Ivan Reitman draft day
If you like comedy and you don't know who Ivan Reitman is...well, you should. After all, this is the man who produced the classic "National Lampoon's Animal House" and directed (deep breath) "Meatballs," "Stripes," the immortal "Ghostbusters," "Twins," "Junior," "Dave"...the list goes on and on. His collaborations on those first few movies, with the likes of Bill Murray and the late Harold Ramis, should be taught in comedy film school somewhere.

Reitman, oddly, also produced the first two horror movies ever directed by David Cronenberg ("Shivers" and "Rabid") and has produced or directed a whole bunch of other films, but one thing he has not done is direct a sports movie -- until now. His new film, "Draft Day," stars Kevin Costner as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns and takes place on arguably the most important day of the football calendar.

Moviefone sat down with Reitman to talk about making a sports movie, directing it like a thriller, why he's not going to direct "Ghostbusters 3," and the loss of his friend, Harold Ramis.

Moviefone: This is the first sports movie you've directed.

Ivan Reitman: Well, you know, I produced "Space Jam," which I basically directed. It was an animated film where being the producer really was virtually tantamount to being the director. And I actually shot the Bill Murray scenes, most of the Michael Jordan scenes I directed. But yeah, to me, this is a film that's set in the sports world, that is about sports, but really is about the emotionality and drama that happens to this one very interesting guy on a very complicated day.

You're a football fan, so you walked into this with a certain amount of knowledge.

Yeah, I didn't have to be told how to score a touchdown and things like that.

Did you learn anything about the NFL that you didn't know before?

Oh, I learned a ton. The draft is a really complicated thing, and it's not just the rules of the draft. It's also what the mechanics are on the night, you know. I knew there were team tables with representatives there but I didn't really know how they communicated and there was a phone on the table that had a direct access to the war room and that there's a card that's filled out. Then the card is lifted and the guy walks it over and that there's a team of officials that makes sure that the right people are making the right choice. So I had a lot of meetings with the people who really do it and just learned it and added pieces of business in the film to make sure that we covered it and sort of explained it in a kind of easy fashion to our viewers. Because I figured most of them didn't know either.

A lot of people don't know anything about football, and I wanted this movie to work for them as much as for sports fans or football fans. I mean, the nicest thing I've learned since we've started to screen is that, you know, non-fans, non-sports fans have rated this movie as high as football fans have. And women have rated it as high, maybe even higher than men have in their viewing of it.

If you're making a sports movie, it helps to get Kevin Costner.

Yeah. And not just because of a sports background filmography. It's really because there's something all-American about him and there's something -- there's a leadership quality to him and the way he speaks -- he's the kind of guy that we want to follow. He makes sense as the general manager of a sports organization.

You also believe his vulnerability throughout it.

Yeah. This is a movie about a guy under pressure who makes a questionable call very early on and has to live with it. And it's kind of an interesting psychological, emotional thing to ride through.

I like the fact that we saw some split screen on this film. When I see split screen, I think of a Brian De Palma thriller. It's interesting to see it in this context.

This is a thriller, so to speak. I mean, in many ways it's the closest genre. When I looked at it I said, "I'm making a thriller." Not a thriller, but a high-tension film. And, you know, there's something like 16 phone calls in it. I said, "God, how am I gonna make this interesting?" And so I knew I had to create some new version of that form to tell the story.

Who's easier to work with: the NFL or a Hollywood studio?

Oh, by far the NFL. The NFL made sense all the time. I never had any issues where I questioned the intelligence of the people I was talking to. You know, they have certain rules and there were some minor language things. I think there were two line cuts we made that they requested. Most of the rest was product placement.

There are a lot of phones, for example, in this, and they have a deal with a particular telephone company. Or we have people driving around in cars a lot so they've got a deal with GMC, for example. They didn't want one of the characters driving around in a Toyota for most of the movie. That was the kind of stuff that came up. It's not like we couldn't have a Toyota in the movie -- they didn't want one of our heroes to drive a Toyota.

You mentioned "Space Jam." There was a rumor online recently that a sequel was in the works.

Yeah, there had been some talk with Lebron James of doing another one, but so far that doesn't seem to be going forward. But who knows. It may be.

And you recently announced that you're not directing "Ghostbusters 3."

That's correct.

Bill Murray doesn't seem to want to be involved either.

No, he hasn't been interested from the very beginning.

And Harold Ramis is no longer here. Does it still make sense to go forward at this point?

Oh, yeah. We have a great script that doesn't really require much from any of the original Ghostbusters. The two that are still interested would be in it, and a few of the other characters. But it's not really about that -- it's really about the Ghostbusters and all that it represents in the film.

I don't want to say any more than that because I don't want to talk too much about it and I think it's quite wonderful what's being created and it's a great opportunity. Most of the cynicism about films like this comes from all the people that tend to write about it, which is the whole world on Twitter. But, finally, it has to be borne out and it either works or it doesn't. My gut tells me that it could work in a very special way.

So, you're still on as a producer?

Oh, yeah. I helped develop the script. Actually, I helped develop a few of the scripts, and I'll have a very important role to play. It just didn't feel right for me to direct it. I directed a couple already and I think doing "Draft Day" certainly encouraged me to do movies that are of a more intimate nature and just sort of deal with a more mature look at the human condition that someone my age is better suited to do.

And, finally, the death of Harold really threw me. He was an old friend and it just didn't -- it just seemed to be the appropriate time to pass the torch. Just like it's the appropriate time for the Ghostbusters to pass that torch.

As a lifelong horror fan, I'm going to take this opportunity to thank you for introducing the world to David Cronenberg.

He's a wonderful guy. We still sort of talk once a year. And it was just a wonderful start, you know. He just had a very special vision right from the beginning that I thought was worth pursuing. I thought those first movies were actually really great.

"Draft Day" hits theaters April 11. Photo by Dale Robinette / Summit
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