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Remembering comedy royalty Ivan Reitman, who taught us how to laugh at ghosts

ivan reitman

Ivan Reitman.

It’s admittedly cliche to write “we lost one of the greats,” but nothing feels more appropriate when writing about director, producer and screenwriter Ivan Reitman.

Reitman’s work is the quintessential comedy experience for people across at least three generations. His biggest film, “Ghostbusters” was a first-of-its kind pop culture phenomenon. “National Lampoon's Animal House” flipped frat house humor on its head. “Meatballs” introduced the world to Bill Murray, for cryin’ out loud. Reitman always seemed to know exactly how to blend silliness, innovation and heart in the most magical way.

Part of Reitman’s gift was his knack for finding funny people. "You get a sense after a while when you're seeing something special in a person," Reitman said in a 2007 interview. "They have a way of taking a stage, or taking a screen. It's not just that they know how to say something funny—there's something about their face where you just have to keep looking at them."

Reitman even saw the comedic potential of action superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred in two of Reitman’s movies: “Kindergarten Cop” and “Twins.” This was a near 180-degree turn from the normal bare-chested barbarian and souped-up killing machine roles that Schwarzenegger had become known for.

On hearing the news of Reitman’s passing on Feb 12, Schwarzenegger gave a heartfelt statement on Twitter, calling him not only “comedy royalty,” but also “kind, generous, smart as hell, and always there for you.”

Schwarzenegger certainly wasn’t alone in his appreciation. Filmmakers and film lovers alike paid tribute on social media.

Paul Feig, who directed the all-female version of “Ghostbusters” in 2016, reflected collaborating with Reitman for the project. “It was always such a learning experience,” he wrote. “All of us in comedy owe him so very much.”

Kumail Nanjiani, co-creator of “The Big Sick” and a film trailblazer in his own right, tweeted, “A Legend. The number of great movies he made is absurd.”

Included in that absurd list is “Beethoven” and “Space Jam,” which Reitman produced. It’s not easy to make family movies that are actually funny to all family members. But Reitman excelled at it.

Mindy Kaling, who worked with Reitman on the rom-com “No Strings Attached,” described him as “old school in the best way,” adding, “it’s sad he’s gone, it makes me feel older and like my childhood movies are more far away than ever.”

Even Tom Rothman, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, spoke out. According to CNN, Rothman said in 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…”

Ivan instilled a love for comedy into his son, Jason Reitman, whose tribute took on a more personal tone.

“All I want is the chance to tell my father one more story,” the tweet read.

Jason might not be able to fulfill that wish, but he does continue his father’s storytelling legacy. Working with his dad, Jason directed the franchise’s latest installment: “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” and has produced dark comedy cult classics “Jennifer’s Body” and “Young Adult.”

Even the official “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” Twitter account paid its respects, saying, “See you on the other side. Rest In Peace Ivan Reitman”

The world might be saddened by the loss of this icon of feel-good entertainment, but it’s only because he gave us all so so many moments that opened our hearts and brought us to laughter.

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