So here’s the deal. Earlier today, New York entertainment magazine site Vulture reported that at a Los Angeles Q&A session following a screening of his film “Tower Heist,” director Brett Ratner was asked by the moderator whether he prepares and rehearses with his actors before filming a scene. Ratner’s response?
Rehearsing is for fags.
Stay classy, Brett. Remarkably though, Ratner didn’t go for the “Gosh, can’t you guys take a joke?” apology, which is what I would have expected. Instead, he decided to model his response on every political apology issued in the past ten years:
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.
And I apologize, Brett, but that’s not going to cut it for me. You might recall that Ratner is one the producers for this year’s Oscar ceremony. Well, AMPAS, if there are any of you out there reading this (ha), I want you to fire Brett Ratner. Now.
As usual, Mark Harris over at Grantland has expressed this far more concisely and rationally than I could (where has Mark Harris been all my life?):
I’ve had to listen to versions of every one of these mea-not-quite-culpas over the years and seriously, I’m no longer interested in patiently witnessing the slow arc of a public figure’s learning curve. What I do care about is what the Academy does, which should be either to ask for and receive his resignation from the show or to drop him as the producer of a show that is supposed to represent the best the industry has to offer. There’s not really a long, nuanced debate to be had about this. If he had used an equivalent racial or religious slur, the discussion would go something like, “You’re fired.” Apology or not. The same rule applies here. You don’t get a mulligan on homophobia. Not in 2011.
Preach it, Mark. On many awards/film blogs, the comment threads on this topic have already descended into a predictably terrifying place, with all posters on both sides coming off as self-righteous pricks (if you dare, peek at the comments on the Hollywood Elsewhere post to see what I’m talking about).
This is not about Ratner’s talents as a filmmaker. It doesn’t matter if you hate the “Rush Hour” movies or “X-Men 3.” It doesn’t even matter whether you think Ratner should’ve been involved as one of the Oscar producers in the first place, and I’m speaking as a pretty firm advocate of the “that was a stupid hire” camp. In fact, it would be fairly hypocritical of me at this point to completely decry Ratner’s influence on the show – so far, Ratner and co-producer Don Mischer had made only two (public) moves regarding this year’s ceremony, and those moves were to 1) hire Eddie Murphy as host, and 2) hire a completely new crop of comedy writers to work alongside Murphy, including Alec Berg and David Mandel of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Ted Griffin of the “Ocean’s” franchise and two guys who have been writing for Murphy since his days on “Saturday Night Live.” You know what? I’m completely on board with both of those moves. This could very well end up being the funniest telecast in years. The work is the work, the man is the man (and you have no idea how weird that is to apply to Brett Ratner, rather than, like, Roman Polanski or Lars von Trier).
But I’m completely behind Mark Harris and Sasha Stone here. You don’t get a pass on homophobic slurs. This is not a bunch of drunk frat boys stumbling across the social quad. This is not late night at some sleazy hole-in-the-wall comedy club. This is the most prominent, highly publicized, glamorous event in the industry; this is Hollywood putting on its best face, and if you agree to take part, you shape the fuck up. Should Ratner be banned from ever making movies? Much as I might like that, of course not. Maybe he’s telling the truth, maybe he’s not genuinely prejudiced or homophobic. I don’t know the man personally enough to judge him like that, and much as we may like to blame all the bigotry against homosexuals on Ratner here, there are broader issues of what is considered socially acceptable here. But just from that quote I DO know that he’s a short-sighted tone-deaf doofus who can’t even pause a moment to consider the possibility that what he is saying might offend someone.
That is incompetence of the highest order when it comes to being a public figure like PRODUCER OF THE OSCARS. So please, AMPAS executives. Even if you weren’t personally offended by his words (and I imagine a pretty good proportion of you would be, let’s be honest here), you have a very good reason to fire Brett Ratner: he’s simply not the right man for the job.