Like other men accused of sexual misconduct, Brett Ratner appears to be plotting a comeback — in this case, just six months after allegations against him first surfaced. His hoped-for vehicle: the Rush Hour franchise.
Sources say that Ratner has been telling associates that he will direct the fourth film in the series — a boast that has put Warner Bros. and its New Line division in an awkward position.
Studio sources emphatically say Ratner will not helm a fourth Rush Hour film if there is one. “Brett has been walking around town telling people he’s going to direct a Rush Hour movie because it’s his only way back in,” says one source. “He’s trying to make believe he’s employable.” Putting together a movie with him would be “a suicide mission,” this person says.
But it seems that, given their long and very close professional and social relationships with the director, neither Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara nor film studio chairman Toby Emmerich is prepared to relay that to Ratner. Warners declined to comment or to rule out Ratner as a possible director for the project. Ratner’s attorney Marty Singer also declined to comment.
Rush Hour producer Arthur Sarkissian says he has long been pressing to make a fourth film in the $850 million-grossing franchise and believes that with the right script, stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker will be on board. Ratner, 49, has directed all three Rush Hour movies, starting with the original in 1998. The most recent film, 2007’s Rush Hour 3, grossed $258 million worldwide.
Impatient to launch a fourth pic, Sarkissian says he asked the studio to put the project in turnaround and had an agreement in place in 2014 that was never signed. At that point, Emmerich suggested that a television series was a better idea than another film. Warners put together a show — without Chan or Tucker — that ran for one season on CBS.
Subsequently, the studio decided that another movie was worth making. But then the Harvey Weinstein allegations surfaced and the #MeToo movement engulfed Ratner, who was accused of sexual misconduct by several women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge. (Ratner has denied the claims and is suing a woman for defamation after she wrote on Facebook that he raped her.)
“The scandal broke and they put a pin in it,” Sarkissian says, referring to Warner Bros. executives and Rush Hour 4. “I went back [to them] and said, ‘I want to do my movie.’ They said, ‘Fair enough.’”
Sarkissian says Warners has put the film in turnaround — freeing him to commission a script with outside financing. Should he succeed in assembling the elements, the studio has a chance to opt back into the project. Sarkissian confirms that Black-ish creator Kenya Barris was approached to write a script. But Barris is said to have wanted no part in the project if Ratner was involved, and he passed regardless due to a busy schedule.
Sarkissian says Ratner is “not attached” to the project at this point, and he doesn’t know why Ratner would tell people that he is directing Rush Hour 4. Asked whether there is any chance Ratner might direct the fourth film, Sarkissian has nothing definitive to say. “All I’m interested in is to make the best movie possible,” he says.
Sources confirm that Ratner has been checking in with Warners every month or two to ask about the progress of the project. They maintain that he will not be directing another Rush Hour should the project come to fruition, but a source says “no one is willing to tell Brett he’s not the director of the picture.”
Another high-level source says billionaire Len Blavatnik, Ratner’s former partner in his Ratpac Entertainment production-finance company, had told the embattled filmmaker that he would continue to pay him but asked Ratner to keep a low profile. (Blavatnik’s Access Industries did not respond to a request for comment.) That doesn’t seem to be in Ratner’s DNA. In January, Page Six ran a story headlined, “Scandal-plagued Brett Ratner living it up in Miami.” The gossip column reported that Ratner was desporting himself at Blavatnik’s trendy Miami hotel, Faena. A source says Blavatnik wasn’t pleased by the attention that Ratner was drawing to himself. Ratner also was spotted with several women in Cannes during the film festival last month wearing a Warner Bros. hat.
Singer, referring to the Miami hotel in the Page Six story, said Ratner “wasn’t partying with Avi Lerner and Donny Deutsch — he is going to dinner with friends. He has a right to have a life and go to private dinners. Brett has no reason to hide.”