Set visits crystalize Ratner’s role

Director watched De Palma, Pacino shooting 'Scarface'

Do top creatives in the film biz have a Rosebud in their past, something in their childhoods that, like Charles Foster Kane, drives them forward on the path to fame and fortune?

“I don’t really have a Rosebud,” Brett Ratner says. “I got a gift of a Super 8 camera when I was 8, and I started experimenting with it, then I’d edit the films with my little splicer. I wasn’t sure that I wanted that to be my future; I didn’t understand the role of the director then, either.”

The Miami native hit the jackpot when “Scarface” came to town.

“Then I was on the set of ‘Scarface’ — I skipped school to go to the set every day and watch them shoot –and I saw Brian De Palma telling Al Pacino what to do, and Al Pacino doing what the director told him to do.”

It was then that what a director does became more clear to Ratner.

“I feel that I had storytelling skills even before I got that camera. I was always the one telling stories at the dinner table. We all lived in one house: my mom, grandparents and great-grandparents, and I was the one always telling stories and entertaining.

“Is that camera my Rosebud? I don’t know,” Ratner says. But something about watching actors and directors on set obviously laid down the foundation for Ratner’s future.

“I started seeking out the sets and watching them shoot ‘Miami Vice,’ and I would begin to understand how they put it all together, and then I’d see it on TV the next week and I was like, ‘Oh! That’s how they do it!’ 

“I shot a V Life cover of Al Pacino. I walked up to Pacino and I said, ‘I was on the set when you shot “Scarface” and it’s because of you that I became a director.’

” ‘Why’s that?’ he asked me, and I said, ‘Because I saw you act and I could never be that good, so I wanted to be the guy who told you what to do.’

” ‘OK, so now’s your chance!’

“It’s funny how things come full circle.”

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