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Ivan Reitman, the Czechoslovakia-born Canadian-American producer and director behind many seminal films, including Ghostbusters and Animal House, has died at the age of 75.

Reitman passed away in his sleep at home on Saturday night in Montecito, California, his family said in a statement to the Associated Press.

"Our family is grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father, and grandfather who taught us to always seek the magic in life," his children Jason Reitman, Catherine Reitman and Caroline Reitman said. "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."

Reitman was born in 1946 to Hungarian Jewish parents. His mother was a survivor of Auschwitz and his father had been a member of the resistance. Four years later, his family immigrated to Canada.

Known for comedies that became timeless classics, Reitman first achieved success with 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House, and went on to direct Meatballs, Stripes and then the enduring classic Ghostbusters. He followed that up with other popular films such as Twins, Kindergarten Cop and Junior – all starring Arnold Schwarzenegger – and more recent movies such as Old School.

Reitman’s family escaped Czechoslovakia after the communists began taking over, travelling precariously in the bottom of a boat headed for Vienna.

"I remember flashes of scenes," Reitman said in an interview with the Associated Press in 1979. "Later they told me about how they gave me a couple of sleeping pills so I wouldn't make any noise. I was so knocked out that I slept with my eyes open. My parents were afraid I was dead."

His family settling in Toronto, Reitman displayed an early interest in show business, eventually studying music and drama at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He went on to self-finance his first film for $12,000. By the early 1990s, he was considered the most successful comedic director in the history of Hollywood.

In 1984, Reitman told the Associated Press that he always took a “sincere approach” to his comedies.

“Getting to the point where you can get an audience of 600 people laughing is really precise and intricate work,” he said. “My sense is we're laughing at the same things we've always laughed at, but the language of the filmmaker and the performer shifts."