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Exile in Oscarville: Ratner's Slur Shakes Up Oscar Lineup

A bad strain of foot-in-mouth syndrome that apparently favors film directors has struck again. In the spring, we watched Lars von Trier’s ill-conceived Hitler joke get him summarily ejected from the Cannes Film Festival, and now fellow helmer Brett Ratner finds himself similarly afflicted after letting fly with a homophobic slur at a promotional event last weekend for his latest movie, “Tower Heist.” Thus ensued a chain of events that cost Ratner his directing gig at next year’s Oscars, cost the Oscars next year’s host, “Tower Heist” star Eddie Murphy, and found the film’s producer, Brian Grazer, subbing in for Ratner. Got that?

Here’s the play-by-play: During a Q&A after Sunday night’s screening, Ratner gave his take on the practice of rehearsing scenes before filming by stating that “rehearsal’s for fags.” He clearly wasn’t praising gay men for their preparation skills, and his comment went viral — normally a welcome bit of incidental publicity in The Industry, but not this time. Here it is.

TMZ:

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Next came the attempted apology, delivered Monday by way of an exclusive for Sharon Waxman’s “WaxWord” column on The Wrap.

“WaxWord”:

In an exclusive statement to TheWrap, Ratner said:

“I apologize for any offense my remarks caused. It was a dumb way of expressing myself. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body. But as a storyteller I should have been much more thoughtful about the power of language and my choice of words.”

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Right. But that wasn’t enough to quell the fears of Oscar organizers. First, as The Onion’s A/V Club noted with its trademark ironic snark that day, the Academy has to keep all its constituents happy, including LGBT members: “Fortunately, there aren’t very many of those in the film industry, so it’s alllll gooooood.

What’s more, Ratner added fuel to his impending Oscar flameout with some ribald material about his sex life that he decided to try out on Howard Stern’s radio show Monday. Here’s a clip of that blue interview:

HOWARDTV via YouTube:

…. And scene. That clinched it for Ratner’s Oscar exit. On Tuesday morning he took the hint, by that point blaring in stereo, and called Academy head Tom Sherak to officially bow out of the show.

This was all just too much for Howard Stern, who used part of Wednesday’s broadcast to rail against the hypocrisy he saw in the Academy and the industry at large.

The Hollywood Reporter:

“The Oscars are the same place where Charlie Sheen-types can go and get applauded,” Stern said. “God knows who’s coming across that stage and what they’re up to,” added co-host Robin Quivers.

“This is the same industry, by the way, that wants Roman Polanski to be forgiven for raping a 13-year old, that it’s time he be let back in the United States. I would hang him by his balls,” Stern said..

[…] If Ratner hadn’t stepped down as producer of the Oscars, Stern said, he’d be “in charge of an awards show for lunatics. There’s a lot of loony people in Hollywood who do a lot of loony things.”

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Next, in a public display of loyalty to Ratner, and maybe also to a future “Tower Heist 2,” Eddie Murphy decided to follow the embattled director’s lead and announced his own departure Wednesday while deftly playing to both sides (actors!). Stern had predicted Murphy’s move that morning.

Detroit Free Press:

“First and foremost I want to say that I completely understand and support each party’s decision with regard to a change of producers for this year’s Academy Awards ceremony,” Murphy said in statement released by the Academy today. “I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I’m sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job.”

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Finally, we have the last act, which also happened Wednesday: “Tower Heist” producer and veteran industry player Brian Grazer stepped in to take the vacant director’s spot for the Academy Awards. The New York Times has those details here.

Predictably, attempts were made to force a moral to this story, and the chatterfest continued from inside industry circles and in the blogosphere. Here’s our takeaway: Resist the tedious, if familiar, urge to blend a certain brand of oafishness with homophobia and everyone wins.

— Kasia Anderson

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