Ivan Reitman, the producer-director behind many iconic comedies such as “Ghostbusters” and “Animal House” died peacefully in his sleep on Feb. 12, his family confirmed in a statement. He was 75.
“Our family is grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father, and grandfather who taught us to always seek the magic in life,” Reitman’s children said in a joint statement to The Associated Press.
“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.”
Reitman was residing in his Montecito, California home at the time he passed away. The cause of death has not been released.
Born in then-Czechoslovakia in 1946, Reitman’s family escaped to Canada as refugees when the communists began imprisoning capitalists after the war. They fled the country when Reitman was just four years of age.
“I remember flashes of scenes,” Reitman told The Associated Press in 1979. “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.”
Reitman graduated from McMaster University in Ontario, receiving a Bachelor of Music. While at McMaster, he began producing and directing many short films. He made his first major breakthrough in 1978 as the producer of the college fraternity sendup: “National Lampoon’s Animal House”—starring John Belushi and Donald Sutherland. His most significant success came in 1984 with “Ghostbusters,” which he produced and directed.
The American spookfest comedy film was a major success and launched a franchise that has spanned for decades. The first “Ghostbusters” that was released in June 1984 became the second-highest-grossing film of that year—earning a whopping $282.2 million during its initial theatrical run.
Thomas Rothman, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, sent his condolences to Reitman’s family on the official “Ghostbusters” Twitter account.
“Tonight, the lady with the torch weeps, as do all of us at Columbia, and film lovers around the world. Ivan Reitman was an inseparable part of this studio’s legacy, but more than that he was a friend,” Rothman wrote. “A great talent and an even finer man; he will be dearly missed.”
Paul Feig, who directed the 2016 reboot of “Ghostbusters” said on Twitter that Reitman’s death came as an “absolute shock.”
“I had the honor of working so closely with Ivan and it was always such a learning experience,” Feig wrote. “He directed some of my favorite comedies of all time. All of us in comedy owe him so very much.”
Other notable films Reitman produced and directed are “Meatballs” and the family-friendly “Beethoven.” He also produced “Kindergarten Cop” and “Junior” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Reitman is survived by his wife and actress Geneviève; his son Jason, an actor and filmmaker; and daughters Catherine, who is also an actress-producer, and Caroline.