October 22, 2008
Just a nice Jewish director: Public and private images of Brett Ratner clash in swirl of contradictions
(Page 4 - Previous Page)"Where's my journalist?" Ratner shouts after our house tour. I'm enjoying a moment's reprieve in the bar adjacent to the living room, wondering why someone who doesn't drink has enough alcohol to supply a West Hollywood nightclub -- for six months. Ratner's filmmaker-friend, Jeff Vespa, who recently screened his short film, "Nosebleed," at the Cannes Film Festival, has come to show it tonight for Ratner's feedback. The director insists I sit next to him for the screening, which a group of 10 watches on his state-of-the-art home-theater projection system. Ratner drapes his arm around me and tries to hold my hand. Usually, I can confidently extricate myself from unpleasant situations, but here, admittedly, I failed.
Compelled to entertain while he has a captive audience, Ratner decides he is going to play one of my favorite films, Albert Lamorisse's "The Red Balloon," and I'm tempted to stay. But his advances are increasing, and although flattering, I'm sensing the interview is over -- and if I don't want my shoes winding up in the "ex-girlfriend" section of his mahogany walk-in closet (beneath the high-couture gowns), it's time to go.
His assistant summons him to the bedroom, where she is packing his suitcase for an early morning departure to Paris. Seizing an exit opportunity, I leave the red balloon swirling through the streets of Paris and collect my belongings. Because, while Ratner is many things, he is not someone you can say "no" to easily. I didn't say no to Ratner. I told him, "Thank you" and "goodbye."
Then, I put this story to rest for a while.
Months later, contemplating Ratner is still mystifying for me. After spending time with him, clearly he's earned his reputation as a Hollywood lothario, but it also seems somehow calculated -- as if Ratner (like his friend Paris Hilton) has created an image to project that he believes the public wants -- an image that sells. And he's a hero to Jewish boys everywhere who, relying on talent and smarts, realize they don't have to look like Brad Pitt to be a king in Hollywood. In truth, Ratner is more than his sum reputation, and trying to figure him out means accepting all the contradictory facets of his personality.
Yet, Ratner probably knows himself better than we think.
"I never thought about being rich, having a big house -- all I thought about was making movies. The cars -- all this s---, all this s--- can go. If I can still make movies, I don't give a s---, all this s---, all my books, all my art, I don't care. I just have it because it's the benefit of being successful."
"If you're in it for the wrong reasons," he added. "You won't last."