• Brett Ratner receives lifetime achievement award as “Tower Heist” hits theaters tomorrow

    Brett Ratner was recently honored at The Friars’ Club in New York City during the third annual Friars’ Club Comedy Film Festival produced by powerhouse Exec. Director Charlie Prince, and his team, including Director of Communications, Jaime Marsanico. The festival screened over 60 international films over the five days. It was a HUGE amount of work and they are to be commended!

    Brett Ratner is one of the most accomplished and respected film, and music video directors in all of Hollywood, and he’s only 42. He’s known for the Rush Hour series starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, as well as The Family Man, Red Dragon, and X-Men– The Last Stand. He was also a producer on the Fox drama Prison Break and will be producing the 84th Academy Awards next year with co-producer Don Mischer; it goes down Feb. 26 with host Eddie Murphy.

    But in 1990, Brett was still a film student at NYU. How he got in is an example of his determination. He was initially rejected due to his poor grades, but he got in to see the Dean himself and after literally begging him to watch one of his films, impressed him enough that he let him in as a student. Brett’s student film was What Ever Happened to Mason Reese? It starred Rebecca Gayheart, Anthony Michael Hall and of course Mason Reese– an actor who became famous as a child in the 1970’s for a TV commercial he did for Underwood Devil Ham that swept the country, in which he mispronounced the word Schmorgasbord as “Borgashmord.” People loved it and he was an instant star.

    As an aside, for anyone who’s wondering about where Mason is now, he’s right here in NYC and doing great! He currently owns two restaurants in NYC. One is Paladar, a Pan-Latino restaurant located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and the other is “Destination Bar and Grille” located on Avenue A in the East Village. He’s an old friend and I see him a few times a year!

    Anyway, Brett found himself short on funds to finish his film, so he made another spectacular life-changing choice, and sent out “plea letters” to 20 different producers in Hollywood asking for monetary assistance to finish his film. He got only one response, but that was all he needed. Of all people, Steven Spielberg, of Amblin Entertainment, sent him a check for $5,000, without ever meeting him. Brett brought that same film to the attention of Russell Simmons, who was impressed enough that he got Brett into directing music videos, for the likes of Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, and Madonna! Russell has since been a close friend and was asked to present Brett with his Lifetime Achievement Award.

    Brett once said he wouldn’t attempt to direct a feature film until he had directed 100 music videos. In 1996, the director of a film called Money Talks, starring Charlie Sheen and Chris Tucker, dropped out and Russell suggested Brett Ratner to take over, which he did. That launched his career and led to his multiple big-screen successes. Simmons himself is not only known as a music impresario, but also throughout the comedy world for creating Def Jam Comedy. I recently attended some tapings he did for Comedy Central that were hosted by JB Smoove, with DJ Cassidy on the ones and twos, that starred comics like Tony Rock, Capone, Tifffany Haddish, Wil Sylvince, Earthquake, Owen Smith and tons more!

    Simmons came to present Ratner with the award, and even billionaire Ron Perelman dropped by to say a few words and pay his respects to his good friend Brett. Everybody is anxiously awaiting Brett’s new film Tower Heist starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, and Matthew Broderick, which is set to open tomorrow, and has already earned great reviews.

    You can check out more about the Brett Ratner event at the Comedy Matters Blog.

    Jeffrey Gurian

    Jeffrey Gurian is a comedy writer who has written for lots of big names, and is currently writing the book on the 35 year history of The Comic Strip. Contact Jeffrey at Jeffrey@jeffreygurian.com.

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