Brett Ratner Interview – RUSH HOUR 3

     August 7, 2007

If you’re a fan of “Entourage” you’ll enjoy the beginning of this roundtable interview with Brett Ratner for “Rush Hour 3.” The reason is, the first thing the room asked about was if Johnny Drama was on the bus like Brett promised last season. And while some won’t get the joke, I think it’s great that a fake show about Hollywood has crossed over and is now treated as if it’s real.

And while I could give some big intro on Brett, we all know who he is. As the director of the “Rush Hour” franchise, he’s the only one who’s able to get Chris Tucker to work. He’s also the one who did the last “X-Men” movie and, in the near future, he’ll be bringing the Hugh Hefner story to the big screen.

So if you’re a fan of Brett, or just want to know more about the latest “Rush Hour” movie, you’ll dig this interview.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the interview as an MP3 by clicking here.

Finally, while I was able to also participate in roundtable interviews with Jackie Chan and Hiroyuki Sanada, I just don’t have the time this week to transcribe them. So if you’d like to hear them speak on the film and what other projects they have coming up, just click on their names for the MP3 of the interview.

“Rush Hour 3” opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.

Question: I saw your brilliant and stunning performance on Entourage.

Brett Ratner: You liked that? I have the worst accent.

Q: Yes, but I have a complaint.

BR: Tell me.

Q: Where is Johnny Drama?

BR: He’s in the film. He was on the bus on the Champs-Elysees when we were doing the car chase. You didn’t see that? That bus that went by, Johnny Drama was driving that bus.

Q: Did you notice that?

BR: He asked me to be in it and I said you can be an extra in it. You can’t be in it now. I mean, c’mon.

Q: You are a good actor?

BR: Thank you.

Q: I’m glad you toned down your normal party animal style for the cameo in Entourage.

BR: Oh really? Thank you.

Q: The real thing would have been too much.

BR: There would have been too many girls.

Q: You’ve been trying to get this movie off the ground now for several years. How tough was that?

BR: It took 20 years to build the pyramids I think. It took 13 years to build Mt. Rushmore. It took 13 years to lose my virginity. It took 6 years to get Chris Tucker on the plane to Paris.

Q: And which of those wonders of the world do you think was more challenging than any of the others?

BR: Oh, losing my virginity for sure.

Q: 13 is pretty cruel.

BR: For a young man it’s okay.

Q: Why does Chris not want to work so much?

BR: He wants to work.

Q: Well he hasn’t worked since Rush Hour 2.

BR: He works a lot. He works at being a humanitarian. He works at philanthropy. He works are traveling around the world and expanding his horizons. I have a lot of respect for him. You have to understand his psyche. He’s a comedian and if you watch his old stand-up like when he was on the Arsenio Hall Show, for instance, he was talking about growing up poor, living in Decatur, Georgia on his mama’s couch and getting his car stolen and all those experiences. And he cursed a lot. He wanted to have other life experiences and he did so now his comedy is about traveling around the world with Bill Clinton and going to South Africa with Oprah and hanging out with Michael Jackson at Neverland but he’s still funny. And that’s what I think is great about Chris Tucker. Talent is talent and he’s got talent so he can talk… But he wanted to have a life experience and that’s what he did. Don’t tell anybody. The truth is he was in jail for five years.

Q: What was the challenge in getting him to sign on to this film?

BR: I know that’s the rumor of what it is. It wasn’t. Chris wanted to do it and if he wouldn’t have done it, yeah, $25 million is a lot of money but the truth is he loves doing these movies. You can tell he has fun making these movies. If I wouldn’t have done it, I don’t think he would have done it or maybe he would have. But Jackie wouldn’t have done it if I wouldn’t have done it. Chris wouldn’t have done it if Jackie wouldn’t have done it so it was like all of us together. The first day of Rush Hour 3 was like…the day before was like the last day of Rush Hour 2 even though it was six years. It felt like we were just… six years… I’m like what have I been doing for the past six years? This is so weird. I’m like dealing with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. So it was great. It was great to be back with your friends.

Q: Why Paris?

BR: Well you have to understand Rush Hour is not just a buddy cop movies. It’s a fish out of water comedy and you have to be in an environment where these guys don’t speak the language in order for the fish out of water to work. A comedy has to come in these movies from the situations and not from the jokes. The fact that they both don’t speak the language is what makes the movie funny.

Q: What did it take to get Chris to say gefilte fish?

BR: Believe me he got the hang of it. [Laughs]

Q: Because a whole section of Rush Hour 2’s outtakes he didn’t get it.

BR: He’s seen Rush Hour 2 too many times so he learned.

Q: The underlying theme of brotherhood, where did that come from and why was it important to have that? Because if you took all that out, it’s still a movie that would have all the other things that happened, but getting into that characterization…?

BR: Two reasons. One is I try to figure out how are these guys going to evolve. It’s not just a buddy cop film. It’s really a love story between these two men so what is the arc of these characters? In the first movie, they became partners. In the second movie, they became friends. Right? By this movie, we wanted them to become brothers. The reason for that really was because when we asked people over the years what’s your favorite Rush Hour, some people, 50/50, 50% of the people said Rush Hour 1, 50% said Rush Hour 2, but in my heart I knew that Rush Hour 1 had maybe a little more depth to it because there was more heart and more stakes. We tried to put it in with the father thing in Rush Hour 2 but it’s really the emotionality between these characters that really makes it work – the heart that’s in it. And Rush Hour 1 had more heart so I wanted to go back to that. I raised the stakes by having a little girl come back, her father gets shot, and then the relationship between Jackie and his brother to emphasize the relationship between Chris and him and that’s what I wanted to go for. It’s a movie about character, not just about the spectacle of blowing shit up.

Q: Where would you go in Rush Hour 4 if you follow that train of thought, if you go from partners to friends to…?

BR: …Brothers to lovers. [Laughs]

Q: So a Brokeback Rush Hour?

BR: There’s nowhere else to go.

Q: Out of all the crazy stunt work that Jackie does himself in all these films, what has impressed you the most?

BR: It’s little things. The most amazing thing, physically amazing thing I’ve ever seen him do is in Rush Hour 2 when he jumped through that little hole in the cage at the casino. What was amazing about it was that one, his body’s only this wide and the hole is this wide [demonstrates with his hands]. And I said, “Jackie, do you want me to make the hole wider?” “No, no, I’ll get it through it.” I’m going, “Are you sure?” So he slowly just starts to creep through it like really slow and literally it’s like it’s a quarter of an inch off his body, like this [demonstrates]. He ran at it full speed. You can imagine somebody can dive, right? Propel yourself forward and dive. He jumped feet first and went forward. I couldn’t even…I mean I tried that like I’d go to jump in my bed but I’d just go boom! The gravity of my body just makes me drop. So the first time he did it he got through, boom!, and I could see him pushing through with his legs. Then boom!, the cage hits him right here on his nose. I was like, “Oh, my God!” And he literally just was able to jump feet first, meaning have his legs kick forward and the top of his body followed. So physically the guy — there’s nobody like him in the world.

Q: Would he say anything you tell him to?

BR: He will say and do anything I tell him. You ask him.

One devil’s advocate question: you cast Max von Sydow. From the minute I see him, I’m thinking he’s the bad guy. Is that offset by the fact that you’re getting Max von Sydow or do you think the audience might not be thinking that?

BR: I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t know. If you think he’s bad, then he’s [bad]. It’s not about his reveal. It’s almost like a twist. It’s not the fact that he’s bad is the big event of the film in my opinion. So if you think he’s bad, well he is. [Laughs]

Q: I mean he started as a good guy where he almost got blown up and then I’m thinking he’s probably behind that just because he played that so well. Did you ever think about that and was that a factor when you were casting him? Did you think the audience might anticipate that?

BR: I created the part with him in mind. I literally created the part with him in mind. I just said, “I want to work with Max von Sydow.”

Q: What were some of the things you’d seen him in that made you say, “I want this guy”?

BR: Three Days of the Condor, The Exorcist, maybe ten [Ingmar] Bergman films. I don’t know. I love him. He’s very picky too. The last movie he’s done was Minority Report. I think you’re a little bit smarter than the average moviegoer. Keep coming back. [Laughs]

Q: If Jackie did the most awesome stunt in Rush Hour 2, how hard was it to think of things for him to do in Rush Hour 3?

BR: Everything was hard. Everything was hard in this movie because every scene we felt like we’d been there so how do we top it? How do we revisit it?

Q: Change the location.

BR: Yeah, change the location, new villains, new characters, new pretty girls.

Q: How much of it, if any, was shot on the Eiffel Tour?

BR: If any? What movie did you see? We were on the Eiffel Tour.

Q: What were the challenges of shooting there? Some close-up shots were done in the studio but was 100% of everything else in the third act shot there?

BR: No, not all of it, but it was definitely real and we were there. Some of it was real and some of it was green screen. It depends on how dangerous the shot was. If we’d gotten all the permissions, we probably could’ve have done all of it there but the problem was we could only have the Eiffel Tour from midnight to 6am. Then we could only bring up the equipment at midnight so we have six hours of shooting and then about two hours of equipment to lift up there. Then we have an hour lunch which is really two hours in France because you open wine at the table. So we have two hours every night to shoot there and I’m spending most of my time turning on and off the lights of the Eiffel Tour at night and freaking out a lot of the French people.

Q: How do you think you’ve evolved as a filmmaker from the first movie to this one?

BR: I don’t know. You tell me. It’s hard to judge myself.

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Q: Are your attitudes towards filmmaking different? Are your perceptions of filmmaking different?

BR: It’s scarier, I can tell you that. With my first movie, I had no idea what to expect or what it was going to be like. When you’re fearless, you take more risks because you’re less conscious of failure or what can go wrong. I think I’ve gotten much better. Every film I’ve done has improved, technically, quality wise, performance wise. I learn from every movie I do because on every movie, I have a different experience.

Q: You’ve tackled several different genres. What other genres would you like to tackle?

BR: Musicals, gangster movies. I’ll try everything. Directors from 50 years ago would go from a comedy to a musical to a western to a drama. My job is to be a storyteller.

Q: Are there any musicals on the market right now that you’re looking at?

BR: No. Do you have one for me?

Q: What are you thinking about for your next project, or down the road?

BR: I’m gonna do a Hefner biopic.

Q: Is it true that there was a musical script?

BR: There was. The first draft was a musical, but I’m not making it a musical.

Q: Do you see any parallels between Hefner’s life and contemporary America?

BR: Hefner inspired contemporary America. Hefner was a big part of the sexual revolution in America, and changed our thinking and the way people thought about sex and nudity. He was a big inspiration.

Q: What period will you cover?

BR: To his 50’s, probably.

Q: Is there a lot we don’t know about Hefner?

BR: I think so.

Q: Can you give us a preview?

BR: I don’t think people are familiar with who he was and what he created in this country and what he stood for and the taboos that he broke. He had Lenny Bruce on television, for the first time. He put black people on national television, performing, before anybody did, on Playboy After Dark. James Brown could not get TV performances, and he was putting him on TV. And, he showed black people and white people dance together. The Playboy philosophy is very complex, but basically says that people should be able to enjoy their lives and have as much fun as they want, as long as they don’t hurt other people. His philosophy about life and his First Amendment fights were helpful to women, men, minorities, and all kinds of people.

Q: Are you going for an R rating?

BR: I think so. There will be some orgies from the 70’s in there. In that period, that’s when orgies became popular.

Q: Do you have any casting in mind?

BR: Not yet, no.

Q: You’ve been around Hollywood for a long time and you’ve seen a lot of stuff. With young Hollywood getting out of control these days, what advice do you have for someone like Lindsay Lohan, who is just spinning out of control?

BR: She is? [Laughs] I don’t know if I have advice for her, but for all young actors, I think it’s important to work hard. It’s easy to get caught up. I know that because I was 26 when I did my first movie, and I was invited to every party. I think it’s about keeping your head on your shoulders and knowing that, if you want to really be successful for many, many years, like DeNiro, like Pacino, like Hoffman, even though they became movie stars, they had years of experience working on their craft of acting. Even back in the day, I asked guys like Bob Evans, you never saw those guys out. Brando wasn’t hanging out at parties. He was studying. So, hard work is the most important thing. I have that fear of missing out, too, when I was first in Hollywood, but then I realized that hard work is the only thing that’s going to get me to where I want to go.

Q: So, you haven’t seen or talked to Lindsay at all lately?

BR: No. Cocaine is the only thing we have in common, really. And, when we’re together, she does it all. No, I don’t do drugs or drink. But, I don’t know how to answer that.

Q: How much fun was it for you to poke fun at the image of you, as the party guy, like you did on ‘Entourage’?

BR: I had fun doing ‘Entourage.’ It’s hyper-real. There’s not really 20 girls in bikinis by my pool, all day long. It’s more like 50 girls in bikinis. [Laughs] It’s fun. Come to one of the parties and you can check it out.

Q: You have these Team Ratner shirts. Who’s on Team Ratner?

BR: All my friends, my mom, my grandparents, my assistants. Anybody who I pay, or is in my family.

Q: Black comedies don’t tend to do as well as the buddy comedies that have a black actor in them. Why do you think that is?

BR: It depends on what type of [film it is]. There’s black films that cross the boundaries, or expand the audience. It depends on what it is, really. You’re saying that black movies don’t perform as well. I don’t like white people in films. White people in my films are token whites. [Laughs]

Q: Was it important for you to poke fun at everybody in the film?

BR: No. I think any kind of racial statements are really between Jackie and Chris. Of course, we were making fun of the French, but that’s a nationality, not a race. If you called me fat, I would be insulted. But, if my friends called me fat, I wouldn’t care ‘cause they’re my friends. They can say that. So, you can get away with a lot more because you know Jackie and Chris have a lot of affection for each other. Jackie can do a black thing and Chris can do a Chinese thing, and it works. If you’re my friend, you can say anything you want to me, and if you’re not, be careful ‘cause if I get mad, I might bite you.

Q: How important have the ‘Rush Hour’ films been for broader culture, since you’ve really incorporated everyone in them?

BR: The rule is, if you speak perfect English, you will not get a part in this movie. I went to a public high school and most of the comedy was coming from the black kids and the Asian kids and the Hispanic kids. And, the coolest kids to me where always the black kids. They were always fashion forward and they always dressed the coolest. They were always the best dancers, and just the coolest people. So, that’s where my affection for black people came from.

Q: Where did you grow up?

BR: I grew up in Miami Beach.

Q: Where did the idea to become a filmmaker come from?

BR: I got a Super 8 film camera when I was 8 years old and started making movies. And then, I was on the set of ‘Miami Vice’ and I was on the set of ‘Scarface,’ when I realized, “You know what? This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life” because I got the opportunity to see Al Pacino work. I saw DePalma directing Pacino, and then I saw the movie, and I put it together. When you’re a kid and you watch a movie, you have no idea how it’s done. And then, all of a sudden, when you see it, you’re like, “I wanna be a director.”

Q: What are your plans for the DVD?

BR: It’s going to be a double DVD. It’s the first time on ‘Rush Hour’ that I’ve had a double DVD. There will be incredible behind-the-scenes [footage], outtakes, deleted scenes. There is incredible, incredible stuff.

Q: How did you decide which outtakes to put at the end, and which to save?

BR: My movies are short and paced well because I know that DVD exists and I know I can always put that stuff on the DVD. Most people are going to see this movie on DVD for the next hundred or two hundred years, or whatever format exists. I don’t mind putting all of that on the DVD.

Q: Does the Hefner movie have a title yet?

BR: No. Probably ‘Playboy.’ That would be a good title.

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