This hasn't been a good week for Brett Ratner. His first film in four years, "Tower Heist," was both a critical and commercial disappointment after debut on Friday. Ratner complicated matters by responding to a question during a "Tower Heist" Q&A over the weekend by using the phrase "rehearsals are for fags." That set off a firestorm of criticism on Monday which has now lead to Ratner withdrawing from co-producing the 84th Academy Awards.
In a statement released by the Academy, AMPAS president Tom Sherak noted, "He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself. 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."
GLAAD also released a statement noting that Ratner and the organization would "convene public discussions featuring leaders in the entertainment industry about promoting fair and accurate inclusions of LGBT people and stories. The discussions will address anti-LGBT jokes and slurs in films and on television today as well as their trickle-down effect into popular culture." These discussions are expected to begin before the end of the year and spread out over three years.
Herndon Graddick, senior director of programs and communications at GLAAD, was quoted saying, "When we sat down with Brett today, he seemed very sincere in his desire to use this experience as a way to begin speaking out against anti-gay language in popular culture. We believe his resignation is just the first step and will be announcing a series of concrete actions with Brett in coming days and weeks."
GLAAD acting president Mike Thompson added, "Hollywood has the power and responsibility to grow acceptance of all communities. We look forward to working with Brett and the industry in promoting positive, culture-changing images of our community and sending a message that such slurs, used to belittle gay and lesbian youth and adults every day, have no place in mainstream popular culture or the industry that creates it."
At first, Ratner apologized for the remark saying, "I apologize for any offense my remarks caused. It was a dumb way of expressing myself. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body. But as a storyteller I should have been much more thoughtful about the power of language and my choice of words."
The Academy also initially backed Ratner up as Sherak told Deadline, "His remarks were inappropriate. He said it best in his apology, that his comments were dumb and insensitive. When you think of our community, it went against all the beliefs of the creative community we represent. He knew it was wrong and he issued that response as quickly as any human being ever has. The bottom line is, this won’t and can’t happen again. It will not happen again. He apologized and we will move forward. How do I know this? I’ve known this man for a very long time. He has many friends who are members of the gay and lesbian community. The apology he gave I truly believe comes from his heart. If it didn’t believe it, I would do something about it. This is about integrity and honoring the Academy Awards, but we all make mistakes and I believe he didn’t mean it.”
Before the controversy, Ratner had actually pulled off something of a coup by recruiting his "Heist" star Eddie Murphy to host the awards. It's unclear whether Ratner's withdrawl will effect Murphy's commitment to the broadcast.
Of course, Ratner is no stranger to controversy having left a long trail of vulgar and embarrassing incidents in his wake. Why the Academy thought he would be a proper producer in the first place was questionable. Tom Sherak's shifting positions on this issue will also not endear him to many in the industry, but there will be more time to discuss that in the days ahead. In the meantime, Don Misher is the current producer of next year's Oscar show and whether he'll find anyone assisting him remains to be seen.
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