Nobody knows how to draw laughs like the legendary Hollywood producer-director Ivan Reitman. Ask him about his new restaurant, Montecito, and things turn serious
You’ve had a wildly successful career as the brains behind comedy classics Animal House, Ghostbusters and Meatballs. Why open a 280-seat mega-restaurant in Toronto?
First of all, don’t call it at mega-restaurant. It’s a series of intimate rooms that serve subtly different purposes and would total 280 seats if every damn one were full. Why I got into it? Two local restaurateurs, Tom and Jordan Bitove, approached me. Plus, I have a condo in Festival Tower and realized there isn’t a place nearby for a great, simple, sophisticated meal at a fair price.
Are you disparaging the Hooters up the street?
I’m suggesting there isn’t a great restaurant in the four-or five-block area.
Your family donated the $22-million plot of land for the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Montecito is around the corner. Have you received any flak from Yorkville restaurateurs for stealing the party?
Ha! No. But that shift was happening for about 15 years before the Lightbox came along, so don’t blame me.
No one knows more about comedy than you. With respect, what do you know about opening a restaurant?
Not much. But as a producer and director, I know how to get something relatively expensive done. I know how to entertain the public, too. Most importantly, I’ve brought in Jonathan Waxman, one of the fathers of California cuisine, to oversee the kitchen.
Tell us about Waxman’s baked Alaska. We’ve heard it’s an exploding marshmallow dessert based on the Stay Puft villain in Ghostbusters.
It’s true. I’m not a big fan of marshmallows, but this one is kind of cool.
Isn’t it a slippery slope to Meatballs meatballs?
It is. And no, we’re not going to create funny food items from all of my films. This won’t be Planet Hollywood.
What gimmick-free stuff will be on the menu, then?
We’ll find great local ingredients and cook them as simply and impeccably as possible.
The promo material says “Inspired by Ivan Reitman.” What does that mean?
I don’t know. It sure sounds highfalutin. But the idea is to recreate the look and feel of Montecito, California—my home for the past 20 years. It’s also the name of my production company. I flew everybody down from Toronto for a few days to make sure we got it right.
How do you recreate California in a restaurant?
I got special permission to shoot footage—of the ocean, mountains and gardens—around some of the finest homes in Montecito. The video will be projected on a wall in the restaurant.
Ghostbusters 3 rumours have been swirling for decades. Any news?
The studio is in, and we have writers working on it as we speak. We’re hoping to film at the beginning of next year. Dan Aykroyd and I meet about once a month to talk about it.
Ghostbusters without Harold Ramis and Bill Murray seems like sacrilege. Is Murray in?
He’s publicly said no, but Bill and I have done six movies together, and he never says yes until literally just before the shoot. Two TIFFs ago, we had a late dinner at Sotto Sotto, and we ate and talked until 4:30 in the morning. I told him, “I don’t care if you do Ghostbusters—I mean, I’d love it if you did—but why aren’t you doing leading parts for big studio films?” He said he didn’t want that responsibility. He wanted to be a character actor.
I’ve read that Murray doesn’t have representation, just a voice mailbox where you leave a message. True?
It is. He has a lawyer I’ve called on many occasions, but there’s no manager or agent.
He’s Bill Murray. I guess he can do what he wants.
We all can. It’s called free will.
You’re a Hollywood celeb who’s been happily married for 40 years. Aren’t those two things mutually exclusive?
Ha. Well, Geneviève and I have certainly had our ups and downs, but we just got back from four weeks in Europe and it was the best trip we’ve ever had. The only downside was that I ate too much.
What’s the secret to a happy marriage?