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Brett Ratner Resigns as Oscar Producer After Gay Slur

Tim Grierson
The Projector

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When Brett Ratner looks back on what killed his once-in-a-lifetime chance to produce the 2012 Academy Awards, it'll boil down to one sentence -- just a handful of words -- that he really, really shouldn't have said. During a Q&A for "Tower Heist" Friday night in Los Angeles, he dismissed the notion of rehearsing with his actors, claiming at one point "Rehearsal's for f*gs." And with that simple, stupid, homophobic comment, Ratner had to have known that it was merely a matter of time until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would decide to extricate themselves from Ratner and his comments. At first it seemed like the embattled director would get off with just a stern warning from the Academy -- even after Ratner made things worse with a raunchy appearance on "The Howard Stern Show," where he talked explicitly about dalliances with Olivia Munn and Lindsay Lohan. But apparently the organization has decided to take it one step further: He's "voluntarily" stepping down (as first reported by THR.com), which sounds an awful lot like being canned.

From Ratner's just-released statement:

Over the last few days, I've gotten a well-deserved earful from many of the people I admire most in this industry expressing their outrage and disappointment over the hurtful and stupid things I said in a number of recent media appearances. To them, and to everyone I've hurt and offended, I'd like to apologize publicly and unreservedly.

As difficult as the last few days have been for me, they cannot compare to the experience of any young man or woman who has been the target of offensive slurs or derogatory comments. And they pale in comparison to what any gay, lesbian, or transgender individual must deal with as they confront the many inequalities that continue to plague our world.

...

As a first step, I called Tom Sherak this morning and resigned as a producer of the 84th Academy Awards telecast. Being asked to help put on the Oscar show was the proudest moment of my career. But as painful as this may be for me, it would be worse if my association with the show were to be a distraction from the Academy and the high ideals it represents.

In the days since Ratner's comment, there had been a mounting cry for him to be fired, the rationale summed up perfectly by Salon's Andrew O'Hehir:

Of course, it's not a crime to say or believe offensive things, and I'm happy to defend Ratner's right to be as much of a flaming [jerk] as he wants to be and continue making his moronic but highly successful movies. ... [But] Ratner is also the guy the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences picked to reboot the Oscar telecast this year, after last winter's James Franco debacle. That's a prestige position, one that thrusts him into the public eye as a spokesman for the American movie industry. If Ratner was ever the right guy for that gig (which I doubt), he's now blown his chance and does not deserve another.

Clearly the Academy agreed with O'Hehir. "He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself," Academy president Tom Sherak said in a statement. "Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent." In other words, Please forget all about this awful homophobic business, and let's just enjoy the Oscars, OK?

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But Ratner's firing opens the door to a lot more questions. What's going to become of Eddie Murphy, Ratner's hand-selected choice to host the broadcast? Who's going to take over for Ratner, or will co-producer Don Mischer be handling the job all by himself? (On a side note, this makes the recent passing of longtime Oscar producer Gil Cates all the more saddening. If ever the show needed his steady hand, it would be right now.)

But beyond February's Academy Awards, there's also a much bigger question: What happens to Ratner? He's hardly the first Hollywood personality to say something offensive in public, but for a guy who long prided himself on being some sort of torchbearer for old-school Hollywood, the fallout could be pretty severe. Though never critically acclaimed, his "Rush Hour" films and "X-Men: The Last Stand" all were major tentpole hits. The Oscar gig was meant to cement his status in the upper echelon of Hollywood royalty, even if he didn't have the awards and critical track record to back it up. Now that job has been stripped from him -- along with possibly much more.

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"I am incredibly lucky to have a career in this business that I love with all of my heart and to be able to work alongside so many of my heroes," Ratner said at the end of his statement. "I deeply regret my actions and I am determined to learn from this experience." He'd better hope so: His career possibly hangs in the balance.

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Brett Ratner Out as Oscar Show Producer [The Hollywood Reporter]

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