Brett Ratner Talks Directing Eddie Murphy and ‘Tower Heist’

Brett Ratner, one of the most successful filmmakers of the past two decades, is a busy man right now. He accepted the almost Herculean task of producing the 84th annual Academy Awards (along with veteran Don Mischer), and he is preparing for the release of his latest movie, “Tower Heist,” an old-fashioned and genuinely fun get-even movie starring Eddie Murphy, who so happens to be hosting the Oscars. We chatted about the movie with Brett and also spoke to him about 10 of his favorite films (click here to see the list), which are available on XFINITY On Demand – a rare and enjoyable opportunity to learn about the movies that have influenced one of Hollywood’s major talents – and watch them, too.

We’re excited about your new movie, “Tower Heist.” We’ve seen the adds, we have a trailer up on this post. Tell us about the movie.Tower Heist” was an idea that Eddie Murphy had. He said, “I want to do a movie with all of the young comedic – black comedians, Chris Rock, Chris Tucker, Dave Chappele, Jamie Foxx. And the idea was that they all work in a tower and they rip off Donald Trump, who represents the rich man in America.

Watch special “Tower Heist” previews.

Obviously the cast and the premise changed along the way. Yeah. We tried to develop that, but it felt too much like “Ocean’s Eleven.” Then Jeff Nathanson, who wrote all the “Rush Hour” movies for me, entered and came up with this whole idea and kind of turned it on its head. He made the characters more of an eclectic mixed race bag, which is like every building is in New York, and he made them more of the working class film where they took back from “the man” what was taken from them. It’s really a class film. It’s the upstairs versus the downstairs.

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The film opens on November 4 (order tickets online here). But you started work on it four years ago. What kept your interest in it? Quite simply, I believed in this idea. Jackie Chan says I’m the luckiest guy in the world, and as happened, as we were developing this movie, there was an economic crisis, then the Madoff thing came out and then all these ponzi schemes surfaced that showed the rich exercising greed at the expense of the middle class and poor. This movie just started falling into place. It kept looking better and better every day.

What was it like working with Eddie Murphy? To be honest, I really had to pinch myself. Every day. You have no idea. “Rush Hour” was born out of the fact that I grew up studying Eddie Murphy and his movies. The first day on the set with Eddie was a scene in the car, and for me, it was the coolest thing ever. Like I told you, I had to pinch myself. Eddie put so much thought into his characters – to the point where one time I said, “Eddie maybe you should turn your hat,” and he said, “No, the hat has got to be with the logo right here on the outfit.” He makes it seem so easy, but he thinks about every little detail of his performance. It was like working with an old movie star, with like Carrie Grant. He knew his lines. If I told him that I had a 15 mm lens, he knew how far he should be from the lens. He knew how to hit his marks. He’s a pro. And he’s this comedic genius. Between takes, he really kept the energy and the enthusiasm. It was really my job to keep everybody motivated, but he was cracking everybody up in between takes. And it was just so much fun working with him. And you sense that when you watch the movie. You can feel that everyone had a blast making this film.

Do you have a favorite scene? Yes, but it’s really a montage – it’s when Eddie sends the crew out into the Queens mall to shoplift to prove that they can pull off a heist. The comedy is so organize because it comes from the situations. I mean these are guys who – like Matthew Broderick plays a guy who lives in the building and helps with the heist because he’s come across hard times. He’s broke. He decides to help. Everyone has a great story that plays into the bigger story. It’s a quintessential New York Heist movie, but it’s very grounded and very real and very funny. And best of all it’s got a lot of heart. You leave the theater feeling good.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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