Brett Ratner: Oscar Offer Felt Like 'The Twilight Zone' (Q&A)

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The "Rush Hour" director and Don Mischer tell THR why they've agreed to produce the 84th Academy Awards and infuse it with comedy.

Brett Ratner, director of such movies as the Rush Hour series and X-Men: The Last Stand, has been tapped to produce the 84th Academy Awards, set for Feb. 26, along with veteran TV producer/director Don Mischer, who was also one of the producers of the last show. In a joint interview, the new producing team talked with The Hollywood Reporter about why they decided to take on the job and why they think Hollywood should lend its support.

The Hollywood Reporter: Brett, were you as surprised as everyone else seemed to be on Thursday, when [Academy president] Tom Sherak and [CEO] Dawn Hudson first asked you about producing the Oscars?

Brett Ratner: When I first sat down with Tom and Dawn, I almost felt like I was in The Twilight Zone. I didn’t know what to think. I was just trying to keep my cool. But then when I went to see Don, when I sat down with him, I felt so confident about it. The guy is just a pro. So I feel good going into it.

THR: How’d you keep the discussions so secret?

Ratner: We met a few weeks ago, and then I left town, went to Europe on a vacation. It was almost impossible not to talk about it. I was trying to get advice about it without explaining why I was asking. I was sitting around watching old Oscar telecasts, but I couldn’t tell anyone why.

THR: Why do you think Tom and Dawn offered you the job?

Ratner: I think my love of comedy had a lot to do with it. To their credit, Tom and Dawn really understand what is needed, and comedy is a big part of it, and I want to make that part of it. I think that is going to be tremendous.

THR: You also do have an interest in Hollywood history. How much do you expect that to be reflected in the show?

Ratner: I think it’s time that the industry embraced the Academy Awards, came out and supported it. I hope to create something that’s so exciting that I’m not going to have to twist people’s arms. Without having to beg them, they’ll want to be involved.

THR: Brett, you already have a lot of things on your plate. Do either of you have any concern that there’s enough room on your schedule?

Don Mischer: We met and talked about it, and it’s absolutely doable. We have a lot of support and systems in place, having done it last year. So I’m not worried about Brett’s schedule at all.

Ratner: I’m finishing a movie [Tower Heist, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy] in a few weeks, then I’ll do press and there will be a premiere I can’t miss. Then I’m working on two movies [DreamWorks’ 39 Clues and MGM’s Hercules: The Thracian Wars] that are in early, early pre-production. I foresee the day when I wrap [the Oscar show], and then I’m immediately shuttled off to a location to start pre-production on one of them.

THR: Don, having produced the show last year, what did you learn that you’ll do differently this year?

Mischer: We haven’t gotten to that part yet. Anything I ever do, the Olympics opening ceremony, the Super Bowl, you’re always looking at things you’d like to change. We’ll be looking at the past shows, going back to the early days, scouring them for ideas. The first thing we have to do is hire a creative team and then decide what our options and directions are.

THR: You must have started talking about potential hosts.

Mischer: No, we’ve just agreed to do this. We haven’t discussed hosts yet. It’s wide open.

THR: Brett, you already have an odd connection to the Oscars. You live in Hilhaven Lodge, which once belonged to Allan Carr, who was really criticized for the show he produced in the late ‘80s. What do you make of that?

Ratner: I’d like to think he’s up there, having so much fun, talking about how Brett Ratner’s going to produce the Oscars. Look, Allan was a showman in his way, and it was a very different time. And by the way, he did some good things, too. He had some good ideas. It was on that show that they changed the line 'and the winner is' to 'and the Oscar goes to.'

THR: So Brett, will you have one of your photo booths backstage Oscar night?

Ratner: Hey, that’s a great idea. Maybe there’s a book there.