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Ivan Reitman, influential director of ‘Ghostbusters’, ‘Stripes’, ‘Animal House’, dead at 75

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Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Sony Pictures

According to published reports, Ivan Reitman, who directed comedy classics like Animal HouseStripes, and Ghostbusters, died Saturday at 75. 

Born in 1946 in what is now Slovakia, to Jewish parents who survived the Nazi occupation, Reitman’s family fled to Canada when he was four years old. Raised in Canada, he eventually ended up in the orbit of rising comic stars Dan Akykroyd, John Belushi and Harold Ramis, from the country’s Second City troupe. Belushi and Akyroyd would later star on Saturday Night Live, while Ramis, who co-wrote Reitman’s first feature, 1978’s Animal House, was a veteran of Canada’s beloved sketch show SCTV, as was eventual Ghostbusters co-star Rick Moranis.

Prior to that, 1978’s Animal House brought Belushi big screen stardom, and in 1979 Reitman directed another SNL vet, Bill Murray, in the summer camp comedy Meatballs.

Reitman collaborated with Ramis and Murray again, along with another SCTV vet John Candy, for the 1981 hit Stripes, with the gang playing unlikely military heroes. The friends would again re-team for Ghostbusters in 1984, on a script from Ramis and Aykroyd — although Candy’s off-center take on accountant Louis Tully saw Moranis getting the role instead.

Originally conceived as a vehicle that would have included Belushi, who died of a drug overdose in 1980, Ghostbusters overcame a demanding shooting schedule to become a franchise-spawning blockbuster. The original movie is ranked by The American Film Institute #28 on its list of the top 100 comedies of all time. 

The film, also starring Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts, led to the hit Ghostbusters II in 1989. The gang was reunited, minus a retired Moranis and Ramis, the latter of whom passed away in 2014, in the 2021 hit Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which was directed by Reitman’s son, Jason, and which was not only dedicated to Ramis, but featured a CGI version of him in a pivotal role from the Great Beyond.

Reitman also directed the hit Twins with Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1988, before teaming up with the latter in 1990’s Kindergarten Cop. 1993 saw DeVito and Schwarzenegger re-team for Reitman’s comedy Junior. In that year, Reitman’s political satire Dave debuted with Kevin Kline.

The filmmaker also produced hits including the Beethoven family comedies, 1996’s Space Jam, and the college classic Old School in 2003.

While promoting Afterlife, Jason said his dad was perfectly fine with the long shadow of Ghostbusters: “My father, who has made 50 movies…in between directing and producing, he’s made just some of the most important movies of the last few decades, from Animal House to Stripes to Space Jam to Dave. But my father will go down as a director and creator of Ghostbusters, that’s who he is.”

 

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