Interview : Brett Ratner

Not many people can say they’ve handled Jackie Chan, Hannibal Lector and the Man of Steel but Director Brett Ratner can confidently say he’s handled all three. Sitting comfortably in his suite at Melbourne’s Park Hyatt Hotel, CLINT MORRIS catches up with Director Brett Ratner and gets the lowdown on his latest film "Red Dragon", as well as everything you’ve wanted to know about "Superman" and "Rush Hour 3".

Q. First off, I’ve heard a rumour the last few days that Edward Norton might be playing Lex Luthor in “Superman”?

A: That would be great. He’s a little young though. He’s definitely not Superman – but I like the Luthor idea. I suppose people are saying this because we worked on Red Dragon together, but no, it’s good.

Q. Any other thoughts on casting yet for “Superman”?

A : No. It’s too early. I just got the job like two weeks ago. I’m not talking to any actors. I’m going to do a search for Superman – maybe an unknown – and surround him with a great Lex Luthor and a great Jimmy Olsen. I might just find Superman on the New York Stage or something.

Q. And what about Christopher Reeve, will he get a cameo?

A. I’ve had a lot of people ask me. That would be nice. I don’t know what he could do – he’s kind of capacitated.

Q. Do you think you’ll still be casting an unknown for the role?

A: It’s possible. That’s what I’d like to do. People want to see a character, not a movie star.

Q. So how far along is “Superman” anyway?

A. The scripts almost there. I’m just casting, crewing up, getting it together.

Q. What’s your take on the script that was floating around the net?

A. Oh god. Yeah, that wasn’t even a draft. It was ridiculous. Some old script – someone with too much time on his or her hands. I mean I agree with some stuff, I mean some of it spilt over into my script, but Lex Luthor is NOT going to be an Alien and we ARE blowing up Krypton. It keeps the law that people know but it goes a step further. I can do the fuck I want. I mean I have DC Comics and all the creators of the cartoon behind me. Some people aren’t going to like it, that’s inevitable. Thing is, I know it’ll be a boring movie If I just remake Dick Donner’s film, because it’s already done. I mean I haven’t changed it much at all – I just added some new shit, so how can anyone be mad at me. And we’re talking about the trilogy – it’s full on. Conference calls with the studio and Jon Peters and…

Q. So Jon Peters is still attached (trying not to laugh)?

A. Yes.

Q. So are you basically remaking the first one or are you starting afresh?

A. It’s a re-inventor but it’s based on the story, “The Death of Superman”. It’s going to have the old mythology, but it’s not going to be camp, it’s going to be a bit more psychological. More traumatic and it’s going to be darker.

Q. Are there any other Superhero features you’d be interested in?

A. I would have loved to have done “The Hulk” – that will be a cool movie. I like Batman. Batman Vs Superman was going to be done.

Q. Someone told me that it’s not going to happen now at all?

A. No I don’t think so. Wolfgang (Peterson) really wanted to do it. I mean who really wants to see an Old Batman and an Old Superman. “Batman : Year One” would be good though.

Q: So how did the “Red Dragon” job come up?

A: They offered it to me I don’t know why (laughs). I loved these dark movies and I loved the script. The studio actually hired me, and I was like ‘why do they want me to do this?’

Q. Was the major decision of you doing it…? Anthony Hopkins?

A. Yeah. Yeah. Also, there’s been two Hopkins as Hannibal movies – Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. Besides the fact they’re both got Hopkins, the movies are far different from one another. What I really wanted to do is make a movie far more like ‘Silence of the Lambs’. More Psychological, much more of a Hitchcock approach. And having seen “Hannibal”, which was more just a horror piece, it helped me know what to do and what not to do.

Q. Did you look at “Manhunter” much?

A: No. I saw it when I was a kid. I thought it was a cool movie, but It just wasn’t true to the book. It was more Will Graham’s story. It didn’t even have that Hitchcock ending where he faked his own death and the whole thing where he goes and eats the painting, and some other stuff from the book. I don’t think Michael Mann really respected Thomas Harris’s book. He made a movie that only applies to the 80’s. I mean he (Graham) lived in a modern house instead of his Grandmothers house, which is this old ladies home. Will Graham lives in Marathon, Florida, I went to Marathon, Florida, and I captured the feeling. I mean Michael’s a great director; it’s just a different movie.

Q. Did you speak to many people associated with “Manhunter”?

A. The DP who shot my movie, also shot Manhunter, and I showed him the script and asked him if he thought it was like Manhunter and he said No, the Cathedral was painted thirteen times, what’s the difference, it’s your own interpretation. So No, Michael Mann just sent me a note saying congratulations on the movie and I talked to Jonathan Demme and said ‘I’m nervous, what do I do, I have voices in my head’ and he said ‘I can’t wait to see your version of this movie Brett. Don’t even worry about it’.

Q. I’ve had a few people ask me – and I don’t know the answer – why Scott Glenn wasn’t asked back to play Crawford?

A. We’ll when Jonathan Demme said make your own version, I couldn’t see anyone but Anthony Hopkins and I couldn’t see anyone but Anthony Heald as Dr Chilton. I can’t see another acting doing it. But what happened was I went down to the FBI, and discovered they’re like tough New York Cops. They weren’t like Scott Glenn.

Q. Did you ever look at anyone else for the other characters?

A. Yeah I met with Nic Cage, I met with Sean Penn.

Q. I read your friend, Jeremy Piven, wanted the role of the Tooth Fairy?

A. You heard that? How did you hear that?

Q. Aaah. A Couple of years back I was tipped off to it.

A. He got the tattoo done, a temporary one (of the ‘red dragon’ on his back) and we did a tape of him. It was casual. He’s a friend.

Q. So he obviously didn’t get it – why Ralph Fiennes?

A: Good actors can play a killer, but to play the other part, someone who’s uncomfortable in their own skin, not many can do that. I mean Sean’s a good actor, and so is Nic Cage, and I knew they could be the killer, but there’s a whole other side. I needed someone that could pull off the character’s vulnerability, and also be believable in the film’s tragic love story of sorts. So I sent the script to Ralph Fiennes – even after everyone said he wont do your prequel or sequel or whatever it is – and he flew in from London, and we sat and had lunch – actually at the same table I met Sean Penn a few days earlier – and I found him to be a bit uncomfortable, a bit strange. He was very vulnerable, very sensitive. I knew he could do it. When he got killed in the movie I was like choking I didn’t want him to die.

Q. Can you tell me a bit about Edward Norton?

A. He’s got very set ideas about what he wants. He was like that for the whole movie. He’s very intellectual – I can’t hold a conversation with him. He reads so much into everything, and I was just like ‘say the fucking lines’. It was a great learning experience. I mean with people like Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, they like it when I’m like go there, do that, say that, I tried doing that with Anthony Hopkins and Ralph Fiennes and they’re like ‘what the hell are you doing?’ (Laughs). Tony’s actually a control freak, but when I give them the notes I do prepare them and I do like to know what they’ve done. I mean Edward is a great actor; he really is…I suppose he just has a different process. I suppose most actors just want direction. And Harvey is the worst – he’s like the actors studio’s worst fear – he’s like ‘what are these three words doing here?’ ‘What day is it?’ (Laughs)

Q. Do you get on the net much to read about what people are saying about the film?

A. Hmm. Nah, I’m kind of like the anti-Christ of film geeks. I guess because the movie’s successful they like to have a go. It doesn’t bother me; it’s just that I don’t really have a look. So what is the word anyway?

Q. No, the words good. They like it. I myself read all the advance reviews and it was all good. Now what about the DVD, what can we expect on it?

A : We’ll you want see bloopers that’s for sure. The actors had it written into their contracts that I do no bloopers, because they knew I’d use them. Maybe I’ll put them on the net in like 10 years from now. My friend’s been shooting me for like a year, through this whole process, so there’s going to be like an hour documentary. Just a bunch of shit and an audio commentary. I love that. That was another film school for me watching the criterion collections of all their movies.

Q. So “Red Dragon” is successful, do you see yourself doing another Hannibal flick?

A: The prequel to the prequel? (Laughs). No, I think I’ve done the swan song.

Q. But isn’t Anthony Hopkins writing a fourth chapter?

A. He wrote a treatment or something, but it’s not really going anywhere.

Q. What was your first movie, and how was that?

A. “Money Talks”. I love that movie. Charlie Sheen was high the whole time. I love it. I think it’s funnier than “Rush Hour” is.

Q. Is that how Chris Tucker got the job in “Rush Hour”?

A. Yeah Of course. I come from hip hop, so hip hop and Kung Fu is like one, so the idea of putting Chris in a movie with Jackie (Chan) worked.

Q. You have “Rush Hour 3” coming up. When’s that?

A. After “Superman” I think. I’m working on a script now. This time we’re going to put them somewhere where they’re both out of water. The first one it was Jackie in L.A, the second one it was Chris in Hong Kong. Possibly Australia.

Q. So even though you’re doing “Rush Hour 3” is there anything inside you that says ‘hey, I really don’t want to do this?’

A. I mean everyone is saying ‘you don’t want to do Rush Hour 3’. But I created Rush Hour, I love it, I’m not a snob. I mean I’m following the same career path as Richard Donner – Superman, The Omen, and Lethal Weapon.

Q. What’s your favourite film of yours?

A. I like this one, maybe “Family Man”.

Q. Is there anything you haven’t been able to do that you wanted to do?

A. I wanted to do James Bond, the latest one, “Die Another Day”, the actors wanted me, the producers wanted me, but the studio didn’t want to hire me, because I wasn’t foreign.

Q. So you’d like to make something here in Australia?

A. Yeah. I love it. I mean the women here, and unbelievable. But yeah, it worked out for the “Matrix” so it’d be fun.

Q. It’s interesting that in “Red Dragon”, Dollarhyde doesn’t actually kill anyone at the start of the film, it’s simply a build up.

A. Yes. I liked it in “Silence of the Lambs” where Jodie Foster was warned that Hannibal was a ‘Cannibal’ and that he could really fuck with your mind. And even if she had approached his cell and saw a midget, she still would have been scared, because she knows what he’s capable of. It’s all about building it up. Ted Tally’s brilliant.

Q. Are you happy with the progression of your career?

A. Yes. Even my student films were the same. My Fifth is better than my first. I just think I learn every movie. I never dreamed I’d be doing this movie. I was 21 years old and I went to theatre to watch ‘Silence of the Lambs’ with my girlfriend no way did I think I’d be here directing the prequel. So yeah, it’s dream come true. I’m happy because I’ve gotten out of the box. I’m no longer ‘the comedy guy’. I get sent so many scripts for “Rush Hour” like movies, but I’ve done those already.

RED DRAGON is now showing

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Caffeinated Clint

Written by Caffeinated Clint

Saying it like it is since 1998, "Caffeinated" Clint co-created Moviehole with Beth Chick, seeing it go on to become one of the first news and review portals. He has since gone on to write columns for print, appear on radio and TV, and experience severe caffeine crashes on a daily basis.

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