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Prolific music video director-turned-millennial blockbuster king, Brett Ratner kicked off his Hollywood career with a bang, establishing himself as a director of commercially successful popcorn movies beginning in the late 1990s. Though frequently derided by critics for his big-budget, high-octane approach to filmmaking, Ratner's success at the box office could not be disputed. As the director of the hugely profitable "Rush Hour" series, Ratner reigned over an international money-making machine which netted New Line Studios a whopping $850 million at the box office, elevating him into the strata of Hollywood's A-list filmmakers. Well known in Hollywood for his active social schedule and hard-partying ways, Ratner's private life was often every bit as colorful as his movies, with rumored romances with a bevy of high-profile starlets including Rebecca Gayheart and Lindsay Lohan as well as tennis champ Serena Williams keeping him tabloid-friendly. But this was also the same man who so respected the vanishing old Hollywood guard, he was known to pursue the legends of the business like an enamored schoolgirl, endearing himself to many in the process for his almost childlike enthusiasm for everything...
Prolific music video director-turned-millennial blockbuster king, Brett Ratner kicked off his Hollywood career with a bang, establishing himself as a director of commercially successful popcorn movies beginning in the late 1990s. Though frequently derided by critics for his big-budget, high-octane approach to filmmaking, Ratner's success at the box office could not be disputed. As the director of the hugely profitable "Rush Hour" series, Ratner reigned over an international money-making machine which netted New Line Studios a whopping $850 million at the box office, elevating him into the strata of Hollywood's A-list filmmakers. Well known in Hollywood for his active social schedule and hard-partying ways, Ratner's private life was often every bit as colorful as his movies, with rumored romances with a bevy of high-profile starlets including Rebecca Gayheart and Lindsay Lohan as well as tennis champ Serena Williams keeping him tabloid-friendly. But this was also the same man who so respected the vanishing old Hollywood guard, he was known to pursue the legends of the business like an enamored schoolgirl, endearing himself to many in the process for his almost childlike enthusiasm for everything Hollywood.
Born in Miami, FL on March 28, 1969, Ratner was the son of Marcia Presman, a popular Jewish socialite. As a precocious youngster growing up in breezy Miami, Ratner quickly established himself as a spirited, aggressive go-getter. Enamored with filmmaking from early on, Ratner spent much of his childhood gearing himself for a future as a movie director by enthusiastically filming his friends with a camcorder. Though less enthusiastic about his studies, Ratner nevertheless graduated high school at the age of 16 and enrolled at NYU - a school he chose primarily because it was Martin Scorsese's alma mater. Required to pitch his burgeoning directing skills as worthy of admittance to NYU's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, Ratner was initially rejected due to his lackluster academic record. Eventually Ratner convinced the dean to let him in, based solely on the strength of his reel. During his senior year at NYU, Ratner applied for dozens of scholarships to help fund his senior project, a documentary about child actor Mason Reese, star of the Underwood lunch meat commercials from the 1960s. In the end, Ratner was granted only one scholarship - from Steven Spielberg's production company, Amblin Entertainment. Over the next decade, Ratner made more than 100 music videos, working with the industry's hottest stars including Wu Tang Clan, Jay-Z, D'Angelo, Puff Daddy, Mariah Carey and Madonna.
Ratner's entry into features came in 1997 when he was brought in to replace the original director of "Money Talks," a tepid comedy starring Chris Tucker and Charlie Sheen. Despite a drubbing by the critics, the film proved a moderate success. Ratner's next project, the fish-out-of water buddy comedy "Rush Hour" (1998), reunited the director with funnyman Tucker and made a superstar of Jackie Chan in the States. Made for a mere $35 million, "Rush Hour" wound up taking in almost $250 million worldwide, making it New Line Cinema's highest grossing film up to that date. Suddenly finding himself a hot director, Ratner wasted no time signing on for a sequel. Before filming the inevitable "Rush Hour 2" (2001), however, Ratner teamed up with Oscar winner Nicholas Cage to make 2000's "The Family Man," an underrated romantic odyssey about a greedy investment broker whose life is changed by a near-death experience. The film earned generally favorable reviews and went on to become a surprise sleeper hit, grossing over $75 million domestically. It also showed that Ratner could deliver the soft and sentimental feature and not just the machismo-driven shoot 'em-ups.
But that figure was a pittance compared to the take of his next project, the long-awaited "Rush Hour 2." Taking its familiar formula to the next logical step, "Rush Hour 2" reunited Tucker and Chan for an action-packed comic ride set in Hong Kong. Despite a vastly more bloated budget, the $90 million "Rush Hour 2" was another hit, surpassing even the first "Rush Hour" in ticket sales. Not surprisingly, plans were promptly made for a third "Rush Hour" installment. Ratner, however, decided to take a brief break from the franchise to focus on other projects. Having firmly established himself as a capable action and comedy director, Ratner opted to make "Red Dragon" (2002) for his follow-up. Based on the novel by Thomas Harris, "Red Dragon" was the second film adaptation of the book - the first being Michael Mann's stylish 1986 version "Manhunter" - and featured the first appearance of Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). To make Hopkins look age-appropriate for the sequel, Ratner digitally "de-aged" the actor in post-production using a CGI process called Erasure - a process he would later employ again in 2006 for "X-Men 3: The Last Stand."
At the end of 2002, Warner Bros. tapped the white-hot Ratner to resuscitate their long-dormant "Superman" franchise. But when the project languished in development hell, Ratner jumped ship to instead helm the amiable caper film "After the Sunset" (2004), starring Pierce Brosnan as a retired jewel thief who is lured back for one last tantalizing score. In 2005, Ratner finally had his crack at a superhero franchise when original director Matthew Vaughan bowed out of "X-Men 3," the third installment of the popular "X-Men" films. Ironically, Ratner was first asked to tackle "X3" in 2004 after the film series' original director, Bryan Singer, moved on to shoot "Superman Returns" - a project Ratner had vacated. While the directors, in effect, simply switched projects, it was Ratner who was at a distinct disadvantage from the start, having joined a movie already well into its pre-production stage. To make matters worse, the Internet was abuzz with "X-Men" fans who vehemently derided the studio's choice of director.
To his credit, Ratner ignored the naysayers and proceeded to bring his trademark hyperactive, almost childlike energy to the film, which was far different from Singer's more intellectual vibe. Ratner's "X-Men 3: The Last Stand" blended the usual cast of characters with several new ones, many of whom find their loyalties tested when a cure for their mutations is found. The film's plot posited a complex ethical question: whether to give up one's uniqueness in exchange for acceptance. While most critics lauded the visual effects and jaw-dropping action sequences, reviews for "X3" were generally only lukewarm, but box office was lucrative. In 2007, Ratner finally saw a belated return to the franchise that made his career with "Rush Hour 3." Unfortunately, the unexpected six-year hiatus between movies would have a deleterious effect on the bottom line. Budgeted at a massive $120 million, "Rush Hour 3" still managed to make its money back, but profits shrunk dramatically, signaling the probably end of a franchise.
After serving as one of the producers on the hit gambling thriller, "21" (2008), which followed a group of M.I.T. students who turn the house in their favor, Ratner joined the likes of Allen Hughes, Natalie Portman and Shekhar Kapur to direct a segment in the drama anthology, "New York, I Love You" (2009). He next produced the profitable sci-fi thriller "Skyline" (2010) and the surprise hit "Horrible Bosses" (2011) before returning behind the cameras to direct the highly anticipated action comedy "Tower Heist" (2011), which featured Eddie Murphy in a possible comeback role. The movie also starred Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick and Michael Peña as a ragtag crew of disgruntled high-rise condo employees who plot a heist to avenge losing their pensions to a Bernie Madoff-like businessman (Alan Alda). Despite positive reviews and lots of buzz, "Tower Heist" opened to disappointing box office numbers. Meanwhile, Ratner was surprisingly named as one of the producers of the 84th Academy Awards, a decision that was greeted with some skepticism by critics. Still, Ratner made a bold choice in choosing Murphy as host, which was generally greeted with praise. But while doing publicity for his film, Ratner made derogatory remarks against homosexuals. In short order, Ratner stepped down from his producing role and issued a rather frank mea culpa expressing his remorse. The very next day, as many speculated, Murphy relinquished his hosting duties, leaving the Academy scrambling to find last minute replacements for both.
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