When you're a director or star with a big movie coming out, you have to be extremely careful what you say and do. And if you're a director or star with a big movie coming out who's also responsible for the Oscars, well, maybe you shouldn't talk at all. So you can imagine that a lot of people over at Universal and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are having just a stellar day after dealing with the backlash from a comment "Tower Heist" director Brett Ratner made after a Friday night screening of his under-performing Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy comedy. Yup, he let fly with a gay slur, and now he's apologizing about it. So now we know what we'll all be spending this whole week discussing.
The incident occurred at L.A.'s Arclight on November 4. We weren't there, but video was taken of the post-screening Q&A (which has now been taken down) in which Ratner was asked about his rehearsal process. Ratner, who idolizes the filmmakers of Hollywood's '70s renaissance, then spoke with an eloquence that would rival his heroes:
"Rehearsal? What's that? Rehearsal's for f*gs. Rehearsal. Not much. A lot of prep, preparation, complex action sequences, visual effects. Storyboards, animatics. The process was I made the actors stick to the script. And they wanted to, because the script was great."
Oh, wait, that wasn't eloquent at all. It was actually really offensive and juvenile and stupid. We're assuming he was doing it as a joke, but, yeah, not funny at all, man.
Today, no doubt realizing how much of a firestorm he created, Ratner sent out an apology, which contained one of our favorite mea culpa cliches:
"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."
Did you catch it? It was the "Hey, I'm a nice guy -- ask my friends!" bit. This pops up a lot when celebrities apologize for their offensive comments, but it's harder to buy it when, just two months ago, Ratner had to pull "Tower Heist" spots that featured Murphy making epilepsy jokes. This man keeps stepping on landmines.
While we recognize that people make mistakes and say stupid things, this goes beyond bad publicity for "Tower Heist." Ratner is producing the Oscars, the annual platform for Hollywood to present its best self to the world. Do they really want to be associated with a guy who makes gay jokes? They may not, and already some have called for him to be fired from the gig. (After all, it's not the first time he's been accused of homophobia.) It's funny to think that when "Tower Heist" opened under expectations, some worried how Ratner and Oscar host Eddie Murphy's poor commercial showing might affect Oscar ratings. Turns out that wasn't the worst P.R. fiasco of the weekend.