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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ivan Reitman, director of ‘Ghostbusters,’ is dead at 75

Ivan Reitman in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2011.

By Christine Chung

Ivan Reitman, a producer and director of a string of movies including “Ghostbusters” and “National Lampoon’s Animal House” that imprinted their antics on the funny bones of a generation of filmgoers, died Saturday at his home in Montecito, California, The Associated Press reported. He was 75.

His children, Jason Reitman, Catherine Reitman, and Caroline Reitman, confirmed the death in a statement to the AP.

During his decadeslong career, with credits as recent as last year, Reitman produced and directed major box-office comedies that became iconic to the generations that grew up with them and contributed to the rise of actors like Bill Murray and Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he cast in the unlikely role of a police officer masquerading as a kindergarten teacher in “Kindergarten Cop” (1990).

He produced, with Matty Simmons, the 1978 movie “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” an hour-and-a-half-long depiction of Greek life’s chaotic energy and absurdity that has become one of the most beloved comedies in the history of the genre. The film injected the concept of the toga party into modern culture. After the staggering success of “Animal House,” he returned to directing, later telling The New York Times that he regretted not directing it.

His 1984 film “Ghostbusters,” which he did direct, was nominated for two Oscars, despite lukewarm reviews from some critics, who complained of disjointed humor that heavily prioritized special effects.

Viewers disagreed, enthralled and entertained by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Murray clad in heavily accessorized jumpsuits and the bizarre visuals that included a 100-foot-high marshmallow dressed in a sailor suit and a neon green ghost. Five years later, he directed a sequel, “Ghostbusters II,” and he helped produce another spinoff, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” that was directed by his son, Jason, and released last year.

In a 2007 interview with the CBC, he recalled the first time he saw the three stars of “Ghostbusters” in their outlandish ghostbusting outfits, rounding Madison Avenue for a pre-shoot. “There was just something so extraordinary about that image,” he said. “I turned to the script assistant next to me and said, ‘I think this movie’s gonna work.’ ”

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

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

He began producing movies as a student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Working off-Broadway on “The National Lampoon Show,” he forged an early partnership with Ramis and with John Belushi and Murray before they became stars on “Saturday Night Live.”

After “Animal House,” he directed “Meatballs” (1979), starring Murray as the head counselor at a chaotic summer camp, and “Stripes” (1981), in which Murray plays a rebellious Army recruit.

Survivors include his children Jason, Catherine and Caroline.

“Our family is grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father, and grandfather who taught us to always seek the magic in life,” they told the AP. “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.”

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