Editors Note: RatPac’s Brett Ratner wrote this story for Deadline’s Disruptors print issue at Cannes to update how things changed after he was banned for life by the festival’s glitziest location, the Hôtel du Cap.
In 2004, I became persona non grata and was banned for life from the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, after I wrote an article about the traumatic experience of having been given the worst room in the entire hotel, and having been played by the manager who assigned me the infamous room. Since that article, any time I check into a five star hotel anywhere in the world, if I’ve booked a standard room, the manager will almost always come out and offer me an upgrade to the presidential suite. When I accept, he gently asks me to please not write an article about his hotel.
I am back in good standing at the Hotel Du Cap and have been for several years. I might even be able to say my article brought about certain reforms to the most desired haunt for the world’s biggest movie stars, studio executives, and financiers, during the Cannes Film Festival. All more than willing to spend fortunes and endure a 20 mile car ride to Antibes to avoid the Croisette and stay on those pristine grounds overlooking the French Riviera.
It’s still the most expensive place to rest your head on the Riviera – 33,600 Euros for the 14-day duration of the festival — gone, though, are the days when they wouldn’t take credit cards, when it was cash or wire transfers only. If one wanted a TV in the room, it came with a 500 euros a night price tag, again, payable only by cash or wire.
Before I tell you how I got back in, allow me to remind you why I was once as unwelcome at the hotel as the accountant who mixed up the Best Picture envelopes will be at the next Oscars.
My first stay at the hotel was at the invitation of then-New Line chairman Bob Shaye, for whom I had made the Rush Hour franchise. I had no film, but I enjoyed being Bob’s honored guest. Regular Hollywood types stay in the main hotel, but the studio chairmen stay at the Eden-Roc, overlooking the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. I wanted to be there, so I called a family friend, Charles Koppelman, a frequent visitor and EMI Records chairman. He said he would call the reservations manager for me, and advised me to slip him 500 Euros. After that, Koppelman assured me everything would work out.
I did this myself. Unbeknownst to me, the French class system looks down on the underlings who usually handle such tasks. I was 35, but looked no more than 25, and so the reservations manager assumed I was probably some member of Hollywood’s lucky sperm club—the son of a director or a producer—and, as a result, not only did I fail to make the Eden-Roc guest list, but my pre-booked room in the main hotel was taken away and given to someone deemed more VIP. I was moved to the Annex, the building where the drivers, assistants and publicists are unceremoniously housed.
I dragged my luggage because there was no bellman, and when I turned my key, I stepped in a room so small that I could lay on the bed and practically touch all four walls with my hands and feet. I went back to explain that there must have been a misunderstanding, but it was made clear to me that the room I’d been assigned was the only one available for the next two weeks. I was stuck.
In desperation, I convinced my then-girlfriend, tennis star Serena Williams, to leave Paris—where she was preparing to defend her French Open title—and join me. This Grand Slam tournament was an important event for her, but I used all of my charm and powers of persuasion and hyperbole, telling her she’d get the best room in the hotel, and she could train on the du Cap’s clay courts during our luxurious stay. All this to impress the manager into giving us the room I so pined for.
I namedropped that my girlfriend and the reigning French Open champ would come—and train on the hotel courts, because I asked her to. I said her luggage wouldn’t fit in my room, and asked for something bigger. “I will do my best, Monsieur Ratner,” he said in his heavy French accent.
By the time I returned from the Croisette one day, Serena was playing her part: training on the clay courts. The entire hotel seemed to be watching. Did this sway the management into moving me? No way. Not even close. “Brett, you did it again,” Serena told me. “These people hate you. I had to walk down a back stairwell to find a room with a window that faces a brick wall. I have to crouch just to get under the shower head.”
Man, was she pissed.
I needed a new plan and took to loitering in the lobby, positioning myself where the manager could see Hollywood royalty like Spielberg and Katzenberg walk past and say hello to me. But this didn’t seem to work either. Each evening, everyone went to their rooms upstairs or back towards the Eden-Roc—and I would exit out the front, on the way to the Annex. Finally, someone famous and attractive asked me why I wasn’t coming up in the elevator. I told them I was going for a walk in the moonlight. But it had nothing to do with the moon.
I was beyond embarrassed. And when Serena left, it was game on for me. I devoted myself to getting even, and I called publicist Dennis Davidson to gain some insight into the system at the hotel. What I learned was that during Cannes, the best rooms in the hotel were flipped, multiple times. When studio heads reserved the Eden-Roc, they would leave right after their movies premiered. Their studios were required to pay for a full 14 days. Once they left, the hotel re-rented the same room, for another 14 days. When those secondary guests left, the hotel did it again and again, charging 14-day fees throughout the festival. What would happen if the original guest gave the room to a family member or a friend? It was allowed, Dennis told me, but only if the request was sent on official business letterhead.
So I asked four different studio bosses if I could have their room after they had gone. All I was hoping for was one—all four said yes.
The manager called me down to his office. “Monsieur Ratner, there’s a big problem here. You have four rooms.” I said, “Yes, I do.” He said, “It’s impossible, you cannot have four rooms.” He’d already gotten the letters from the studios. I told him, “I’d like the key to each one.” He asked, “Why would you need four rooms?” I said, “One room, I’m just going to sleep in. The second room, I’ll dress in. The third room, I’ll use the bathroom. And the fourth room, I’m just going to enjoy the view.”
He was furious. “This is ridiculous,” he opined. But there was nothing he could do except give me the keys. When I got back, Bob Shaye had already received the infamous letter. It said, “Mr. Ratner is banned for life from the Hôtel du Cap.”
I wasn’t quite done. I’d stay at my friend Jean Pigozzi’s home, Villa Dorane, right down the street from the hotel, or on my good friend Ronald Perelman’s yacht, which I requested be docked at the foot of the hotel.
When my “Hôtel du Crap” article was published in the Variety spinoff VLife, I made beautiful printed copies—hundreds of them—and asked friends to put them on tables all around the hotel. I continued to mail packages with the article to the hotel, to make sure they had a copy for every guest. That got me banned from even eating lunch there.
Years later, when X-Men: The Last Stand was in Cannes, I convinced Tom Rothman to have Fox rent a big plane for the cast and the entire team. When we landed in Nice, I was expecting to head over to my room on the Croisette. But the local publicity people met us to say a man by the name of Philippe Perd had requested I call the Hôtel du Cap with urgency.
So I did. “Hello, Mr. Ratner. I am Philippe Perd the new manager of the Hôtel du Cap.” He must have been aware of my ban, and that nobody from the glitziest Cannes premiere was staying there, and all the billboards that read, “Realisateur Brett Ratner.” Was the new manager reinforcing my ban, or asking for premiere tickets for du Cap VIPs?
Mr. Perd said, “We know you just arrived, Mr Ratner. Please come to the hotel from the airport directly. We will give you our best four-bedroom villa, with a personal butler, gratis, for your entire stay.” Without a second thought I said, “I’m on my way.”
As I pulled into a gate directly across the street from the hotel—still in my pajamas from the overnight flight—I was convinced I was being Punk’d. But it was the hotel owner’s villa, a private paradise fully serviced by the hotel. The entire staff lined up to greet me, with the new manager, Mr. Perd, standing at the front door. “Mr. Ratner,” he said. “Our attitude has changed here at the Hôtel du Cap. Welcome to your new home.”
Upper management had been fired. I didn’t ask what happened, or if my article caused it, but apparently stuff was going on that the owners didn’t know about. One night I found myself talking with this lovely, elegant German woman through most of dinner, when Jean Pigozzi said, “Oh, Julia, do you know who this is?” She replied that I was a film director. When he told her I was the guy who wrote “Why I Hate the Hôtel du Crap”, she lit up and said she loved the article. I asked who she was. “I own the Hôtel du Crap!” It was Julia Oetker, who said the story opened her eyes.
I am often in Cannes on RatPac business. I come and go at the hotel, and I am even welcome in the restaurant. They now take credit cards, and provide televisions in the rooms, so you don’t have to shell out hundreds of euros to watch BBC or CNN International. You’d still be shocked at how much one has to pay for a bottle of water, or the cost of a towel and a chair by the pool. It all comes with the territory when one chooses to stay at one of the greatest hotels in the world.
The stories are legendary. I heard from a friend that the wife of New York billionaire Saul Steinberg asked her husband to buy the hotel for her as an anniversary present. He agreed, and bought it. When they arrived at Nice airport, the driver started going in the opposite direction. “Where are you going?” she said. The driver replied, “The Hôtel du Cap.” She said, “No, it’s this way,” pointing to Antibes. He replied, “No, the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat is in this direction.” It turned out the husband bought the wrong hotel; one that happens to be as beautiful as the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, but not near it. I’m looking forward to staying at the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat. I wonder if they would upgrade me to the Presidential suite.
Influencing changes at the hotel has given me great pleasure, as does the knowledge that everyone who works there knows I am a great friend and a terrible enemy. I’ve written this sequel to my original article simply to express that the Hôtel du Cap is still the most beautiful hotel on Earth. It’s the center of the universe at the Cannes Film Festival, and it’s where everyone wants to be. I no longer call it the Hôtel du Crap.