Brett Ratner is a Man of Many Words
By Lizzie Simon
It's not a typical career trajectory: musicvideo director to film director/producer to book publisher. So why would the director of the Rush Hour franchise—with enough projects both in production and in the pipeline for 10 executive producers—go literary? Truth is, Brett Ratner has never wasted much time trying to be typical.
With his new publishing company, Rat Press, Ratner has the opportunity to share his obsession with Hollywood and offer “everything that film is not,” he says. “It’s the biographies written by directors. It’s the interviews with actors and producers. It’s the novels and scripts and photographs and artworks that come from the most prolific individuals in film, but you never have the opportunity to see in a theater.”
The first three books, released in March, are each slated for a limited print run of 3,000 copies. They reflect Ratner’s passion for reading intimate interviews. Conversations with Robert Evans by Lawrence Grobel is an insider’s take on American cinema. For lovers of the Evans documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture, the book offers more detail, more insight, and more story.
The second book, Conversations with Marlon Brando, also by Grobel, is set on Brando’s private Tahitian island, Tetiaroa, and provides a rare, intimate look at an American legend taking stock of his life and career in self-imposed exile. The third and final book is Jim: The Author’s Self-Centered Memoir on the Great Jim Brown, an “experimental memoir” by director James Toback, who uses the life of actor and football great Jim Brown to explore his own life and the racial and sexual myths that have haunted and fascinated his consciousness.
Two of the three books (Marlon Brando and Jim Brown) were previously published but are either out of print or difficult to find. Conversations with Robert Evans was published for the first time.
“This stuff gets lost; to republish it is to make it part of the culture,” says Ratner. A collector of books on film and photography, Ratner remembers being an NYU film student drawn to books on the lives of filmmakers rather than how-to technical textbooks, and he wants to connect today’s film students to pieces of Hollywood history. “I retain relationships with the elder statesmen of Hollywood because history can only repeat itself,” he says. “The stories are incredible, and I’ve heard them, but what about all of the people in the world who don’t have access?”
For now, Rat Press is a hobby, and Ratner isn’t quitting his day job. He’s currently developing a Hugh Hefner biopic and two Eddie Murphy vehicles: the next film in the Beverly Hills Cop series and a comedy called Trump Heist. He doesn’t intend to make a mint reprinting interviews. He simply wants them to reach the hands of people like him—true fans of film culture who can never dig deep enough inside the minds and lives of great filmmakers. Visit ratpress.com.
Photograph by Mark Seelen (Brett Ratner)