Oscar role puts spotlight on helmer's remarks

Before he became producer of the Oscars, Brett Ratner’s use of a homophobic slur might not have reverberated as much as it did.

Ratner, after all, has cultivated a bad-boy reputation — making buddy actioners, hitting the party circuit and bragging about his actress conquests (and naming names). Good manners were never his calling card.

But Ratner’s comments came not just from a brash and polarizing Hollywood producer-director. They came from the guy recently put in charge of the 84th Academy Awards.

According to entertainment blog Vulture, Ratner was asked by the moderator at an Arclight screening of “Tower Heist” on Friday whether he has his actors rehearse scenes. Ratner dismissed the notion, saying: “Rehearsing is for fags.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tried to maintain its usual prim control, but late Monday issued a statement from Academy prez Tom Sherak: “Brett made a very inappropriate remark, a remark that goes against our most important beliefs and the beliefs of the creative community we represent. We think Brett’s apology was sincere and showed that he understood how insensitive he had been.”

After the comment hit the Web on Monday, Ratner was suddenly remorseful. In a statement issued to TheWrap.com, he 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.”

The blogosphere weighed in Monday.

Mark Harris, entertainment writer for the website Grantland, was among the first to call for Ratner’s head, saying: “There’s not really a long, nuanced debate to be had about this. If he had used an equivalent racial or religious slur, the discussion would go something like, ‘You’re fired.’ … You don’t get a mulligan on homophobia. Not in 2011.”

GLAAD, which decried Ratner’s comments over the weekend, issued a response to his apology: “This apology is a good start, but we’re working with Ratner’s people for more action, to clearly send a message to Hollywood that the anti-gay slurs used by bullies and bigots have no place in the world of entertainment, or anywhere else.”

In recent weeks, Ratner has been touting his radical approach to the Oscars, saying he was shaking things up behind the scenes, and ruffling feathers in the process. He told Variety’s Peter Bart in Monday’s column that he has brought in new writers, including Jeff Nathanson, and told the Los Angeles Times that the writing team would also include Ted Griffin (from “Tower Heist”), Alec Berg and David Mandel.

Whether the Academy told Oscar-ceremony stalwart Bruce Vilanch — who is openly gay — that his services would not be required this season is a little less clear.

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