on the Sony Pictures lot, the young Reitman recalled, "[After the film,] he cried, and he said, 'I'm so proud to be your father.' And it was one of the great moments of my life."

Reitman actually became part of the "Ghostbuster" universe himself by making a stealthy cameo as Bill Murray's character, Dr. Peter Venkman, acting as a stand-in for his hands charging up the proton pack in the film's finale.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a comedy director with as many accolades as Ivan Reitman. The filmmaker is responsible for comedies that have influenced several generations of filmmakers for nearly 50 years. He's easily one of the most successful comedy directors of his time, and there are few filmmakers among today's roster of talent that measure up to his legacy. Reitman will be remembered for years to come, and his films will live on as a definitive piece of Hollywood history. Rest in peace.