Brett Ratner Talks Eddie Murphy, the Oscars, a Woody Allen Documentary, BEVERLY HILLS COP 4, Tarsem’s SNOW WHITE, and More

     October 24, 2011

Brett Ratner is a very busy guy at the moment.  He’s currently preparing for the release of his latest directorial effort Tower Heist, which features an all-star cast that includes Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, and Alan Alda, and he’s also gearing up to produce the Academy Awards.  In addition, Ratner is juggling a number of other projects.  Steve recently got the chance to talk to Ratner and the conversation covered a wide range of topics.  In addition to talking about his plan for the Oscars and getting Eddie Murphy as a host, Ratner also spoke about Tarsem Singh’s Untitled Snow White Project which he’s producing, a comprehensive documentary about Woody Allen (which sounds awesome) that he’s also producing, a miniseries on Sidney Korshak, and much more including updates on Beverly Hills Cop 4 and Hong Kong Phooey.  Hit the jump to check out the full conversation.

brett-ratner-imageHere are the highlights gleaned from the conversation:

  • When Ratner agreed to produce the Oscars, he knew that he needed a comedian so his top choice was Eddie Murphy.
  • He says many of the ideas for the Oscar ceremony are dictated by what’s nominated, but he’s also coming up with a lot of ideas beforehand.
  • His short that he directed for Movie 43 is completely out of his comfort zone and “plainly beyond R-rated”.
  • The short for Movie 43 stars Gerard Butler, Seann William Scott, and Johnny Knoxville.
  • The decision of what Tarsem Singh’s Untitled Snow White Project will be titled is up to the studio, but he says it will have a title soon.
  • He’s developing some things for network television, but we won’t hear about it until next season.
  • He’s producing a miniseries for HBO about Sidney Korshak, a wildly powerful lawyer who acted as the go-between for the mafia and Hollywood.
  • He’s also producing a documentary about Woody Allen that Bob Weide is directing. Allen gave Weide permission to make the doc, and it features not only interviews with Allen but they were able to film him working on set, in the edit room, and they even filmed where he writes his scripts. The documentary airs on PBS this November.
  • Ratner says there probably won’t ever be another Rush Hour.
  • There’s no script for Beverly Hills Cop 4, but he says that they will probably make it in the next few years.

Here’s part of Steve’s interview with Ratner.  Look for the full conversation (which includes a lot on the making of Tower Heist) very soon.

Collider: You’re producing the Academy Awards. You’ve done a lot of stuff in your career; is this possibly the one that makes you a bit nervous?

Brett Ratner: Not when I have Eddie Murphy as the host. If I didn’t have Eddie Murphy as the host, I might be nervous. But when Eddie agreed to be the host…I didn’t know I would be producing the Oscars when I got the job for Tower Heist, so it wasn’t part of my plan. I just knew that I needed a comedian, because of the fact that Billy Crystal and Johnny Carson and Bob Hope were the three best hosts ever, because it was comedic. They were great. So I said, “Well, if I can get Eddie Murphy, then I’m a home run.” That’s what I did and I got him, which I guess I had some good will because he loved the movie.

oscar-statues-02Are you planning on reinventing the wheel?

Ratner: You can’t reinvent the wheel. You’ve got to just take the best from all the other shows and try to make it work, because there’s the “live show gods” that dictate if there are going to be any surprises, if there’s a very commercial film that’s a Best Picture, you know what I mean? There are a lot of things that are out of my control, but I do my best.

So are you going to flesh out your ideas once you find out what’s been nominated?

Ratner: A lot of the ideas are dictated by what’s nominated, obviously. A lot of them I’m coming up with beforehand. It’s not an easy job, that’s for sure.

I’ve seen your name attached to a number of things: 39 Clues, Hercules. What do you envision being the next thing that gets you behind the camera?

Ratner: I don’t really know. All these different projects are developing in various stages of development. So, the one that comes together first…some have an actor attached, some have a script that still needs work, some have a budget that’s not there yet. You see how hard it is to get these big movies made even with big movie stars.

You’ve been in the business for a while now. How has it changed for you in the past few years with “DVD sales going down?”

Ratner: I think it’s much more difficult, especially in the movies that I’m making which are very expensive movies, meaning high budget. I don’t think it’s easy anymore.

brett-ratner-ben-stiller-eddie-murphy-tower-heist-imageI know you did a segment in Movie 43. What can you tell people about it and how much fun did you have making it?

Ratner: When I do short films, I try to do something completely out of my comfort zone, out of my element. So I did New York, I Love You which is a very personal film for me. My most personal film, but it’s not like a film I’ve ever made. I would never do that film as a feature, for instance, because it’s not very commercial of an idea. So that’s what I did for Movie 43. I did a film that was completely insane and would definitely not work as a feature. But it’s something that’s out of my comfort zone and that’s what I do when I’m asked to do one of these shorts within a feature.

Is it an R-rated short?

Ratner: Oh yeah. It’s plainly beyond R, it’s insane!

Who did you cast in your short?

Ratner: Mine is with Gerard Butler, I have Sean William Scott and Johnny Knoxville in my film.

brett-ratner-image-2When is this thing actually coming out?

Ratner: I don’t know because I’ve only done one segment. There are twelve other segments and they’re working on the interstitials. I’m sure they’re going to put it out…I don’t know when. I think the Farrelly Brothers got distracted with The Three Stooges, so they need to finish it, because they were overseeing the production.

What’s going on with Hong Kong Phooey?

Ratner: That is getting made! Eddie Murphy attached himself, which is great. We’re getting that made, I’m producing Snow White, I have a documentary coming out November 20th and 21st on Woody Allen that I produced.

About working with Tarsem Singh and producing the Snow White movie, are you guys close to a title?

Ratner: It will be titled but I don’t know when. That’s a studio decision. We will, soon. [Tarsem’s] amazing. I actually didn’t see his other movie and I’m a big fan of his work. So I was excited to be producing a film that he directed. It’s really exciting.

Can you talk about the challenges of producing vs. directing?

Ratner: Producing is making films without having to work sometimes. It’s still making films, but it’s a different job. When you’re the director, you kinda do all the work. I’m actually going tonight to check the prints of my movie even though the premiere’s tomorrow night. So I’ll be working til 4, til the sun comes up, probably. Then I gotta go do The Today Show.  That’s what the director does, just kinda has to oversee every detail.

The producer can put something together, package it, oversee it, give input. I’m the kind of producer that likes to take a back seat and let the director run with it. If he needs me, I’m there for him. As a director, I like to have the producer there with me. As a producer, I don’t want to be there because I happen to be a director first and foremost, I don’t want to “that guy.”

sidney-korshak-imageIs there anything that’s bubbling up for you right now in television?

Ratner: I do have a lot of exciting stuff coming up in the TV world, but you won’t be hearing about it until next season. Stuff that I’ve been developing that I’m really, really excited about.

Is it stuff for the networks or stuff for HBO, FX, etc?

Ratner: Networks. I’m also developing something for HBO, a miniseries on Sidney Korshak that Robert Evans is producing and Brad Gray, believe it or not. It’s the Sidney Korshak story, who was kind of the link between the movie business and the mafia. That’s a miniseries I’ve been developing over at HBO. I have a deal at FOX Television, so I’ve been developing a lot of TV stuff.

I’m curious about the Woody Allen documentary. Can you tell us about it?

Ratner: Bob Weide is the director. I produce the film, executive produce it actually, because in TV it’s better to be the executive producer, right? It’s going to go on my friggin’ gravestone; it’s like the best thing I’ve ever been involved with. Bob Weide came to me and said, “I want to do a movie about Woody Allen. I’ve been writing him letters for twenty years. And he’s going to say ‘no.’ The only movie he let get made about him is Barbara Kopple’s film (Wild Man Blues), which is about his jazz music. He’s never let anybody make a film about his personal life or his movies or anything. He finally said, ‘yes.’ I asked if you could produce it and he said, ‘yes.’” So that was the end of it. I just went out and raised some money. We made the film and it’s premiering on PBS on November 20th and 21st. I’m just so proud. I’m proud of all the documentaries I’ve done. I did the documentary on John Cazale. And I did a documentary on Helmut Newton.

woody-allen-naomi-watts-imageSo the Woody Allen one actually has interviews with him and people talking about Woody?

Ratner: 100%. Not only interviews. We filmed him on set, we filmed him in the edit room, we filmed his entire process. We showed where he types his scripts, where he handwrites his scripts, where he gets his ideas from. All of it. It is incredible.

I didn’t realize it was so comprehensive.

Ratner: It’s a two-part, four hour documentary about Woody Allen’s life. It’s the definitive life of Woody Allen and it’s for American Masters and there will be a theatrical two-and-a-half-hour version for international.

What kind of decisions did you have to make going from the four-hour version on PBS to the theatrical cut?

Ratner: It’s not easy, but it’s a theatrical version. You can’t show a four-hour movie in a theater, really. So we cut it down to two-and-a-half hours for the theatrical version, which is as good. I personally can watch an eight-hour documentary on Woody Allen because I’m fascinated by him. But, an audience can’t really sit through more than two and a half hours on any movie. It doesn’t matter if Marlon Brando came back from the dead. It’s just impossible.

Do you go through his entire resume or do you pick and choose along the way?

Ratner: It’s probably the definitive film. I don’t think it covers every single film, but it’s his life for sure and it’s totally approved by him. It’s a great film. You should somehow get together with the director because he made it. I just helped make it. I’m the behind-the-scenes producer who kind of just helps push things along and gets things done. It’s Bob’s movie and he made, really, one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen on a portrait of a filmmaker. I’m very, very proud to have my name on it and my company, because my company produced it.

beverly-hills-cop-imageThere’s always been a lot of talk about another Beverly Hills Cop and Rush Hour

Ratner: I don’t think there will ever be another Rush Hour unless it’s Grumpy Old Rush Hour or get the children of Jackie and Chris to make a Rush Hour. I think there will probably be another Beverly Hills Cop but I think more so now than before because Eddie and I now have a rapport and I think it’s a film that…he was very precious about Axel Foley, less than a movie like Tower Heist, which is an original. But everywhere in the world he goes, someone’s like, “Yo, Axel!” So I think it’s easier because now I know him so well that I can really get him to come around on some of the ideas that have been pitched out.

How close are you as far as a script for Beverly Hills Cop 4?

Ratner: We’re not close, but I’m hoping in the next few years there will be one. Eddie and I are even setting up some more of his ideas. I’m hoping that we have a long, fruitful relationship. We’re both still very young, believe it or not. Eddie’s only 50 years old, so I think we have a little bit of time to come up with a great Beverly Hills Cop.

Is there a chance that you guys could ever pair for an R-rated movie?

Ratner: It would be Beverly Hills Cop. Or it would have to be a movie that was a big piece of business, like a Beverly Hills Cop, or an original idea that was like an independent kind of film.