Born in Czechoslovakia, Reitman came to Canada when he was 4 years old. His directing career began in 1971 with Foxy Lady, starring Eugene Levy, but encompassed the hit comedies Stripes, Meatballs, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Dave, and Junior. But he was even more prolific as a producer, who brought films like Animal House, the original animated Heavy Metal movie, Stop! Or My Mum Will Shoot, Howard Stern’s Private Parts, the Will Smith superhero film Hancock, the 2017 Baywatch movie, and more.
Reitman will likely be best remembered as the co-creator and steward of the Ghostbusters franchise. He’s the one who took Dan Aykroyd’s original script — which involved a cadre of intergalactic ghostbusters across time and space, which would have been catastrophically expensive to make in the early ‘80 — and convinced him to set it on Earth, give it a more realistic vibe, and pass the screenplay to Harold Ramis. He also convinced Columbia Pictures to make the movie, which was no small feat as it was one of the most expensive comedies ever made at the time.
The popularity of the original 1984 led to a great deal of interest in turning the movie into a franchise. In addition to the 1989 sequel Ghostbusters II and the 1986 cartoon The Real Ghostbusters, a third Ghostbusters film was pretty much in development since the first sequel premiered. Reitman also announced a cartoon series called Ghostbusters: Ecto Force in 2016, but nothing has ever been seen from the project.
Other projects that Reitman had been announced to make were a Batman film in the early ‘80s starring Bill Murray as Bruce Wayne and David Bowie as Joker, along with a Wonder Woman movie in 1996. He was also one of the candidates to direct Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He’s survived by his son, Jason, who also directed last year’s Ghostbusters sequel Afterlife, starring much of the original two movies’ cast.