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Brett Ratner Talks Roman Polanksi's 'Weekend Of A Champion,' 'Rush Hour 4,' His Version Of Superman & More

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist November 22, 2013 at 2:54PM

Brett Ratner, the director of the "Rush Hour" films and, most recently, "Tower Heist," isn't someone who you would imagine as being BFFs with Roman Polanski, the arty filmmaker behind such classics as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby." But this is exactly the case. The two have been great friends for a very long time (Polanski even co-starred in "Rush Hour 2") and their latest collaboration is "Weekend of a Champion," the commercial re-release of a 1971 racing documentary that Polanski produced and co-starred in but was barely released at the time. The doc follows racing legend Jackie Stewart at the height of his racing prowess (and in the midst of his intense friendship with Polanski), and the results are kind of like a documentary version of Ron Howard's recent drama "Rush."
7
Man of Steel

You worked so long and so tirelessly on a Superman movie. What did you think of "Man of Steel?"
I think Zack's a great director. It's different than anything I would have done. Mine was J.J. Abrams' script. It basically took place on another planet, on Krypton. Back then they were trying to decide whether they were going to make J.J. Abrams' script or the Wolfgang Peterson's "Batman vs. Superman." I'm a big fan of the franchise. My version was completely different. I was upset. I went to do "X-Men" and Bryan did "Superman Returns." I was happy that Bryan didn't do the J.J. Abrams script, because then it would have looked like I failed. And he just did a new version of the Dick Donner Superman.

Do you want to return to that superhero world?
Well, I think "Hercules" is close to it because he was the original superhero. There isn't supernatural stuff, but there is some mythological elements. Because in order to demystify it, you've got to show some of the myths. The story is the demystification of the Hercules myth, so it's closer to "Gladiator" or "Braveheart" than the superhero movies.

Is another "Rush Hour" in the cards?
This is the thing. We were all a little burnt out on it, I think and now I'm starting to see a little bit of excitement about it because of the fact that China, there's a huge Chinese thing going on. [The Jackie Chan film] "Chinese Zodiac" was huge in China. It did $100 million. It would be worth it to do another "Rush Hour" for China alone. Even if it was only released there.

"The problem is that I'm one of the few directors who can do tentpoles, so I'm getting hired to do these giant movies still. So I'm going to keep doing it."

You produced the "Mother's Day" remake from a few years ago and are buddies with Eli Roth. You think you'll do another horror movie?
No. You know what I'd love to do is a musical.

Do you have anything picked out?
I wanted to do "Jersey Boys." I couldn't do that. They gave it to Clint Eastwood. The only movies I haven't done are musicals and westerns. I've done pretty much every other genre if you think about it. That's why I've done a sword and sandals movie, which is why I did "Hercules." It's closer to "Ben Hur."

Would you do a smaller movie?
Yeah. I've produced a bunch of documentaries, including the Woody Allen documentary. 

You seem to have a very strong interest in the way movies are made. Would you do a biopic?
You know what! That's right! That's the other thing I'd love to do—a musical or a biopic. Biographies are the only books I can read and really relate to and enjoy.

What draws you to classic films?
Look, Scorsese and Spielberg will reference the same movies, like "Peeping Tom" by Michael Powell, because they're the same age basically. So if you ask Paul Thomas Anderson, even if we're completely different filmmakers, all of his favorite movies are my favorite movies. It just is. So it's because we grew up in that era. The '70s, to us, was the end all. We saw the movies of the '50s and '60s but they didn’t mean as much.

Would you like to do a smaller movie set in that period?
Sure, but the problem is that I'm one of the few directors who can do tentpoles, so I'm getting hired to do these giant movies still. So I'm going to keep doing it. Michael Bay was doing four "Transformers" movies back to back so he chose a small art film to him, to him, with "Pain & Gain." And I loved it. I could do a small movie. The movie I wanted to do desperately was a movie on the Milli Vanilli scandal that Jeff Nathanson, who wrote all the "Rush Hours," wrote for me. And it's brilliant. I wouldn't say that it's not going to happen in the near future but it could happen sometime. I love scandals, true stories. I'm developing [a movie] about the creation of MTV, which is like "Social Network" but with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.

Do you still consult with Roman?
Yeah, he's still my mentor. I show him my movie before I finish it. My last movie, "Tower Heist," I flew over and showed him. I said, "I'll show you my movie, you show me yours." Showed him my movie. Then he gave me the three best notes I've ever gotten. They're indistinguishable but they were a music note, a picture note, and a … But just so brilliant. And I watched his movie, "Carnage," and I said, "Oh I have a few notes for you." And he said, "No. My film's locked Brett." But I wouldn't expect him to take my notes. He's a master. There's Stanley Kubrick and then there's Roman Polanski. He's a genius. Look, he took me to his school in Poland, showed me all his student films, one by one … It's such a blessing. I show my movies to James Toback, who sleeps through half of it because he's so fat. And then I show it to [Warren] Beatty and sometimes Robert Towne and they have pages and pages of notes and take the ones I like and don't take the ones I don't like. I learn a lot.

So even "Hercules" will have a bit of Roman in there?
He'll give me an idea. Hopefully it's good. They're always brilliant. 

"Weekend Of A Champion" opens today in limited release.

This article is related to: Weekend of a Champion, Roman Polanski, Brett Ratner, Interviews, Interviews


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