How Much Longer Will the Academy Tolerate Brett Ratner? [UPDATED]

ratner_grazer_getty300.jpgIt's been a rough week for Brett Ratner, whose big, ostensibly crowd-pleasing ensemble comedy Tower Heist debuted to lukewarm box-office figures and whose promotional endeavors have found him invoking his sexual history and bedroom technique to cringe-inducing effect. Today Ratner apologized for a "joke" he made over the weekend, responding to a viewer during a Tower Heist Q&A that "rehearsal's for fags." Wait, what? This is the guy co-producing the forthcoming Academy Awards? [UPDATE: Now he's a homophobe and a liar.]

Of course, this is the second time in as many months that Ratner has had to issue a mea culpa for insensitively made remarks. At least back in September, when the 41-year-old filmmaker apologized for a Tower Heist joke referring to Ben Stiller's character as "little seizure boy," he was making amends for a line in the film that he didn't even write. (Actor and Twitter personality Greg Grunberg, the father of an epileptic son, spoke out for a Tower Heist boycott before Ratner issued his regrets.)

His gay slur, however, was evidently all Ratner:

The director was answering questions from the audience after introducing the movie at the Arclight Hollywood cineplex.

"The audience was stunned," one person who was present told TheWrap. At least one person walked out, upset over the reference. [...] The exchange went like this, according to a video of the event that was posted on the internet but later removed:

Q: So you get this entire group of actors together -- what was rehearsal like?

A: Rehearsal? What's that? Rehearsal's for fags. Rehearsal. Not much. A lot of prep, preparation, complex action sequences, visual effects. Storyboards, animatics. The process was I made the actors stick to the script. And they wanted to, because the script was great.

Are you kidding me? "Rehearsal's for fags"? For what it's worth, Ratner expressed his remorse this morning:

"I apologize for any offense my remarks caused. It was a dumb way of expressing myself. Everyone who knows me knows that I don't have a prejudiced bone in my body. But as a storyteller I should have been much more thoughtful about the power of language and my choice of words."

Mmm-hmm. I mean, people have only been reminding Ratner of this for his last 15 years' worth of movies, but I digress. Let's look at Ratner's other storytelling techniques in recent days, specifically his means of countering Olivia Munn's recollection of an anonymous director -- widely rumored but never confirmed before last week to be Ratner -- whom she alleged once confronted her while holding a jumbo shrimp and his not-so-jumbo junk:

"I used to date Olivia Munn, I'll be honest with everyone here. But when she was 'Lisa.' She wasn't Asian back then. She was hanging out on my set of After the Sunset, I banged her a few times, but I forgot her. Because she changed her name. I didn't know it was the same person, and so when she auditioned for me for a TV show, I forgot her, she got pissed off, and so she made up all these stories about me eating shrimp and masturbating in my trailer. And she talked about my shortcomings."

It's like the guy's never heard of the high road -- or at least backchannels, where so much of Hollywood's revenge is exacted, especially by those with such eminent positions as co-producer of the freaking Academy Awards. Then came today's Howard Stern show, that font of class and taste where Ratner apparently carried on about... ugh:

Director @brettratner says he's a master at oral sex. He knows he's good at it because he makes girls cryMon Nov 07 11:45:43 via TweetDeck

Fine -- it's Howard Stern, and Tower Heist is reeling. Love him or hate him, Ratner is an expert, tireless self-promoter in ways from which many up-and-coming filmmakers could learn. [UPDATE 11/7 6:38 p.m. ET: Except that, as a reader points out, Ratner copped today to lying about his Munn story as well -- which he also apologized for. What in the world is going on here?]

Of course, most up-and-coming filmmakers aren't co-producing the Academy Awards, and most of them haven't just made a modestly received blockbuster hopeful with the guy hosting the Oscars -- a guy who himself stirred discomfort at AMPAS HQ a few weeks back by publicly anticipating being the worst Oscarcast host ever.

The difference between Ratner and Eddie Murphy, of course, is that Murphy's a comedian. To the extent he cares about hosting the Oscars at all (which is an open question at this point), he can claim his comments are tongue in cheek. Meanwhile, Ratner's spirited enthusiasm for his projects -- from his early shorts and videos to his publishing efforts to the Oscars and beyond -- doesn't square up with his utter boorishness and lack of sophistication in the public realm. Insensitive as his "fags" comment was, it follows a disturbing recent pattern and demonstrates a bracing disregard for the Academy and co-producer Don Mischer. After all, this is the same institution that came under fire last year for a censored kiss between presenters Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem -- and that was with openly gay Oscar-winner Bruce Cohen co-producing with Mischer. Now AMPAS has the guy who's pledging to make the Oscars cool with the kids following up his four-quadrant stinker with homophobic jock humor.

Is an apology really enough? Will the Academy's Board of Governors stand for this? Will prospective awards presenters -- gays and straights alike -- look past the artless, guileless man behind the curtain? Moreover, does Brett Ratner have enough of a grip on reality to get through the next three and a half months of Oscar posturing and politics in a media sphere that's dying to see him flame out? Even former Oscar co-host Alec Baldwin, himself turning increasingly to the tastemaking side of the business, couldn't refrain recently from mocking Ratner in public -- to Tower Heist co-star Matthew Broderick, no less, whose defense was little match for Baldwin's thinly veiled contempt.

There's still time for the Academy to make a change; AMPAS representatives did not respond to Movieline's request for comment on if or how that change might take place -- or who might make it first, Ratner or Academy president Tom Sherak. But ultimately there are no shortcuts to that high road, and you can only hitch a ride so long.

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[Photo: Getty Images]


  • NP says:

    He's openly admitted that he has received oral sex from another man, and yet thinks it's okay to throw around that slur?
    One of his tweets earlier today contained this gem: "couldn't of." Really, Brett? _Couldn't of_? Nice to know you have the English language skills of a YouTube commenter.

  • The WInchester says:

    This weekend, I couldn't wait for Tower Heist to open up so I could stop seeing ads for Tower Heist everywhere I went.
    Now how much longer to I have to keep seeing Brett Ratner's face? He didn't even act in the movie and he's getting more press than even Eddie Murphy. You don't even see Michael Bay doing this much press for his noisy robot movies.

  • Jim G says:

    I don't see the big deal. Words are just that, words. It's good to know that a director can drug and rape a minor or marry his young step daughter and still be honored with an Academy Award but one who lies about banging an of-age actress and says 'fag' off the cuff should be banished from producing the boring broadcast. Why not an uproar over any actor who chooses to work with Polanski or Allen?? Hollywood morality is a joke.

  • SaltySue says:

    While Ratner is despicable you do have a point. If people see no problem with the Academy awarding an fugitive-rapist then they shouldn't get in a tizzy when the Academy hires a douche to produce the telecast.

  • HC says:

    ugh Ratner is such a tool and his movies suck so bad, really wish he would just go away....

  • j'accuse! says:

    Dude. Classic straw man argument. Stick to the issue at hand - Mr. Ratner making comments that distract from his work, and would seem to indicate he'd be a prick to work with. When it comes down to it, being a public embarrassment to your employers, making yourself persona non grata with a significant portion of the creative community (whose participation would be necessary to produce, say, the Oscarcast), and generally being a dick are going to make people not want to work with you. People don't like to work with dicks. Unless they're in porn.

  • sosgemini says:

    So, AMPAS has released a statement standing by Ratner following his apology and warned that another outburst would not be tolerated. While the comments were inappropriate and Ratner was smart to apologize, I wonder if some of the outrage has more to do with personal dislike of Ratner and/or disgust with Ratner producing the Oscars than it does about hate speech. Just wondering...

  • Edward Wilson says:

    Maybe he's just seen Fast Times one time too many...

  • AS says:

    Ooooh I can't stand this little trust fund baby. The guy is a total shit and he's never made a good film in his life. Why don't people like him ever die in plane crashes or natural disasters?

  • The Pope says:

    It's pathetic that people pull Polanski and Allen in to the argument in an effort to defend Bratner. It's a distraction to do so and a complete false equivocation. We are talking about Bratner, here. No one else. So don't compare... but then again, with friends like those...

  • miles silverberg says:

    The saddest part of the past week's drama has been having to look at his dried-out mug at the top of entertainment sites every day. Yeesh. He should hold a wake for all those exposed capillaries on his nose.

  • Bradley Paul Valentine says:

    Big deal, guys. C’mon. Get thicker skin. It’s childish to get so riled up over what? Bret Ratner using a bad word? That’s hurtful?

  • blizzard bound says:

    It is time for AMPAS to hire a woman to produce the Oscars.
    Isn't this kind of bs from Ratner so boy's locker room that it smells bad? If the idea is to appeal to the "youth," haven't all the political polls already demonstrated that young people today are more tolerant regarding gay people?
    I'm more upset with the Academy than with Ratner. WHY DID THEY PICK HIM? I'm tired of mediocrity winning out.

  • KevyB says:

    I haven't heard many people say he was a dick to work with, just that he's a douche in real life, so I'm not so sure that argument holds. But the argument that Hollywood is always so willing to forgive actual criminals, including drug addicts like Robert Downey Jr, wifebeaters and rapists like Mike Tyson, pedophiles like Roman Polanski, then why should any of them get into an uproar over a simple word? I can't bring myself to care and I AM a fag!

  • PatrioticUSGlory says:

    The ratio is 50 to 1 in terms of the direct ugly attacks and slurs gays lob at Christians and voters simply for objecting to homosexuality or gay marriage. So, really, I have no problem with Ratner's rather innocuous figure of speech.

  • oscar77 says:

    Hypocrites. You guys have no problem with equally-offensive remarks at Sarah Palin, Christianity, Southerners, or anyone who disagrees with you politically. But to say this word is A BIG NO-NO????
    HY - PO - CRITES

  • NP says:

    Yes, why won't anyone think of the Christians?! They've endured oppression since... oh right.
    Go away, mouthbreather.

  • Jim G says:

    In that case, why no uproar over Eddie Murphy hosting? He picked up a transvestite hooker and said publicly on Oprah that he only dates black women. Morally, he should be banned for his racism and illegal activities. And his were ACTIONS, not just words. Show us an instance were Ratner did anything remotely hurtful like Mel Gibson and you'd have more of a point. And I'm not a fan of Ratner's movies at all, but I do recognize that having an ego is no crime, especially in show business.

  • AS says:

    Sarah Palin is a mindless barbie doll, Christianity is filled with false prophets and pedophiles and Southerners are infamous for their backwards thinking and overt racism. Yeah, no comparison......

  • Morgo says:

    Yeah, he is openly showing contempt for preparation. What does fag even mean in this context. It sounds so juvenile, like teenage boy peer pressure: "studying's for fags" etc. It doesn't sound like somebody who's ambitious and motivated, it sounds like somebody who's full of himself.
    I'm not going to see Tower Heist. I hate the idea of jerks and bullies being successful just because people can't see through their confidence to the fraud underneath it.

  • The Cantankerist says:

    "The ratio is 50 to 1 in terms of the direct ugly attacks and slurs gays lob at Christians and voters simply for objecting to homosexuality or gay marriage."
    Really? Simply for telling them that their love is an abomination? Why, those thin-skinned gays!

  • j'accuse! says:

    Bringing up other people's misbehavior doesn't make Brett Ratner less of a shithead.