Brett Ratner out as Oscar producer

Helmer resigns as kudos producer in wake of gay slur

After Brett Ratner’s exit Tuesday as producer of the Oscars, AMPAS officials were scrambling to figure out who will fill the post and whether Eddie Murphy would remain as host.

In the past few years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has teamed two producers: a younger one to add innovations and a veteran who could keep things on track. Don Mischer is filling the latter role for the upcoming 84th Academy Awards, after doing for the 83rd Oscars, when he was paired with Bruce Cohen. So the question is whether AMPAS will hire someone to lure the young-demo viewers — clearly a hope when they’d named Ratner — or whether they will go with a safer choice. The clock is ticking as the kudocast’s Feb. 26 airdate draws near.

In truth, the field of prospective candidates is limited, and it’s relatively late in the game to throw a total newcomer into the mix. A perfect choice would have been the late Gil Cates, who had the institutional knowledge and who frequently had served as ceremony pinch-hitter when the Academy discovered its telecast experiments of the previous year had left the show running too long or unmanageable.

Ratner’s relationship with Murphy, who stars in his current film “Tower Heist,” helped make it easy for Murphy to sign on in September. Though Murphy’s reps wouldn’t comment, insiders are saying loyalty to Ratner could cause him to quit. But many in the Academy are hoping he will stay.

The Academy had no comment on post-Ratner plans. Ratner’s Tuesday announcement was the result of industry pressure. Following three days of outrage about his use of a gay slur at a Friday Q&A for “Tower Heist” and his raunchy interview on “The Howard Stern Show” on Monday, Academy president Tom Sherak accepted his resignation by phone Tuesday morning.

In an open letter, Ratner said he “apologizes publicly and unreservedly.”

“I should have known this all along, but at least I know it now: words do matter,” Ratner said. “Having love in your heart doesn’t count for much if what comes out of your mouth is ugly and bigoted.”

The Academy issued a statement Tuesday that included a quote from Sherak, who did a 180-degree shift in tone from his let’s-move-on comments Monday.

“He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself,” Sherak said in the statement. “Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent.”

That’s different from his forgiving mood Monday. After Ratner had issued a brief public apology when the webs lit up with outrage, Sherak said, “He apologized and we will move forward… The apology he gave I truly believe comes from his heart. If I didn’t believe it, I would do something about it. This is about integrity and honoring the Academy Awards, but we all make mistakes and I believe he didn’t mean it.”

On Tuesday, GLAAD sat down with Ratner to discuss how to use Ratner’s actions as a way to educate.

“He seemed very sincere in his desire to use this experience as a way to begin speaking out against anti-gay language in popular culture,” said Herndon Graddick, the org’s senior director of programs and communications.

The outcry over Ratner’s comments has been building over the past few days among Academy members and industry insiders. Ratner did little to alleviate the matter when he gave an expletive-filled interview discussing body parts and sexual conquests on Stern’s radio program Monday.