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Q&A: Brett Ratner On 'Beverly Hills Cop IV,' 'The Shooter Series,' And What He Thinks Of Comic Book Fans

September 9th, 2009 12:01pm EDT
Brett Ratner

Is Brett Ratner misunderstood? The "Rush Hour" and "X-Men: The Last Stand" director thinks that's quite possible.

His new retrospective DVD series, "The Shooter Series," (to be released September 15) paints the some may call party-boy director in a different light. Contemporaries such as Quentin Tarantino share their experiences about working with Ratner; and the director's early student films, commercials, and music videos are also chronicled.

Ratner also doesn't parse words about his feelings toward the vocal online community who criticized his work on "X-Men: The Last Stand," and he explains why the new "Beverly Hills Cop" film might just surprise you.

Mike Ryan: At the beginning of "The Shooter Series" DVD you're described as "a complete blur," "a puppy," "a walking blog," "sociopath," "a diligent pain in the ass."

Brett Ratner: They have to say something bad about me. It can't be one big blow job.

Are they accurate?

Of course. It's all said with love. When Chris Tucker called Jackie [Chan] a "chink," -- you know what I mean? -- he doesn't mean it.

Near the beginning you're sitting on the couch with Russell Simmons and he asked you, "Why are you hosting a thing on your own career?" and the camera cuts away. What was your answer to that?

I didn't have an answer.

How did the "Shooter Series" come about?

Well, Richard Brown, my partner, was the guy who created the "Director's Label." He had asked me to come on and do a "Director's Label" thing and I said, "Why don't you come and be my partner and we'll do our own series." Because I have my relationships with filmmakers as you could tell by the DVD. So, I just wanted to do it on my own. I think if I was going to work on something so hard -- it literally took two years to do that because I have enough work for four volumes. And I just found another video on YouTube that I don't even remember I did it and I should have put it on "The Shooter Series." I was like, "Shit, I forgot about that," because I did over 100. It was very difficult pulling all that stuff and getting it transferred.

It's more for posterity if you ask, "Why did I do it?" It's for posterity and also because I learned how to make movies -- not only from going to NYU film school -- but from studying the greats and looking at laserdiscs with director's commentaries on it. Once I heard directors talking about their work in simple terms, it opened up my eyes and I realized, "Wow, this isn't brain surgery." But, when you're a kid and you're watching a movie you're like, "How the hell did they do that?"

I enjoyed the contrast between looking at your bigger films then looking at your student films from NYU. To see the process begin to what it became later.

I had many, many, many of them but I couldn't put them all on. But I put on, kind of, the worst ones. The ones where you're just like, "This guy made 'X-Men'"?! The guy that did that?" So, yeah, that's the stuff I was really excited about people seeing because how would you ever see that? No one would ever see that stuff.



You mention that people might not get a chance to see these. The one I found fascinating was the one on Mickey Rourke. With his recent success it was really poignant to watch. I guess it's filmed about the time he got into boxing...

Let me give you the back story on that, it was crazy. Even before I was born Mickey Rourke used to sleep over at my house in my garage -- he was best friends with my uncle and my mom. He was a teenager and his step-father was a mean cop type of character that was not nice to him. I grew up knowing him but then I lost track, of course, from when I was a little boy until I was going to NYU. I was like, "Mickey, I can't wait, I'm going to be a director and you're going to be in all my films." And he's like, "No, man, I'm quitting." I said, "What are you talking about?" He's like, "I'm going to be a boxer." I'm like, "Are you out of your f*cking mind? You're like the best actor in the world."

I said, "I'm going to follow you becoming a boxer." I wanted any excuse to film anything anyway. I literally spent months in Miami filming him. I put it in a garage, I hadn't seen it in 20 years. Mickey calls me recently and says, "I just did this movie called 'The Wrestler,' can you throw a party for me?" I dug up the footage and showed it to him and Darren Aronofsky and he saw it and was like, "Holy shit. This is the real Wrestler."

Something else that stood out in the documentary was your passion toward the movie "Family Man."

I read the script and it made me cry and I was like, "God, what's wrong with me?" At the end of the day it's that "What if" question. What if I chose a different path? Certain decisions don't affect your entire life but certain decisions will be important your entire life. I had a girlfriend at the time for 13 years and I was deciding what I was going to do. Was I going to just marry her? Was I going to move on? making that film was the process of helping me make that decision. It was a very personal film for me, I think it was my best film because I personalized it.

It's never mentioned when people talk about "Brett Ratner" films.

Well, people remember the big, big pop-culture... Most people I meet tell me it's their favorite film of mine. And also "Red Dragon" people love. The past few years I've only done these big event movies but I've done movies in four different genres. "Red Dragon" is a psychological thriller; "Family Man" is a romantic fantasy.

I consider "Red Dragon" a completely different movie than "Manhunter," But when you were filming did you feel the spectre of Michael Mann over your shoulder?

I felt that I made a true interpretation of the book. "Manhunter," although a great film, was not true to the book which was a fantastic book.

There's a quote in the documentary from you that's very honest about feeling at one point you had to make an important film, but now realize you just make what you want to make.

I thought I needed to make an important film because I didn't understand... I'm not a strategic person. There are directors that are like, "I'm going to make three epics. I'm going to make three musicals." I don't plan ahead so I go with my instincts. When I did "Family Man," I never wanted to do a movie with the title called "Family Man." I never dreamed I'd direct a movie like that but I read the script and I fell in love with it.

I always thought to get the accolades of my fellow filmmakers I thought I had to make a film that was appealing to the academy -- one of these films that end up being pretentious or contrived or forced. I thought I had to make a movie about a serious subject but when I asked Roman Polanski about "Chinatown," I said, "That must have been really personal. What part of that was personal?" He said, "That wasn't personal at all. I needed a job."

Every film doesn't have to be personal, it doesn't have to be an important subject about the Holocaust or about someone dying of cancer, it should be something that I'm interested in. That's what I've been doing and that's why I've been picking these big commercial movies because that's just my sensibilities ... I think my optimism transpires through my work. The fun of "Rush Hour," the fun of "X-Men" and all these movies I've done. I'm in them. My personality and my tenacity are in those movies.

Brett Ratner

Image © Albert L. Ortega / PR Photos



You mentioned "X-Men." Is the comic book fan the hardest demographic to please? If you look at the numbers: Bryan Singer's "X-Men" made $157 Million, "X-Men United" made $214 million and your "X-Men: The Last Stand" made $234 million. Yet that group wasn't particularly happy.

Absolutely. Bryan Singer gave me the best advice when I was doing "X-Men 3," Bryan is a really good friend of mine. Bryan said, "Whatever you do, do not read the Internet." I'm like, "Why?" He's like, "First of all, they hated on me the whole time I was making 'X-Men' and 'X-Men 2.' They said, 'Gambit should have been the star of the movie'" They're such rabidness fans, they're so passionate about their comic book characters that they think that their favorite character should be the star of the movie. Someone might be passionate about Iceman being the star. So, you can't win. Everyone's going to have their own so just stay away from their opinion and do what you feel's best.

I kind of made rules for myself. I said to the writers -- Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg -- I only want to put scenes in this movie that exist from actual comic books. That way I protect myself. Even though I protect myself they're still saying, "Why the f*ck did [he] kill Professor X?" He died in five different comic books! People are crazy. "Brett Ratner killed Professor X! How dare he do that!" He died in five different comic books and came back!

Then people weren't happy with Bryan Singer when he went on to "Superman Returns."


You can't make these people happy. I'm kind of the Anti-Christ to these comic book geeks. Every single person that wrote shit 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. Every single person who said, "I'm never seeing that movie," they were the first ones there.

What is it then? Are you polarizing?

You know what it is. That's their whole life, they have nothing more to do than to worry. What are they concerned about? It's out of the filmmaker's hands. A film is a collaborative effort. How's a person sitting at home going to worry about how a movie is going to turn out to be? I just know one thing: Mine outgrossed the other two by far. Mine was the one that made the most narrative sense. And I'm not knocking Bryan's movie but he just does a certain thing; Bryan uses his brain and I use my eye and my instincts more. It's a whole different approach to making a movie. I'm not saying my movie wasn't smart; I just wasn't intellectualizing it. I was just looking at it as pure entertainment value which is what it was.

When I was a kid and used to watch that cartoon it was just fun. It wasn't a deeper meaning for me when I watched the cartoon as a kid. I didn't read the comic books but it doesn't matter, the cartoon is the same f*cking thing.

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. If I buried the franchise how the f*ck did they make a "Wolverine"? I mean, that's ridiculous. And they're making three other f*cking "X-Men" movies. Mine kept the franchise alive!

I've been looking forward to "New York, I Love You." What's your segment's story about?

It's funny, that is my most personal film. That's an autobiographical short story that happened to me on my prom night. And I changed the ending because when I showed the script to the producers they were like, "Are you out of your f*cking mind?" And I'm like, "Guys, this really happened to me." And they go, "That's not true." They were so freaked out about what happened in the film that they were like, "you have to change the ending." And I did change it because it did go really far but it's based on a true story. I don't want to give too much away but it's a coming of age story about what happened to a teenage boy on his prom night.

I think you have fun with your reputation -- like when you were on "Entourage." Is it blown out of proportion?

I go on "Entourage" because my friend Doug Ellin who's the creative producer says, "Come on 'Entourage.'" There's no strategy as far as my reputation. My public persona is not accurate, obviously. I think you get to know me a little bit better if you watch the doc on me. Do you feel like you know me... am I different than what you hear about me?

If you listen to what all these other filmmakers on there like Tarantino are saying, of course. If that's what one of the aspects of what the doc is trying to do, I think it does do that.

It's not that, but that's what it ended up being. The people that are speaking are my friends who know me. The people that are out there don't know me and what happens is it overshadows sometimes the seriousness that I have as a filmmaker. I eat, sleep and breathe movies. I'm just about my work 24 hours a day. Yes, have I had fun? Yes. Have I enjoyed my life? Yes, but I'm one of the hardest working guys out there.

That's my life's passion. That's what I was born to do and that's what my whole life is about. It's not about going out with pretty girls, that comes with that. When you're good at your job and serious and successful, all the perks come with it but that's not why I did it. That's the difference where people don't understand me. They think my dream was to have a big house and be famous and date pretty girls. My only dream was to make films.

What's the latest on "Beverly Hills Cop IV"?

I'm having a conversation with Eddie today. We're working on the script and when that script comes in we're going to make that movie.

My only suggestion, please avoid amusement parks for this one.

Heh. Well, yeah, obviously. I mean, if you don't think Eddie recognizes that that movie's ["Beverly Hills Cop 3"] not good, if you don't think I recognize that movie's not good, I mean, come on. It's obviously a bad movie. We're obviously aspiring to make a movie as good as the first one. It's not always easy. It's harder when you're in it. I'm an outsider, I only came up with the idea of "Rush Hour" because "Beverly Hills Cop" existed. And I would never go to another movie like "Rush Hour." Do you know how many movies I've been offered like "Rush Hour" -- buddy cop action movies? I thought I did the best contemporary version of that genre. For me, the only challenge was to do "Beverly Hills Cop." There's nothing better. Even though there's a bad version of "Beverly Hills Cop" -- which is "Beverly Hills Cop 3" -- and I totally recognize that. You're going to see (laughs) you're going to be very surprised by this.

Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
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