Brett Ratner wasn’t entirely happy with me when I spoke to him on the phone Monday morning. Brett and I had spent a little time chatting in Las Vegas last summer while on the set of Zack Penn’s improv poker movie, The Grand (coming theatrically from Anchor Bay!), and I found him to be an amiable, easy to chill with guy. While hanging out I told him that I liked his X-Men film, which is the honest to God truth – hell, check out my review of the film right here – but not an opinion shared by all the writers here on CHUD. I think that Brett came across something written by one of the other folks slamming X-men: The Last Stand, and as so often happens, didn’t take note of the byline. Of course this was before Jeremy’s latest For No Good Reason – take careful note of that byline, Brett. Anyway, Brett thought I was kissing his ass in person and smack talking him in print, which wasn’t the case. In fact, I’ve tried to avoid being the guy writing ANY Ratner-related stories for the last year.
And I do that because I simply do like Brett Ratner. This isn’t a popular opinion in this segment of the internet, but I think anyone who actually talked to the guy would end up feeling the same way. Hell, at the end of this interview we spent five minutes just bullshitting about upcoming movies, especially superhero ones. Brett’s out there doing what he wants to do, making money and having fun – if this is the worst thing a director does these days, we’re lucky.
I’m talking to you only because I’m a fan of your site. I feel like you guys can sometimes get a little malicious. Sometimes the sarcasm… I know that’s what your readers are looking for. Everything’s good. You’re good?
I’m good. How do you keep it fresh three times in?
It’s probably the hardest movie I’ve done. I shot X-Men in 114 and I shot this film in 112 days. We had 500 visual FX shots in the movie. Because of the parameters of shooting in Paris we had to come back and build part of the Eiffel Tower in LA. I think it’s very hard to not feel like we’ve been there and done that. There are certain elements that you need to make a Rush Hour movie work, which is fish out of water comedy, which why I think shooting in France made the movie work. The comedy can come from the situation rather than the joke. Neither of them speak the language.
Not only is tough because you’re coming into the third movie, but the first movie you had this Jackie Chan action that not many Americans were familiar with. Now everybody has kung fu action – how do you keep topping yourself there?
The action even in the first Rush Hour could never compare to what Jackie did in his Hong Kong movies. We can’t risk Jackie Chan’s life. He would take much more risks in his Hong Kong movies. But it’s never been about the action anyway – the action came from character just like the comedy came from character. It’s not like a Van Damme movie where everybody he bumps into is a martial artists. There are different kinds of action [in this movie] and I’m very aware, because I’ve seen every Jackie Chan movie ever, that Rush Hour can never even come close in the action category. But you’re right, [the first one] was fresh in American cinema because it was a hybrid of American and Hong Kong movies. You can say I’ve Americanized the Hong Kong genre. But when you’re driven by character, it allows you to not compete with a movie like Transformers or a movie with big explosions. That’s why the car chase [in Rush Hour 3] didn’t end with them going into the Seine River, it ended with a character moment with them falling out of the cab onto the ground.
[Lethal Weapon-type buddy action films were] the inspiration for the first movie, because I grew up watching Beverly Hills Cop, 48 Hours, Midnight Run, going back to Freebie and the Bean. Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder movies, you know. My inspiration is that there hadn’t been a buddy movie that had been done in a long time since Pryor and Wilder, or maybe Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy, that delivered to me. It was because of my exposure to hip hop and Def Comedy Jam where I was exposed to Chris Tucker, and I thought the combination of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan would make a great buddy film pair. Rush Hour was not written for a black guy and a Chinese guy – I hired Jeff Nathanson to rewrite it.
You mentioned you did 112 days on this – do you like to shoot fast usually or do you like to take your time?
It’s not that I like to go fast or slow, I just like to get it. I do everything I can to get the performance. I have never reshot one scene in this movie or any movie except for Money Talks, where I reshot one scene in the helicopter.
Did you test Rush Hour 3?
Totally. We tested it and it tested through the roof, same as Rush Hour 1 and 2, which tested 98% in the top two boxes. One with a mixed audience, which I guess is 50 or 60 percent black and then with a white audience and it tested the exact same.
How important is testing to you?
It’s the most important. I don’t go by what they write, I go by the vibe that’s in the theater. If they don’t laugh at something, I take it out. If there’s a moment where I want them to be scared, like where they’re climbing on the Eiffel Tower, and [the audience] isn’t feeling it… I go by what the audience wants. Because of my success I don’t have to do test screenings; when you become a final cut director you can just give them the movie and that’s it, but I want to test the movies. Especially with a comedy – I’m making movies for audiences. I’m not making movies for me and my friends.
You’re doing the Hugh Hefner movie next?
I don’t know if it’s next. I’m developing that. I’m waiting on the script. I’m also developing an idea Eddie Murphy brought me – and this is not cast – but his dream team would be Chris Tucker, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Foxx and him in one movie. They all work in the Trump Tower; one’s a doorman, one’s a janitor, one’s a security guard. The only person we’ve signed on so far is Chris Rock, only because he’s friends with Eddie and they came together. We haven’t given the script to anybody; it’s from the guy who wrote The Inside Man. Anyway, one’s a doorman, one’s a security man, one’s an elevator guy, and they rob the apartments in the building.
And I guess if anybody can get Chris Tucker to do a movie these days, it’s you.
Yeah. I predict that we’ll get all those guys.
That would be an amazing cast.
But anybody could be in it – Will Smith could be in it, Martin Lawrence could be in it, anybody.
I’ve read a version of the Hefner script where it was a musical. Are you thinking of going down that road, or are you doing a straight biopic?
It’s a straight biopic. That script was completely scrapped. We’re starting from scratch.
It seems like a perfect marriage, you and Hugh Hefner?
Yeah. I think you’re one of Hollywood’s great… I don’t want to say libertines, but you have a good time.
I have fun. Hef’s philosophy, if you’ve read The Playboy Philosophy, it’s really fascinating, it’s really complicated, but to sum it up, it’s about saying people should enjoy their lives and have fun as long as you’re not hurting other people. That’s what his philosophy is. And by the way, I know of course the critics will say, ‘Brett’s just doing this to hang out at the Playboy Mansion.’ You can ask Hef: I don’t hang out at the Playboy Mansion, I’ve never hung out at the Playboy Mansion. The people can respond by saying, ‘Oh you have your own Playboy Mansion,’ but the truth is that I’m fascinated by who he is and what he’s done culturally. People know Playboy, but they really don’t know Hef. The younger generation doesn’t know his value, and what he was able to do for his country and for civil rights, freedom of speech by putting Lenny Bruce on TV, by putting James Brown on Playboy After Dark, by getting black people and white people dancing together on Playboy Penthouse when no one was doing that on television.
Are you trying to push the Trump thing through before the strike?
Whichever one comes in. I’m developing a few projects, but whichever one comes in. I think the Trump one will probably be my next movie, yeah.