Director Brett Ratner tells us about his latest venture!
Brett Ratner needs no introduction. He's as notorious for being a big flirt as he is for being the leader of the funcore film genre. It seems that everyone on the Internet has an opinion about him. Most of the fuss is extremely negative. Is it because people are jealous of his success? Is it because they hate his movies and think he's a horrible director? It's a little of both, but you can't deny the man his triumphant run at the box office. Ratner was recently inducted into the Billion Dollar Directors Club, meaning that the combined grosses of his films have generated over a billion dollars in revenues.
For the most part, Brett makes breezy, fun adventure films that are pretty enjoyable and suitable for the entire family. He has basically given the audience what they want, and some people hate that. Yes, some people actually hate having fun at the movie theater. His latest venture is a second sequel to Rush Hour, which once again pits fast moving Jackie Chan against high-pitched motor mouth Chris Tucker. The film succeeds in one-upping its predecessors, pilling on non-stop action and non-stop laughs.
Brett recently got on the phone with me to discuss his success and what it takes to keep a healthy franchise running. This is our discussion (funny thing is, I think he was actually stuck in rush hour traffic while he talked to me.)
Brett Ratner: Hey, buddy. What's up?
Not much. I guess I'll just jump right into this. What is your take on this vehement hatred that critics, especially on the Internet, have for, not just you, but any director that seems to be having a good time. Another example is Shawn Levy. His movie is fun, it makes money, and yet, people talk smack about him all day long.
Brett Ratner: Ahhh...I don't read that stuff, so I don't really know. I think you hit the nail on the head. I don't read negative stuff. I stay positive. I love what I do, and I have fun doing it. If people hate me, I can't really do anything about it. It's out of my control.
What happened with Rush Hour 3 being banned in China?
Brett Ratner: What happened with China? There is a quota for the amount of films that they let into the country. That whole rumor about Chinese villains in the movie is false. The villains are Japanese. If you've seen the movie, you know that Hiroyuki Sanada is the villain. So is Youki Kudoh. The other villain is Swedish, Max von Sydow. And the other guy that I think they are saying is Chinese is Vietnamese. He just happens to be French. There are no Chinese villains in the movie. There's this story that it was banned. But it wasn't banned. What about the other four hundred and fifty films that aren't allowed into China because they only allow in twenty films out of the five hundred films made in Hollywood. I think they are just looking for a story.
Is it true that Chris Tucker will no longer use foul language in his films? Is that how the whole word-play interrogation scene came about?
Brett Ratner: No, that's not true. No, I didn't write that scene. Jeff Nathanson wrote it. Chris Tucker has used foul language in all of the Rush Hour films. I'm not sure what you consider foul language. I didn't hear a rumor that he wasn't cursing any more. I know that he was Re-Born at some point. Maybe he did an interview and said he wasn't going to curse. But when we shot this film, he cursed. "God damn" is a major curse. I mean, he said "God Damn", he said "shit", he said "asshole". It's a PG-13 movie. You can't have curse words in a PG-13 movie.
Why do you think all three of you keep coming back to this franchise?
Brett Ratner: We have fun. We love making it. Its fun making the movie, so we continue to enjoy working with each other. Jackie Chan, myself, and Chris.
How do you approach something for the third time, knowing that you have to top the previous two?
Brett Ratner: The same elements have to exist for a Rush Hour film to work, really. That is, it's a fish out of water comedy. It's not just a buddy cop movie. We have to have that fish out of water element. We had to come up with a location so that both Jackie and Chris can be fish out of water, and find a place where there is an opportunity for comedy. And, of course, we have to have new villains. We try to get the best actors we can. We have Max von Sydow and Roman Polanski in the movie. We're not paying them a lot of money. They love these movies and they want to be in them. Just like we got Tom Wilkinson for the first one, and Don Cheadle for the second one.
What is the writing process on this film like? Do you have any input into the script, and does Chris Tucker write his own jokes?
Brett Ratner: Everything is written. The improvisation is just added to what is on top of the page. There is the script, and then Chris adds to that. Everything you see in the movie is in the script. Chris just comes up with some stuff. It's about the machine. It's all about the machine. It's an action movie that is shot like a thriller. You can't just make up all of the dialogue. The plot has to be driven. Jeff is a great writer. And Chris takes it to the next level. Like in that whole scene with the nun. That whole scene was written, but then Tucker added the line, "I'm trying to kill somebody here, man!" He will take the scene, figure it out, and make it his own.
How involved are you in the choreography of the stunts?
Brett Ratner: Whoa, that's a ridiculous question. I am the director of the film. How do I get involved? I direct the scene. The scene is written. I tell Jackie what to do. I am the keeper of the plot. Jackie Chan doesn't speak proper English, you know? He is a master of action, and I learn a lot from him in every single scene, but I have to direct him. Jackie Chan will choreograph a twenty-minute fight sequence if I let him go. If he is left to his own devices. I have to take the best of those twenty minutes and compress them into two minutes.
I didn't mean for that to be a ridiculous question. I just know that on a lot of Jackie Chan's films, the stunt and fight choreographers do those scenes as opposed to the director being directly involved in them.
Brett Ratner: That is not the case with Rush Hour. I don't know what movies the director doesn't deal with it. Maybe in Shanghai Noon. I don't know. But in my movies, I am there for every single shot of the movie. I mean, I do have a second unit director who does practical stuff. Like, if there is a car accident in the background. Or maybe the opening sequence. But as far as the choreography, I will show Jackie the beats of the scene. I will tell him exactly how I want them to be on any given day. I'll tell Jackie that he needs to be on this side of the room, so that Chris can grab the Nunchucks. I won't tell Jackie how to throw a punch or how to throw a kick. I will guide him in the direction he needs to be in each scene, and in the moment. I will guide him through the timing and the pace of it. Jackie is a brilliant choreographer, but again, it has to work in the perimeter of the scene that I am doing.
When editing the film, did you have a certain beat structure as to where to put the fight scenes? How do you structure that? Is it a mathematical equation on your part?
Brett Ratner: Not really. It is written. The action scenes are done in a way where Jeff writes the fight. And he maps it out. But, for instance, the end foot chase that has Jackie chasing Hiroyuki Sanada in the alley...That was originally written as a fight sequence. The next scene after that, we were going to end up in the hospital where there was a shootout and a fight sequence. I decided that we didn't need another fight sequence there. So I just had it as a standoff. I'm thinking about the whole picture as I am shooting every scene. It's easy to write, "They fight." But I have to piece it out. It does become somewhat mathematical, but its math that is done off the top of my head.
During the filming of Rush Hour 3, did you ever watch Chan and worry that he might be getting to old for some of these stunts?
Brett Ratner: Do I worry? There's simply nothing I can do about him getting old. As far as doing stunts? No. If Jackie can't do something, he won't do it. But there is nothing that Jackie has ever said that he can't do. There is nothing that he can't do. I don't think. When he can't do it any more, he is just going to stop doing it.
Can you tell me a little bit about Sun Ming Ming? Where did you find this giant?
Brett Ratner: Sun Ming Ming I found because I was inspired by Game of Death. When Bruce Lee fought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I had this idea for the first Rush Hour, to have Chris Tucker fight a Chinese giant. You know, the reverse. And I could not find one. I asked my producer to go find me the tallest Chinese person in the world, and we all thought Yao Ming was going to come in. But instead they found Sun Ming Ming, who I think is seven inches taller than Yao Ming. He was a fan of our Rush Hour movies and he agreed to do it.
When I interviewed you early, you said that you were making the Trump movie with Eddie Murphy. Chris Tucker says that he is not involved with that. Is that true, and can you give me a status up-date on the film?
Brett Ratner: Well, first, it's a Trump movie just because it's shooting at the Trump Towers. Its not starring Donald Trump. Eddie Murphy had an idea to do a heist film with all of the young comedians. So, it would take place where they are all employees of Trump Tower. Russ Gewirtz, who did Inside Man, is writing the script and I'm waiting on his final draft.
Contrary to wait I'd heard earlier, Chris Tucker said that he probably wouldn't be involved in that. Is the film something you guys have discussed?
Brett Ratner: No, that is not something we have discussed. We won't even talk about it until after I show him the script.
Tucker says that you may direct him in an upcoming stand-up concert film. Is that true?
Brett Ratner: Yeah, that's true. But that's just going to take a weekend to do. We would be shooting it like they did Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip, or Eddie Murphy Raw. We'd shoot two shows, and from that you get a feature film of stand-up comedy.
Your films aren't exactly kid friendly, but a parent can be pretty safe in taking their family to see them. Is gearing your films a little more towards a family audience important to you?
Brett Ratner: It's important to do it for Jackie Chan's audience. And ever since I made Money Talks, and it was an R rated film, and kids were sneaking into the movie, I vowed never to make another R rated movie with Chris Tucker. His audiences are made up of kids. Young kids are fans. Yeah, I think that is important.
Tucker says you guys are already planning a part 4. How long do you think you can keep this franchise going?
Brett Ratner: I think if the movies keep being a success, and Jackie wants to make another one, Chris and I would both consider doing it.
Rush Hour 3 opens this Friday. You can catch it at a theater near you.