Gay slur and sexually explicit Howard Stern appearance draws fire from Academy members worried about tarnishing the brand — writers are now calling for his dismissal from show
Update at 10:30 am:
Calls for Brett Ratner's firing from the Oscar telecast are growing as word of his gay slur and raunchy remarks on the Howard Stern show are circulating.
Mark Harris, a columnist for Entertainment Weekly and the Oscars columnist for ESPN's Grantland, called 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."
Brett Ratner may have been a bold and unconventional choice to produce the 84th Academy Awards, but the bad boy director is rapidly becoming a figure of controversy among Academy members who worry that Ratner might not be the right choice to shepherd a cherished, historic and generally conservative property like the Oscar telecast.
"The Oscars are a brand, and this is tarnishing that brand," one longtime Academy member told TheWrap.
The Academy issued a statement chastising but supporting Ratner on Monday night, but their producer's outspoken and often uncouth behavior is clearly creating pressure to rein in (or even dismiss) him.
His latest mess began at the ArcLight in Hollywood, in which he used the word "fag" at a Q&A following a screening of his new movie, "Tower Heist." On Monday morning he apologized in a statement to TheWrap, calling it "a dumb way of expressing myself."
That same morning, though, he also went on Howard Stern's show on Sirius XM Radio to apologize for recent comments in which he implied a relationship with actress Olivia Munn – whom, he told Stern, was just a friend.
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
In the process, though, the conversation veered into a discussion of 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."
Among the girlfriends who needed a checkup before sex, he said, was a much younger Lindsay Lohan.
A description of the conversation, in which Ratner was certainly egged on by Stern, from Stern's website:
"Asked about a recent incident in which he’d disparaged Olivia Munn, Brett said she’d more or less named him as a gross, shrimp-loving ex-lover in her book: 'I should have said, "I don’t eat shrimp. When I jerk off, I don’t eat shrimp" … [but] I said I banged her three times, which isn’t true.' But he did bang Lindsay Lohan — right after Wilmer Valderrama: 'This was before she was actually ‘Lindsay Lohan.’ She was really young.'”
The audio of the 45-minute interview is available here. (Less than half of the conversation deals with explicit material.)
The ArcLight Q&A, the Stern appearance and the subsequent fallout are clearly not what the Academy reckoned with when they chose Ratner for his enthusiasm and desire to shake up the Oscar show.
Typically, Oscar producers stay out of the spotlight – and when they give interviews, they talk about the show, not about their sex lives.
Ratner admitted as much when he called in to the Stern show. "I'm now the producer of the Oscars," he said, "so I really can't talk about all the sex I got when I was young."
Of course, then he went on to do exactly that.
Officially, the Academy still stands behind Ratner. On Monday evening, AMPAS president Tom Sherak released a statement condemning Ratner's gay slur but supporting the director.
"Brett made a very inappropriate remark, a remark that goes against our most important beliefs and the beliefs of the creative community we represent," said Sherak. "He very quickly issued an apology because he knew he had made a mistake.
"We think Brett’s apology was sincere and showed that he understood how insensitive he had been. We believe his apology reflects who he really is at heart."
Still, the next step for the Academy may be to muzzle Ratner, before the chorus of disapproval gets too loud to ignore.
Already, some of those close to the Oscar show have noticed that Ratner's behavior comes on the heels of the Oct. 31 death of Gil Cates, who produced a record 14 Oscar shows and was a model of restraint, decorum and old-fashioned probity during his run with the show.
"If Gil Cates was still alive," said one longtime production staffer on Monday night, "this would kill him."
Ratner clearly knows that he's stepped over the line in the eyes of the Academy. Near the end of his Stern appearance, he repeated that he needs to be careful these days.
"I've got to change my image," he said, "because I'm the producer of the Academy Awards."