At first blush, Brett Ratner would seem an unorthodox choice to co-produce the 84th Academy Awards with Don Mischer, who returns to direct for a second consecutive year.
But what the Acad gets with Ratner — director of the “Rush Hour” trilogy, “X-Men: The Last Stand” and the upcoming “Tower Heist” — is an obsessive student of Hollywood, a cinema lover who’s never been shy in expressing his regard for showbiz.
Tom Sherak, who adds Ratner’s hiring to a list of innovations heading into his final term as Acad prexy, recognized that much during their first meeting last month.
“I was so impressed with Brett when I met with him to discuss the Oscar show,” said Sherak, who announced Thurday that Ratner and Mischer would co-produce. “He has an incredible love of film and its history and is a true student of the business of movies.”
Ratner said he’s always been candid with his ideas for the kudocast, particularly during that meeting with Sherak and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. But he never figured they wanted him to produce. In fact, he first feared his screeners had been compromised and that Sherak and Hudson were booting him from the Academy.
“I sat down with Tom and Dawn and they just wanted to pick my brain,” Ratner told Variety. “And a 30-minute meeting turned into a three-hour meeting. When we finally wrapped up, they asked if they were to offer me the producing job, would I take it? I was shocked because I thought they would have me, the tastemaker, give them some ideas — and then they hand them off to some big producer to handle.”
Besides the Oscars, Mischer has also produced several Emmy shows, as well as “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial” and the Kennedy Center Honors. He’s also been behind several Super Bowl halftime shows and the opening ceremonies of both Winter and Summer Olympic Games. “I got to speak with Brett a while back,” Mischer told Variety, “and we talked about how we see the show, whether it is traditional show or a contemporary show. We haven’t really gotten into specifics since we just got the gig, but Brett has already been asking all the right questions.”
Though Ratner’s ouvre has been largely commercial fare, he counts producer Robert Evans as one of his mentors, Hal Ashby as one of his favorite directors and Martin Scorcese’s “Raging Bull” as the pic that inspired him to become a filmmaker. He launched Rat Press to publish out-of-print books about Hollywood; the first three, released in 2009, are about Evans, Marlon Brando and Jim Brown.
He’ll soon begin directing “39 Clues” for DreamWorks, as well as “Hercules: The Thracian Wars” for MGM. His producing credits include “Horrible Bosses” and an upcoming adaptation of “Snow White” for Relativity.
“Brett is a really smart and fresh take for the show,” Hudson said. “(He and Mischer) have great chemistry, and their vision meshed so well with ours.”
The question now turns to the host(s) — especially after last year’s less-than-well-received tandem of Anne Hathaway and James Franco.
“I have some ideas,” Ratner told Variety, with a chuckle over a tongue-in-cheek question regarding whether Franco might be invited back. “But we literally just got the job a couple of hours ago so haven’t real had a chance to talk about that.”