Ivan Reitman talks ‘Meatballs,’ how Bill Murray took pity on him, and why it just doesn’t matter
Photo by Lionsgate
Are you ready for the summer? Are you ready for the good times?
If you answered yes to either question, then it may very well be time to revisit Ivan Reitman's comedic masterpiece, "Meatballs" (1979), which premieres on Blu-ray and On Demand June 12th. If you answered no, then you should definitely watch it, because you're in desperate need of some medicinal gut-busting laughter.
The story of Reitman's first directed comedy and Bill Murray's first starring role is one of risk and reward. Having just exhausted himself as an integral producer on the hit "National Lampoon's Animal House" (1978), and getting Hollywood's notice, Reitman's next move was critical to his career.
When he was denied the opportunity to direct "Animal House," Reitman knew it was time to direct his first real movie. What Reitman didn't know was that he'd soon find himself in the middle of Nowhere, Canada, at a functioning summer camp, scheduled to shoot a film from a script full of holes, with a cast and crew all eagerly awaiting Bill Murray's possible arrival.
A day late and wearing the same clothes he wears in the film, Murray showed up and delivered a revelatory performance as Tripper, the whacky head counselor at Camp North Star. After all was said and done, Reitman and Murray would go on to create some of the most successful big-budget comedies of the era, including "Stripes" (1981) and "Ghost Busters" (1984).
On the occasion of the Blu-ray release, we jumped at the chance to get the wild and crazy story behind the making of "Meatballs," straight from Reitman himself -- from working with Belushi and Murray before "Saturday Night Live" had ever aired, to Murray taking pity on the desperate director, to the unlikely genesis of one of the best phrases ever muttered: "it just doesn't matter."
Photo by Dale Robinette
Adam Pockross: Having watched the film a few times now, I still have no idea why it's called "Meatballs."
Ivan Reitman: Neither do I. It seemed to be one of the staples that was part of camp food: Spaghetti n' Meatballs. And meatball also has a secondary connotation, as in goofy. We couldn't call it "Summer Camp" cause there was going to be another summer camp movie, so it was just a name I came up with.
AP: It seems like you came up with quite a lot of the film, yet you don't take a writing credit on it. Why not?