10 things to remember about Jewish filmmaker, Ivan Reitman


Dan Buffa, Special For The Jewish Light

Jewish director Ivan Reitman’s early life could have been a movie. He died this past weekend at the age of 75, but he leaves behind several indelible movies and stories. Here are 10 things to know about his career and life as the world celebrates his work.

1. He was the Jew who could tell the true story of how his parents defeated the Nazis in their own way. Born in Komarmo (now called Slovakia) in 1946, Reitman wasn’t even 4 years old when his parents survived the Holocaust–each in powerfully indelible ways. His mother made it out of Auschwitz alive, and his father was an underground resistance fighter.

2. Reitman gave the world “Ghostbusters.” He directed the first two movies, which included chaotic productions and last-minute changes with the cast. Reitman managed it all like a precise pro, bringing together some of Hollywood’s funniest comedy maestros at the time (Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd among them) to create a timeless masterpiece.

3. Speaking of Murray, you can’t watch “Stripes” and not laugh at least 50 times. Reitman was the guy who gave the proper stage to performers like Murray, who needed that trust and reach in a filmmaker. That was Ivan Reitman delivering another comedy classic.

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4. Don’t sleep on “Twins,” the funnier-than-ever comedy that paired Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The larger-than-life Austrian who ventures to America to find his long-lost brother, who happens to be a womanizing gambler. They hate each other at first before growing into true friends and… you named it, brothers and twins. Schwarzenegger has said it’s the best decision he’s ever made as an actor, and the film’s primary contributors (Reitman, Arnold, DeVito) agreed to do the film by signing a napkin at lunch.

5. There are few funnier political movies than “Dave,” starring Kevin Kline as the lookalike of the President subbing in at the Oval Office when there’s an emergency at the White House. Ving Rhames, Frank Langella and Kevin Dunn were all superb, and even Arnold himself showed up in a cameo. That was one of Reitman’s trademarks: getting actors from his previous comedies to provide key cameos in other movies. I bet you didn’t know the movie’s plot is loosely based on a real-life instance at the White House involving Woodrow Wilson, where a non-politician who looked like the President was allowed to govern in office.

6. The only Oscar nomination Reitman received wasn’t even for directing; it was for co-producing his son Jason’s film with George Clooney, “Up in The Air.” Parts of the film were shot here in St. Louis. It was nominated for Best Picture, and brought the father-son duo together on the biggest stage.

7. While baseball movie fans soak up Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams” or “Bull Durham,” football fans got to see him own that sport cinematically in Ivan Reitman’s last completed movie, “Draft Day.” Underrated but not underseen, it presented a glimpse inside the front office of an NFL team (Cleveland Browns in this case) on the day they held the No. 1 pick. “Smallville” Superman Tom Welling was there. The late Chadwick Boseman, aka “Black Panther,” had a role, as did Jennifer Garner and Denis Leary. Reitman, behind the camera, made an enjoyable sports movie with a big cast.

8. “It’s not a tumor,” Schwarzenegger’s classic line, happened in a Reitman movie. Look, “Kindergarten Cop” isn’t high-brow cinema by any means, but it’s funny and features Arnold in his prime as a substitute teacher who is tracking a murderer undercover.

“This is not my generation. I’m of the baby boom generation. We think we invented free love.”

9. While Reitman is from the baby boomer generation, he was also a manufacturer of joy at the movies. Most, if not all, of his movies revolved around family, emotional threads, and producing something joyful for the entire family to watch. He turned the biggest action star into a lovable twin brother and schoolteacher. He made “Saturday Night Live” royalty wear extremely heavy proton packs to kill ghosts. Reitman’s generation may have invented free love, but his filmmaking style helped (along with John Hughes) reinvent fun at the movies.

10. According to the Internet Movie Database (aka IMDB), Reitman’s advice to his son Jason was “your job isn’t to make things funny. Your job is to tell the truth on a daily basis.” Their paths crossed again in film last year thanks to the highly enjoyable “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” A movie about young kids finding the hidden gems of their grandparents and using them in the fight against evil was basically a son saying thank you to his dad. The film’s climax should hit especially hard. Jason did Ivan proud, and I’m just glad his dad got to see that before he passed.

Rest easy, Mr. Reitman. Your movies, impact, and legacy are cemented.