4TH UPDATE, 7:38 AM: Fellow Chicago native President Obama released a statement today in tribute to Ramis:
Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Harold Ramis, one of America’s greatest satirists, and like so many other comedic geniuses, a proud product of Chicago’s Second City. When we watched his movies – from “Animal House” and “Caddyshack” to “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day” – we didn’t just laugh until it hurt. We questioned authority. We identified with the outsider. We rooted for the underdog. And through it all, we never lost our faith in happy endings. Our thoughts and prayers are with Harold’s wife, Erica, his children and grandchildren, and all those who loved him, who quote his work with abandon, and who hope that he received total consciousness.
3RD UPDATE, MONDAY, 3:25 PM: Reactions to the passing of influential comedy helmer and actor Harold Ramis continue to roll in.
Chevy Chase on Ramis, who directed him in the classic comedies Caddyshack and Vacation: “I’m shocked and heartbroken to hear of Harold’s passing. He was truly a great friend and a great man who shunned unnecessary Hollywood-type publicity and lived with a wonderful wife, Erica. I’m deeply saddened for Erica, Violet, Julian and Daniel. Harold directed me in Caddyshack and the first Vacation. It was Harold who acted out and gave me the inspiration for the character of Clark Griswold. I was really copying Harold’s impression of Clark. He was a truly funny and highly intelligent man with great honesty and a great appreciation for the best kind of comedy. It’s just awful to lose Harold, there is just no one like him, he was so kind, so caring and so smart. God Bless him and God Bless his family.”
“Harold Ramis and I together did The National Lampoon Show off-Broadway, Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day. He earned his keep on this planet. God bless him,” said Bill Murray in a statement via Reuters.
“He was a unique talent and did comedy that was on an incredible intellectual basis. You couldn’t meet a nicer guy,” said former Columbia Pictures studio chair Frank Price, who worked with and greenlit three of Ramis’ most beloved comedies, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day. According to Price, Groundhog Day had been turned down by every studio in town, including Warner Bros. where Ramis’ deal was. Price said he greenlit the film contingent on getting Bill Murray or Chevy Chase to star in it. After the change of regime, Mark Canton came aboard and shepherded it through with Murray as the film’s star.
Said UTA Managing Director David Kramer: “Harold was a comedy god for me and countless others. He had an irrepressible spirit that drew everyone to him, and he was as warm and kind a person as he was a comedy mastermind. It was an honor to know and represent him, and we will miss him greatly.”
Dan Aykroyd on his longtime collaborator and friend: “Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend, co-writer/performer and teacher Harold Ramis. May he now get the answers he was always seeking.”
Writer/director Judd Apatow, who cast Ramis in 2007′s Knocked Up: “Harold Ramis made almost every movie which made me want to become a comedy director. Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Vacation, Groundhog Day. These films are the touchstones of our lives. I interviewed him when I was 16 years old for my high school radio station and he could not have been more gracious and hilarious. I looked up to him as a director but even more so as a man. We hired him to play Seth’s father in Knocked Up because we all saw him as the dream dad – funny, warm and wise. Harold was one of the nicest people I have ever met and he inspired countless people to go into comedy. His brilliant work will make people happy forever.”
Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman mourned Ramis in a statement: “The world has lost a wonderful, truly original, comedy voice with the passing of Harold Ramis. He possessed the most agile mind I’ve ever witnessed. He always had the clearest sense of what was funny and how to create something in a new clever way. He was very generous about making everyone around him look better and smarter. Harold had an extraordinary impact on my career and I loved him like a brother. My heart goes out to his children, and his lovely wife, Erica. He will be profoundly missed.”
“Harold was a gentle funny man. He found the perfect tone for Robert De Niro and I in Analyze This. He was a good man and I am shocked and saddened at his passing,” said Billy Crystal. The actor also Tweeted: “Sad to hear my friend Harold Ramis passed away. A brilliant, funny, actor and director. A wonderful husband and dad. Big loss to us all.”
“Harold was a force of good in the universe. So funny, sweet and thoughtful. He will be deeply missed,” said Jack Black, who starred in the director’s final feature Year One.
“So sad to hear about Harold Ramis. Comedy lost a big one,” said Albert Brooks.
“Harold Ramis was a brilliant writer and director, and a very very good man. RIP,” actor Michael McKean Tweeted.
“The Sony Pictures family sends its condolences to the family & friends of one of the true greats, and our dear friend, Harold Ramis. He will be missed,” the studio said today.
Said Seth Rogen, who starred with Ramis in Knocked Up: “It was one of the true joys of my career to get to work with Harold. He was endlessly kind and hilarious, and gave gruff voiced Jews the world over a cinematic icon. I will miss him very much and my thoughts are with his friends and family.”
PREVIOUS, MONDAY, 9:38 AM: Actor, writer, producer and director Harold Ramis, who made many of the most iconic comedy hits of the 1980s and 1990s, died today at his home in Chicago. He was 69. The award-winning comedy filmmaker who co-starred in and co-wrote Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, and Stripes passed away from complications related to auto-immune inflammatory vasculitis which he’d battled for four years.
Chicago native Ramis graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, MO and worked as a joke editor for Playboy Magazine before launching his career as a writer for The National Lampoon Radio Hour, the radio show that was a launching pad for a who’s who of future comedy stars and collaborators including Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Richard Belzer, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner. Rising alongside his peers in the late-’70s comedy scene, Ramis came up through Chicago’s Second City improv troupe and was head writer on sketch comedy show SCTV before breaking into Hollywood as the co-writer of 1978′s National Lampoon’s Animal House. The campus comedy sparked his hot streak through the ’80s and Ramis’s career as a writer, director and actor skyrocketed from there. He wrote camp comedy Meatballs (1979) the next year before making his directorial debut with the Chevy Chase-Rodney Dangerfield classic Caddyshack (1980), which he also wrote with Douglas Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray. Caddyshack went on to become a cult hit and was named one of AFI’s Top 100 Funniest Films of all time. Ramis also co-scripted the sequel, 1988′s Caddyshack II.
Ramis’s next pic behind the camera was another comedy hit starring Chase, the John Hughes-scripted National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) which went on to become another hit for the National Lampoon brand and a classic of the genre that spawned a five-film franchise. Ramis then wrote (with Dan Aykroyd) the film that would also seal his legacy in front of the camera, the iconic 1984 horror comedy Ghostbusters. Alongside Aykroyd, Murray, and Ernie Hudson he slung his proton pack starring as the brainy parapsychology expert Dr. Egon Spengler, a character he would reprise in 1989′s Ghostbusters II.
Collaborations were key in Ramis’s career, during which he worked frequently with the same writers and actors building a body of work that helped define the big screen efforts of the SNL/SCTV generation. Ramis would reteam several times behind the camera with stars like Dangerfield (Caddyshack, Back to School, Rover Dangerfield) and most significantly his Stripes and Ghostbusters co-star Murray, whom he directed in perhaps his most celebrated film as a helmer, 1993′s Groundhog Day. Ramis won a BAFTA for Best Screenplay with Danny Rubin for the pic about an arrogant weatherman forced to reexamine his life when he’s stuck reliving the same day over and over. Ramis continued behind the helm directing Stuart Saves His Family (1995), Multiplicity starring Michael Keaton (1996), and Analyze This (1999) which nabbed Robert De Niro a Golden Globe comedy acting award. Into the 2000s Ramis directed Bedazzled (2000), sequel Analyze That (2002), The Ice Harvest (2005), and the caveman comedy Year One (2009), his final feature as director. During his career Ramis won the American Comedy Award, the British Comedy Award, and the BAFTA in addition to a WGA Award nomination for his first film, Animal House.