OSCARS: Academy Announces Producers Of 84th Telecast — Brett Ratner And Don Mischer
Of all the entertainment people in the world that the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences could have picked to produce the 84th Academy Awards, without doubt the last name would have been Brett Ratner’s. Even he feels that way. “I had no idea. But Tom Sherak called me two weeks ago to come see him in his office. And I walk in and Tom is there with Dawn Hudson. And I thought I was being kicked out of Academy. I thought my maid had started bootlegging my Academy DVDs and I would be escorted out of the building and asked to relinquish my Academy cards.” That 1/2-hour meeting turned into a 3-hour schmoozefest, and at the end of it Ratner was asked to produce the Oscar telecast with returning Don Mischer. Maybe it was fate. After all, Brett does live in Hillhaven Manor, a house steeped in Hollywood history where Ingrid Bergman and Kim Novak lived as well as Allan Carr who produced the 61st Academy Awards in 1989 and gave the world one of its most infamous shows complete with Snow White and Rob Lowe. (As Deadline awards columnist Pete Hammond just emailed me, “Hopefully for Brett’s sake there isn’t a curse on the Oscars still lurking there.”)

This could turn out to be the worst idea or the best idea. I say give the guy a chance. Let’s face it: that interminable and horrible awards ceremony certainly couldn’t get any worse. A few car chases around the Kodak Theatre. Jackie Chan hanging from the ceiling chandelier. Gunfire and explosions in the aisles. Now that’s a show! (As one producer just telephoned me, “At least now we’ll get to see Chris Tucker again…”) On the other hand, besides the Rush Hour franchise, Ratner did make that fine documentary about legendary actor John Cazale of Godfather and Deer Hunter and Dog Day Afternoon fame. But Brett’s is not necessarily a body of work studied in film schools.

In an interview with me just now, Ratner says that he’d always bitched and moaned about the Oscars after every show. “I’d put it out there at every Oscar party. I’d be critical of it to everyone I’d see. ‘Here’s what I would do…’ In this meeting Tom and Dawn were interested in hearing my ideas during an intense conversation. Get me talking and I can’t stop. And I kept going and going.”

Next, Sherak and Hudson set up a meeting between Ratner and Mischer. “I met him over nova and cream cheese at the Mulholland Deli on Beverly Glen. I kept thinking I’d run into Warren Beatty because he always goes there. Then Warren called while I was sitting with Don. But I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t tell anyone. That was the problem: I couldn’t ask anybody what their opinion was about whether I should do it.”

Ratner was leaving that night for Europe and asked Sherak and Hudson, “Can I think about it?” To help him decided, he requested they gather up all of the Oscar telecast footage they had as far back as possible. “I looked through every single telecast. And I called up Tom and Dawn and said, ‘I can do this. I’m really excited.'”

Mischer promises that Ratner “will strike the right chord between innovation and respect of film heritage” and that it’s “way early now” to begin providing any details but they’re starting the process of putting together a creative team. “I can’t change the Academy Awards because it’s an institution,” Ratner says. “But I can create a great show for everybody.”

Actually, Ratner would have talked more to me — but Mischer pulled him away from the phone.

Tom Sherak just called me and has a slightly different version of how this came about. Sherak says Ratner wasn’t actually offered to produce the Academy Awards until today. According to Sherak, it was still under discussion until yesterday when Ratner emailed that he’d made up his mind and today told AMPAS that he wanted the gig. And it was only just finalized today.

Sherak says about the choice of Brett: “The bottom line is that, after 2 years, I wanted it to be out of the box. This town is filled with opinion. And I listen to all of it. I had Mischer who did it once already and that gives me continuity. But I’m a huge fan of Brett ratner’s even before he was BRETT RATNER. Dawn and I were looking at the Academy book and going through it one name at a time. And his name came up and we both said, ‘Lets bring him in.’ I didn’t want him to leave our meeting. He said everything we wanted. He met Don and they fell in love. We talked a couple of times. I hadn’t asked him to do it yet. But we did this morning.”

Ratner is known for his encyclopedic knowledge of film. Deadline’s Pete Hammond was moderating a panel called “The Art of The Sequel”  in April for the Turner Classic Movie Film Festival and Brett was one of the panelists. “He struck me as incredibly smart and savvy about the movie industry and surprisingly about movie history. Although we think of him as a director /producer of commercial movies, he really seemed to be
pretty shrewd in his opinions about film, what’s good and what isn’t, and as someone who knows exactly what he wants and how to get it done. This will serve him very well in doing the Oscars. It is telling that the first thing he asked for was EVERY Oscar telecast because that also shows respect to the institution.

“It will be interesting to see if he can successfully merge ‘new ideas’ — every producer always says that — with the tradition of Oscars and of course, the limitations placed on him by the Academy. (Presenting every one of the 24 categories on air being the most glaring requirement).  My guess too is that he will realize the value of comedy and a comedian as host considering he has worked with several in his films (ie Chris Tucker and Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller in his upcoming November release Tower Heist which he told me he expects to be a franchise in the vein of Rush Hour). Knowing his level of energy I would say he’s gonna shake things up in what ever way he can find.”