In Hollywood’s status-striving world of Gucci shoes, Italian silk shirts, personalized licence plates, stretched limousines and Malibu beach houses, Ivan Reitman doesn’t quite fit. A gangling, dark-haired young man in scuffed loafers, well-worn slacks and opennecked plaid shirt, he’s nobody’s idea of a movie mogul—the guys who deliver the mail round the huge Universal studios in Hollywood dress better than he does. But there he is, this Czech-born, Canadian-raised film producer rattling around in a large suite of executive of-
fices: “I have my own parking space, the guard at the front gate calls me by my first name and Sid Sheinberg (president of Universal) returns my phone calls.”
Behind that huge desk he looks exactly like one of those ’60s campus radicals having a sit-in in the dean’s office. What brings Reitman, formerly of Montreal and Toronto and responsible for such creative gems as Cannibal Girls, to the fat-cigar atmosphere of Hollywood’s largest and most successful studio?
Animal House is what.
At last count the irreverent and ribald jaunt into the college dorms and frat houses of North America has brought in an amazing $125 million. The 32-year-old, who with Matty Simmons,
founding publisher of National Lampoon, pulled the whole thing together for a meagre $3 million is still adjusting to his overnight ascension, being definitely the man to have to dinner these days.
He recalls coming to Universal with a patched-together Animal House script in which he and Simmons had invested $10,000 apiece. Universal was mildly interested and buried the two men in an off-the-beaten-track bungalow with little money and equal encouragement. “We were in the direct path of the stu-
dio tour trams. You could set your watch by it. Every 20 minutes the guys on the loudspeakers yelled, ‘before we go into Lucy’s dressing room are there any other questions about the bionic testing area’?” A year later, Universal is begging for more of the same and Reitman says he’s only too happy to provide it, having finished directing Meatballs (formerly Summer Camp), shot at Camp White Pine in Northern Ontario using the real camp kids as extras. Costing around $1.5 million, it was funded by the Canadian Film Development Corporation, Famous Players, Reitman and two partners. The whizkid is also behind the new ABC TV series
Delta House begat by last summer’s frat fest. (The brains at CBS and NBC have turned frat rats with their own spin-offs.) Later this year Reitman will produce Sex in America with Canadian comic David Steinberg directing.
Animal House was shot at the University of Oregon after just about every other college turned it down, complaining that the script was too salacious. “The University of Toronto didn’t even want to talk to us,” says Reitman. “I gave them a one-paragraph synopsis of the story. First they said yes, then they changed their mind. There were also problems with the Canadian film unions. But if we’d done it in Canada we would have left over $1.5 million in Ontario. So it’s their loss.”
His first short, Guitar Thing, was an abstract five-minute movie featuring an electronic score over images of Montreal’s Expo 67. He followed with a 23minute short, Orientation, at McMaster University in Hamilton about a freshman’s first days at school. A feature, Columbus of Sex, caused a grand scandal. Reitman was charged with making an obscene film and the subsequent furore resulted in the police seizing the print and Reitman being taken to court and charged. He was fined $300. Today he smiles at the memory of how to get first-class by first going steerage.
But the reputation he gained did his career no harm at all and he went on to a career of horror pictures. “I’m not ashamed of them,” he says now. “I made them not for the money but to really make a good horror picture.” One of his most successful was Cannibal Girls, which he and his wife, actress Geneviève Deloir, took to Cannes and peddled to American International’s Samuel Arkoff for $50,000. “We stayed in a $3-a-night room and spent all our time sticking up posters of the film on trees, bushes and anything that didn’t move.”
He has now sold his 10-room home in Montreal and is living in a rented house in Beverly Hills that once belonged to the late gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and he’s waiting for his furniture to arrive from Canada to fill a new colonial mansion he has just bought in the rarefied confines of Bel Air,where costs start at $500,000. It’s on an acre of manicured lawns with, of course, a pool. Says Reitman’s wife: “We call it the house that Animal House bought.”
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