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Director Ivan Reitman remembered as comedy heavyweight, champion of Canadian film

Animal House, Meatballs, Stripes, and the first two “Ghostbusters films part of his legacy
Director Ivan Reitman poses for a portrait in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Friday, Jan 7, 2011. Reitman, the influential filmmaker and producer behind beloved comedies “Animal House” and “Ghostbusters,” has died. He was 75. Reitman passed away peacefully in his sleep Saturday night, Feb. 12, 2022, at his home in Montecito, Calif., his family told The Associated Press. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matt Sayles

Tributes are pouring in for Toronto-raised filmmaker and producer Ivan Reitman, who reshaped comedic cinema with a distinctly Canadian sensibility.

The “Ghostbusters” director died peacefully in his sleep Saturday night at his home in Montecito, Calif., his family told The Associated Press. He was 75.

His son, director Jason Reitman, mourned the loss of his “hero” on Monday.

“All I want is the chance to tell my father one more story,” tweeted the younger Reitman, who inherited his father’s supernatural comedy franchise as the director of 2021’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.”

“He came from a family of (Holocaust) survivors and turned his legacy into laughter…. Enjoy his movies and remember his storytelling gifts. Nothing would make him happier.”

Born in Slovakia, the elder Reitman and his family came to Canada as refugees in 1950 when he was four. He studied at Hamilton’s McMaster University, where he started directing several short films before moving to Los Angeles.

A director and producer of screen and stage, Reitman first made his mark on the big screen as a producer of two films by Canadian horror master David Cronenberg, 1975’s “Shivers” and 1977’s “Rabid.”

But Reitman’s impact was most pronounced in Hollywood’s comedy scene. He rose to prominence producing 1978’s “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and then directing a string of other comedies, including “Meatballs,” “Stripes,” the first two “Ghostbusters” films, and “Kindergarten Cop.”

Kumail Nanjiani, Mindy Kaling and Paul Feig were among the comedy notables to pay their respects to Reitman on Twitter.

“I had the honor of working so closely with Ivan and it was always such a learning experience,” wrote Feig, who helmed the 2016 reboot of “Ghostbusters.”

“He directed some of my favorite comedies of all time. All of us in comedy owe him so very much.”

Toronto International Film Festival CEO Cameron Bailey remembered Reitman on Monday as a Canadian legend whose brand of humour transcended borders and the bounds of what was considered good taste at the time.

“I think he always saw the films that he was making, whether it was directing or producing, as movies for the whole world,” Bailey said in an interview.

“(His) was a particular brand of comedy, very anarchic, kind of wild, unruly, but it was exactly what that generation wanted…. A lot of the movies that we see now and style of comedy coming out of Hollywood can be traced back to Ivan Reitman.”

Bailey also touted Reitman as a champion of Canadian cinema, noting that he contributed the land on which TIFF Bell Lightbox sits.

“He understood what we were trying to do, to show movies beyond the commercial mainstream,” said Bailey. “He understood the value of film culture, and we’re able to show movies everyday thanks to him.”

Reitman was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2007 and has been nominated for an Emmy, Oscar and BAFTA, among other honours.

His legacy lives on as the patriarch of a Canadian entertainment dynasty whose influence has been felt across genres.

He was married to Quebec actress Geneviève Robert, with whom he had three children — Jason, Catherine and Caroline.

Jason Reitman honed his own cinematic blend of comedy and drama with award darlings including 2007’s “Juno” and 2009’s “Up in the Air,” which he produced with his father. His other directing credits include “Young Adult,” “Tully” and “The Front Runner.”

His younger sister, Catherine Reitman, is an actress, comedian, producer, writer and director. She is the creator and star of CBC’s parenting comedy “Workin’ Moms,” which debuted in 2017 and has been nominated for several Canadian Screen Awards and an International Emmy.

—Sadaf Ahsan and Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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