If producer is fired after gay slur and raunchy interview, will host Eddie Murphy go with him?
A tense silence reigned at the Motion Picture Academy on Tuesday as the drumbeat of disapproval grew over Oscar producer Brett Ratner's public statements over the past few days.
The Academy initially stood by Ratner late Monday night after he apologized for a gay slur over the weekend.
But it has declined comment on Tuesday as word spread of a sexually-explicit interview with shock jock Howard Stern on Monday.
When TheWrap surveyed a number of Academy members on Tuesday morning, none were willing to support Ratner. The ones who didn't shy away from the question altogether said the producer had to go.
"Not for the original remark, but for the pure lack of discretion," one member said. "Once the producer becomes the story, it's not good for the Academy."
Academy president Tom Sherak released a statement late Monday condemning Ratner's use of the slur "fag," but supporting the Oscar producer. But news of the sexually explicit Stern interview apparently took AMPAS officials by surprise.
The conversation with Stern had Ratner holding forth on sex, masturbation, cunnilingus ("I'm probably the best in the world at it"), pubic hair, the size of his testicles, the sex habits of Hollywood moguls, condoms (he doesn't like them but now he uses them) and how he sends women to his doctor to be checked for sexually-transmitted diseases "before I go all the way."
On Tuesday morning, the Academy declined to comment further in light of that interview, in which Ratner talked about his sex life in graphic detail even after admitting "I'm now the producer of the Oscars, so I really can't talk about … sex."
The Academy's options at this point are simple: censure but support Ratner while slapping a muzzle on him until after the Oscars, or fire him and move quickly to bring in a replacement to work alongside the well-liked (and eminently restrained) producer Don Mischer.
Not only would the removal of Ratner prove unsettling to the show that he and Mischer are planning, but it could well lead to the loss of the show's host, Eddie Murphy, who starred in Ratner's new film, "Tower Heist."
In addition, it would prove embarrassing to Sherak and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, both of whom enthusiastically supported Ratner for the job after a lengthy meeting with him during the search process.
Hudson faced a similar problem in 2008, when she was the executive director of Film Independent (FIND). Richard Raddon, director of FIND's Los Angeles Film Festival, was revealed to have donated money to the campaign for Prop. 8, which banned gay marriage in California.
At the time, FIND released a statement "supporting the civil rights of all individuals" but saying that it "didn't police the personal, religious or political choices of any employee." Raddon later resigned.
As the Academy mulls that decision in silence, others have been eager to chime in.
Mark Harris, a columnist for Entertainment Weekly and the Oscars columnist for ESPN's Grantland, was one of the first to call for Ratner's dismissal on Monday. Tuesday morning he was joined by Salon movie writer.
Harris wrote in Grantland: “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.' Apology or not. The same rule applies here. You don’t get a mulligan on homophobia. Not in 2011.”
O'Hehir took a similar tact in his Salon essay titled "Why Oscar producer Brett Ratner has to go," arguing that Ratner's apology doesn't go near far enough.
"He should quit or be fired, and the Academy needs to hear that loud and clear from the press and the public," O'Hehir wrote. "This isn’t the first time Ratner has revealed himself to be an arrogant and insensitive creep, and quite likely a homophobe, and no doubt it won’t be the last."
"[I]t's … cringe-worthy for the Academy in that it serves to highlight what a weird, ill-matched choice Ratner was in the first place," wrote Richard Lawson at the Atlantic Wire. "What were they thinking?"
In a story titled "Why the Oscars Should Boot Brett Ratner," Linda Holmes of NPR wrote, "It's simple cause and effect. The cause is choosing to get attention with swaggering insults aimed at people you think other people secretly think it's cool and funny to insult. The effect is that you can't be the producer of a show that relies on the goodwill and participation of those same people."