Brian Lumley Reflects on Ivan Reitman

To reflect on the sudden death of Ivan Reitman, I asked two key people in Doug’s design team that worked with Ivan Reitman to say a few words.

Today is Brian Lumley who was with Doug at the start of his career for “Spellbound,” “The Magic Show,” and the early TV specials. Brian is currently working on a book detailing his time with Doug, which will also feature Ivan Reitman in greater detail.

Tomorrow, Jim Steinmeyer will remember his time working with Reitman during “Merlin” which would turn out to be Doug and Ivan’s last collaboration.

Take it away Brian…

As a producer Ivan was a genius and some of the things he made happen should be studied. Doug made Spellbound what it was but Ivan got the people in the seats of the theatre, and caught the attention of the professional entertainment world before they saw the production. For the thirty-two performances of Spellbound, a sold-out house would be a small audience, a full-house was standing room only. 

Ivan was the first producer and director that Doug worked with. Their work together started with the student stage production of Lil’ Abner at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. During this time, he introduced his high school friends David Cronenberg and Howard Shore to Doug.

Doug had a storyline with the skills to perform it, Ivan recognized his talent, and saw the possibilities. Reitman organized his creative team with Cronenberg to write the stage play and Shore to score it. Their creation was Spellbound, the first rock magical musical stage play. That one show developed by four unknowns at the beginning of their careers skyrocketed four individual professions.

Ivan was a very personable man, he saw humour in many things, and at times was quite unabashed if he thought something was funny. His laughter was natural, contagious, and disarming. He recognized talent, could see opportunities, and knew how to make them work together. 

As a child in the early 1950s he was a refugee, who escaped from behind the Iron Curtain with his family. They had no papers so they had to stowaway in a lifeboat on a ship going to Canada. When the family came to Toronto they had to start over again. At a young age, he learned how to negotiate and work with people. 

One of the family businesses was a car wash in the theatre district. Ivan turned that property into the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Lightbox Theatre.

I imagine Ivan was better prepared when Jim worked with him. Our times together were trials by fire and full of surprises. Nobody knew what we were creating, or where it was going to go.

Special Thanks to Brian Lumley

Photo by Dave Collier

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