There’s a firestorm brewing in Southern California this week, and it has nothing to with high winds or drought conditions. As first reported by Vulture, “Tower Heist” director and 2012 Academy Awards producer Brett Ratner shocked an audience at the ArcLight Cinemas in Los Angeles last week by responding to a question about his attitude toward cast rehearsals with the line “Rehearsing is for fags.” And suddenly every problem I’ve ever had with the acting in Brett Ratner’s movies makes sense.
Ratner quickly submitted an apology to TheWrap (“I apologize for any offense my remarks caused. It was a dumb way of expressing myself.”) and Academy president Tom Sherak told Deadline that he accepted it. But that hasn’t stopped some within the Academy and the industry from calling for Ratner to be fired as producer of next year’s Oscars.
TheWrap quoted an unnamed “longtime Academy member” worried that Ratner’s antics were “tarnishing” the Oscars’ brand. And over on Grantland, Mark Harris filed a piece entitled “Why the Academy Should Fire Brett Ratner.”
“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.”
Harris probably has a point there. If the Academy had hired Michael Richards to produce the Oscars a few months before he went onstage at the Laugh Factory and began to throw around the n-word, he would have almost certainly been fired. If Ratner keeps his job, that would be a double standard.
That said, I don’t think Ratner’s comments were malicious, just intensely stupid. When I was a grad student at NYU, I attended a campus screening of “After the Sunset” with Ratner on hand for post-screening Q&A (don’t judge: it was free and I was poor). I can’t cite specifics, but the impression I got listening to him ramble on was similar to the one I get listening to Lars von Trier give props to Hitler. These guys love to be the center of attention and to play the role of the crazy, maverick filmmaker. Unfortunately, they’re not properly equipped to talk in public. They get caught up in the character they’re playing and they don’t think before they speak, and then they say dumb stuff like this.
Given the swiftness of his apology and the soundness of the vote of confidence from Sherak, I don’t think Ratner’s going anywhere — unless he makes the doubly boneheaded move of dropping another offensive remark in public before February 26, 2012. On the other hand, put aside the homophobic portion of his remark for a moment and just look at what Ratner says: the guy doesn’t believe in rehearsals! Don’t they rehearse the Oscars for, like, weeks before the broadcast? Should the producer of the Oscars be so dismissive about the all-important preparations for the show? I guess if the Oscars look unusually sloppy this year, we’ll know why.