How Director Brett Ratner Evolved From Party Boy to $450 Million Warner Bros. Mogul

Brett Ratner
Brett Ratner

Two years after his Oscar debacle, the onetime wunderkind turned power player opens up, carefully, about his mistakes ("I've said dumb things") and his massive ambition: "I'm always at my best when it's big."

Those words hint at a more reflective Ratner than many might expect, and his close friends maintain he's not always the irrepressible cheerleader he at times appears to be.

"Brett is human just like the rest of us," says producer Michael De Luca, who gave Ratner his feature break when he was running production at New Line Cinema. "He expresses anxiety when he is anxious, insecurity when he is insecure. But he is always trying to self-improve. He is very, very human. He is a very sensitive human being, and he really reacts to all the slings and arrows that are thrown at him."

Adds Ratner: "I'm not ashamed of having any self-doubt whatsoever. I have self-doubt like any person. I have vulnerabilities."

He is hypersensitive to the way he is perceived in Hollywood, and it irks him to be considered a gadfly when his movies have earned more than $2 billion at the global box office. It equally bothers him that people talk about the great parties he throws rather than his great films. He talks about journalists who have slammed him: "People either love me or hate me, there's no in-between."

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His critics may overlook the skill involved in making films like Rush Hour and its sequels, or underestimate his talent to inspire collaborators from cinematographer Dante Spinotti ("He works with Michael Mann and me") to Tucker, the actor he discovered for a music video then bailed out financially -- and who returned the favor by recommending Ratner for his first full-length film.

Ratner may no longer be the wunderkind who had a hit (Money Talks) straight out of the gate at age 26, then became the go-to guy for big-budget studio fare in his 30s. But nor is he quite the easy target so many in the media would like him to be. And he's doing his best to stay out of the crosshairs.

He no longer wants to be a cynosure for the tabloids -- though whether he is quite ready to step out of the limelight and give up his penchant for trouble is unclear. He says he is, both professionally and personally.

He even says he is finally contemplating settling down, no matter how difficult, given his peripatetic lifestyle. "I've grown up, I've grown up," he repeats over and over.

"I'm ready for a family," he adds. "I never got married; I never had kids. I feel like I'm at that age. I'm 44 now, and I'm starting to feel like, 'Wow. I'm ready.' I'm now becoming a man."

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