Ivan Reitman, one of the most irreverent and important comedy filmmakers of the late 20th century, has died at age 75. Reitman’s family told the Associated Press that he died peacefully in his sleep in his Montecito, CA home on Saturday night.
Reitman grew up in Canada and later broke into the Toronto film industry while working with National Lampoon comics like Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. Reitman’s big break came when he produced National Lampoon’s Animal House in 1978, directed by John Landis and starring Belushi.
Reitman then directed Bill Murray in his first leading role for the summer camp comedy Meatballs, and again in the war comedy Stripes. Reitman’s biggest success came in 1984 with supernatural comedy Ghostbusters, starring Murray, Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver, which grossed $300 million worldwide and nabbed two Oscar nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song. The film went on to spawn a beloved franchise with multiple sequels and legacy sequels; most recently, his son Jason Reitman directed Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which opened last year.
In addition to directing a slew of other notable comedies—like Twins and Kindergarten Cop—he was constantly producing comedies as disparate as Beethoven, Space Jam, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, and I Love You, Man. He was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2007.
Reitman’s tightly balanced comedic style withstands the test of time thanks in part to its seamless ability to embrace high concepts and transcend subgenres. He knew how to find that perfectly timed humorous harmony between performers, whether they were fighting ghosts (Ghostbusters), fighting a war (Stripes), or finding the twisted truth behind their biological parents (Twins). His stories often laughed in the face of authority and put power in the hands of underdogs in a way that captured the rowdy energy of their time.
“Our family is grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father, and grandfather who taught us to always seek the magic in life,” Jason, Catherine and Caroline Reitman told the AP 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.”