EXCLUSIVE: Arthur Sarkissian, the producer of the Rush Hour franchise who launched Brett Ratner’s directing career and worked with him on three of those films, told Deadline today that he is “really horrified” and “just can’t believe it” in regards to sexual harassment allegations against Ratner.
The producer and Ratner have been huddling for months on the next installment of Rush Hour 4 which Ratner would direct. While Sarkissian said he didn’t want to give up on Ratner as the director, “I need to talk to him and see what this is all about.”
As previously reported, Ratner has been trying to pull together a fourth film with stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. New Line has been in discussions with Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, sources said, on the fourth film. While promoting his latest movie, Chan said on ESPN that he wants to do the film but is trying to coax his ever-elusive partner Tucker into returning. They are working on the script now.
Two of the six women who came forward to the Los Angeles Times today — Eri Sasaki and Jorina King — said they were harassed by Ratner on the set of Sarkissian’s Rush Hour 2. The director’s attorney has denied both accounts. In fact, lawyer Marty Singer said his client denied the allegations of all six women.
“I’m in a state of shock. I’ve known Bret for 22 years, maybe even 23, and he was best man at my wedding,” Sarkissian told Deadline. “I’m so sad and so disturbed right now because I don’t want this to be true. He’s a very likable guy. He is very loyal and has a heart of gold. I have never ever seen him grope, grab or do anything of the sort. Has he been flirtatious? Yes. I’ve seen him flirt, but I cannot believe what I’m reading. I cannot believe that he would stand there with a shrimp in one hand and … I just can’t believe it. I’m really horrified.”
While he acknowledged Ratner has said some “really dumb things in the past,” he said Ratner just “thinks he’s funny. He sometimes thinks that being aggressive on a point that it would make a better point. I just can’t comprehend this. I’m sitting here asking if this could be true from someone I known for so long.”
Sarkissian also wanted to make a point that the harassment issue in Hollywood is not just sexual, “but it’s from people that have been in a big position and say if you don’t do this, then you will never work in this town again. I was told that by an attorney years ago. I wish he would say that now, I would slap him in the face. A producer at Disney also told me that. It was intimidating because I was just starting out. I think we are in a very hypocritical business.”
He added: “I hate when people bully the weak. I hate that. It’s spread out beyond sexual harassment.” Asked if that wasn’t what Ratner is accused of doing with these women, he said, “I have never seen Brett bully anyone. My point is very, very clear. I respect women, and no one in the world should be doing this type of thing at all.”