CATEGORIES Features, Movies

UPDATE: Brett Ratner has resigned as Oscars producer after his controversial comments. Read more here.

Meet Brett Ratner: 'Tower Heist' director, future Academy Awards producer, and, according to all the negative press he's received this past week (and for that matter, throughout his entire career), a gigantic self-absorbed jerk prone to making crass and controversial statements.

As you may have read, Ratner came under fire on Monday after using a gay slur to describe rehearsals during a post-screening Q&A about 'Tower Heist.' Despite all the outrage pinging around the Internet, Ratner will keep his job as Oscar producer. Judging from his past, however, it might not be long before Ratner jams another foot into his mouth. Who is this man and -- more importantly -- why are people up in arms about his public persona? Let's find out.

Brett Ratner was born in Miami Beach, Fla. At the age of 16, he enrolled at NYU's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, where he was able to secure funding from Steven Spielberg for one of his student films. After graduation, Ratner began doing music videos for artists such as LL Cool J, Madonna, Wu-Tang Clan and Mariah Carey.

In 1997, Ratner directed his first feature film, 'Money Talks,' a comedy starring Chris Tucker and Charlie Sheen. Although the movie was critically panned, it ended up grossing $50 millon -- twice its $25 million budget. A career in blockbusters was born: his next three movies -- which included 'Rush Hour' and its sequel, both with Tucker -- grossed more than $735 million worldwide, cementing Ratner's status as a Hollywood director on the rise. He embraced the newfound fame, throwing lavish parties at his house, dating supermodels, and even taking photographs for 'Vogue.'

And then, 'X-Men: The Last Stand' happened.

Ratner's 'X-Men' sequel was, commercially, an enormous hit -- it made almost half a billion dollars worldwide -- but the critical response, particularly among fans of the popular comic book series, was overwhelmingly negative. They claimed that Ratner had done irreparable damage to the franchise itself. Little did they know that he would strike back with a few criticisms of his own.

You can't make these people happy. I'm kind of the anti-Christ to these comic-book geeks. Every single person that wrote sh-t went to see that movie multiple times because a movie doesn't gross $200 something million unless people go to see it more than once... The most ridiculous statement I've read is -- and of course I looked at the Internet after the movie came out -- that I buried the franchise.

After 'X-Men' and another wildly successful 'Rush Hour' sequel, Ratner stayed quiet on the movie-directing front. He did a few music videos, had a cameo in HBO's 'Entourage' and even started his own book publishing company. Along the way, however, he continued to make eyebrow-raising statements. Take this exchange from a Vanity Fair feature in March 2007, where Ratner was asked by writer Nancy Jo Sales about his ability to attract gorgeous women.

I asked [Ratner] -- because he allows you to feel he's open to being asked such things -- "Why do women love you? Do you have a big d-ck?"

"No," he said frankly. "It's not big, but it works well. I know how to use it. You can put that in." And catching his double entendre, "I mean --"

"No!" he said, rethinking it. "Say it's big. It's huge!"


Even that comment sounds tame compared to what was coming.

This past August, Ratner was chosen as the producer for the 84th annual Academy Awards. The reaction to his hire ranged from astonishment to anger to, in these pages, grudging support. Mostly, people were just confused. ("The guy who directed 'Rush Hour' is going to be running the Oscars?") Ratner eventually chose Eddie Murphy -- the co-lead in his 'Tower Heist' -- to host.

Then, last week, during the press rounds for 'Tower Heist,' Ratner gave an interview to G4's 'Attack of the Show.' Asked about his relationship with actress Olivia Munn, Ratner said the following:

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.

The inappropriate statements didn't stop there. At a press event on Friday night, a day after the Olivia Munn incident, Ratner was asked about the rehearsals for 'Tower Heist.' His response? "Rehearsal is for fags." The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation condemned the remarks, and people began calling for Ratner to lose his job as Academy Awards producer.

Somehow, things managed to get even worse this past Monday. After apologizing for his "rehearsal" comments, Ratner told Howard Stern that he had never had sex with Olivia Munn, and that his comments on 'Attack of the Show' were fabricated. He also admitted to making actress Lindsay Lohan take an STD test before he would sleep with her.

Which brings us to the present day. After everything that's happened to Brett in the past week, where does that leave him and his career? His position with the Oscars is secure (Academy president Tom Sherak came out in support of Ratner), but his name is tarnished worse than before. Even his status as a moneymaker is in question: 'Tower Heist' opened with a disappointing $25 million in ticket sales this past weekend.

It would be foolish to suppose that Ratner's blockbuster days are behind him. Making financially successful and broadly accessible movies is what he does, and few directors can match his skills in those departments. If he wants to become the kind of filmmaker who earns respect along with all that money, though, he'll need to learn a new skill: tongue-control.



[Photo: Getty]



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