Brett Ratner’s reckoning

Sarah Posted by Sarah at November 2, 2017 12:52:01 November 2, 2017 12:52:01

A month ago, it was announced that Brett Ratner would direct a biopic of Hugh Hefner, with Jared Leto to star as Hef. I said that was a bad idea, partly because of Leto but mostly because of Ratner: “Honestly, Jared Leto playing Hef is an afterthought, mostly just good for jokes about his Method ways. Ratner is the real point of concern.” One month ago, Ratner’s reputation was not sterling. Sure, his financing company, RatPac-Dune, is hugely influential, and that, in turn, confers a great deal of power and status on Ratner, who is, it seems, in business with everyone. But as a filmmaker he’s a dud, and there were the rumors that followed him, of crude and boorish behavior, of Olivia Munn’s blind-item essay, and also that he’s epically lazy on set and whatever acuity his films do possess is down to his frequent DP, Dante Spinotti. So it wasn’t terribly surprising when he became the next domino to fall in the wake of the Weinstein scandal.

But Ratner, unlike Harvey Weinstein whose power had been declining for a decade, is still VERY connected to some of the most powerful companies and people in the industry. He’s not low-hanging fruit like James Toback or Andy Dick. Ratner is in the hall of power. When the allegations against him came out, there was a legit moment of wondering what would happen to someone still so central in the industry. Well now we have an answer. Within hours of the story going public, Playboy pulled back their Hef project. In a statement, a Playboy spokesperson said, “We are deeply troubled to learn about the accusations against Brett Ratner. We find this kind of behavior completely unacceptable. […] We are putting all further development of our projects with RatPac Entertainment on hold until we are able to review the situation further.”

That’s a little rich, coming from Playboy which did so much to influence and contribute to a culture where powerful men treat women as objects, but whatever. They’re not axing the Hef biopic, but they are taking it away from Brett Ratner. And later yesterday afternoon, Jared Leto, via a representative, clarified that he wasn’t actually signed on to the project. Is that because, in the original announcement, Ratner called Leto “an old friend”? Trying to put some distance on it, eh, Jared? (Although, Ratner is exactly the type to call someone he met once at a party his “old friend”, so it’s entirely possible they’re not half as friendly as Ratner would like you to think.) The point is, people can’t flee the SS Ratner fast enough.

Including Warner Brothers, with whom RatPac finances many films, including Justice League—man, this movie cannot catch a break—and the upcoming The Goldfinch adaptation. First, Warners said they were “reviewing the situation”, and then yesterday evening, Ratner announced he is “choosing personally to step away from all Warner Brothers-related activities.” He’s “choosing” to remove himself, as opposed to Harvey Weinstein, who is arbitrating his own firing as wrongful termination. This is the noble and brave sacrifice that Ratner is making, everyone applaud him.

It’s worth noting, though, that Ratner has not yet left RatPac-Dune. And though Ratner’s name, specifically, will be removed from upcoming Warners films, the studio remains in a financing deal with RatPac through the next spring. Weinstein was booted from The Weinstein Company almost immediately. Ratner’s reckoning, on the other hand, could be one in name only. RatPac is the Kevin Bacon of film financing—everyone’s connected in some way. And I don’t know that the RatPac-Dune brass will even bother getting huffy about Ratner’s exposure, considering one of the partners is Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary for Donald Trump.

People have been wondering how far this scandal will really reach, whether or not anyone still at the height of their power and with real juice will be taken down. Brett Ratner is the canary in the coal mine. If he loses more than just a few filmmaking credits, if he is actually booted out of his seat of power, it’s open season. But if he somehow manages to stay in place at RatPac, then we’ll know. All this will just be the removal of a few bad apples, while the rotten tree remains.

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Photos:
Allen Berezovsky/ Getty Images

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