The year 2022 continues to take away as Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ivan Reitman, a child of Holocaust survivors, is dead at the age of 75.
Born in then-Komárno, Czechoslovakia, the Reitman family would move to Canada when Ivan was only four years old. His mother, Clara, survived Auschwitz while his father, Leslie, was an underground resistance fighter. Reitman married Geneviève Robert in 1976 and was the father of Jason, Catherine, and Caroline Reitman. In 2009, Canada would honor Reitman by naming him as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Toronto became Reitman’s adopted hometown and along with his siblings, they contributed to the Bell Lightbox funding. Interestingly enough, the theater is located in the same spot where Leslie’s carwash was previously located. Look for the Reitman Square sign during your next trip to the theater!
Here’s a quote in Eric Kohn’s 2007 piece on Reitman for the Forward:
For Ramis, the movies he made with Reitman don’t reflect unconscious Jewish sentiments as much as they signify revisions of old-school Jewish mentalities. “It struck me a long time ago that the characters we were writing weren’t schlemiels and losers,” he said. “These guys were brave and resourceful. Those aren’t Jewish qualities, but there’s a certain pride in Jews standing up for themselves.”
The Reitman children released a joint statement following their father’s passing:
Our family is grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father, and grandfather who taught us to always seek the magic in life. 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
Tom Rothman, Chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, also released a statement:
“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. A great talent and an even finer man; he will be dearly missed. We send his family all our condolences.”
If you’re a comedy fan, there’s certainly a good chance that you’re familiar with Ivan Reitman’s work. After producing National Lampoon’s Animal House, Reitman would truly launch his directing career with Meatballs. Reitman directed a few films before but they aren’t as well known as the films that followed Meatballs. For what it’s worth, Reitman’s directorial debut was Foxy Lady in 1971, which also featured the first film appearances of both Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin. He would go onto direct some of the best comedies of all time in Stripes and Ghostbusters. He now joins cast member Harold Ramis in passing away. Beyond Ghostbusters, he also directed Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Dave, Junior, Six Days, Seven Nights, Evolution, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, No Strings Attached, and Draft Day among others.
Reitman had been set to direct Triplets while the film had been scheduled to start shooting in January. No clue where things stand at the moment. We’ll just have to wait and see. With Reitman’s passing, 2022 has taken away another one of the greats. I don’t know about you but Ivan Reitman was an inspiration to me. The genre will never be the same.
I’m certainly going to remember meeting Ivan Reitman during Wizard World Chicago in 2018. During a Q&A panel with Ernie Hudson, I asked the filmmaker about filmmaking and what advice he would offer to aspiring filmmakers. Asking about Ghostbusters would have been the obvious thing to do but I decided to ask a different question.
What advice can you offer to an aspiring filmmaker looking to break into the industry?
Ivan Reitman: Well, just make films.
You know—it’s a lot easier today than it was—that very first short film (Orientation) that I talked about at the beginning of our talk today—it was shot in 16mm. The one mistake I could make was 30 seconds because you hand to hand-crank it. You had to buy the film real expensive. You had to send it to a laboratory to process. You got a work print. I had only these roller things by hand to look at it on a viewfinder. Your camera—the one you have in your pocket right now—is way more sophisticated than anything that was available including when we make the big movie (Ghostbusters). So you’ve got everything you need. If it sticks out, go ahead and make it. Just do it—right.
To the Reitman family, I offer my condolences on Ivan’s passing. May Ivan Reitman’s memory be a blessing. BDE.