By Stephanie Wilson and Benjamin Minkus
Brett Ratner has made a name for himself as one of the most successful young directors around, with such recent smash hits as Rush Hour 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand, as well as forays into the photography world, with his coffee-table book The Hillhaven Lodge: The Photo Booth Pictures. Here, he sits down to tell Haute Living about his life’s passions.
HL What made you get into film and photography?
BR Growing up in Miami Beach, I would skip school and go to the set of Miami Vice. And the first movie I was on the set of was Scarface, so at that moment I knew I was going to be a director-from a young age. As for photography, what I am is a storyteller, and I use my filmmaking capabilities to tell stories. So that’s why my photography sticks out, because I tell a story with one picture.
HL Tell us about your relationship with Alvin Malnik.
BR Al Malnik was my biggest inspiration, and I’ve known him since I was a little baby. I used to spend every New Year at The Forge sitting next to him. Not only was he the smartest guy I knew growing up, he was also the coolest. He taught me tremendous morals and a work ethic, and he was a part of inspiring me to use my brain and to be fearless. Also, if there’s one thing I learned from Al, it’s to give back and help people. I’ve never met a person in my life who is more giving of himself, his time, and his energy-and gracious-than Al. It’s no surprise he’s turned Make-A-Wish into such a big event. Above all else, Al Malnik is a philanthropist and he has inspired that in me.
HL We hear that you played a role in Al finding true love?
BR Yes-Nancy. The film he asked me to do, he used the film to get closer to Nancy. I’ll always cherish that film and I think it’s my best work because Al found true happiness because of that film. That film, we shot it all in Al’s house, and it was the first time I ever directed a real movie. We locked ourselves in his house for two weeks-it was the first time I bonded with Al, he wasn’t just a father figure, he was a friend. And Al got a wife and a lovely family out of it. That film, which is ironically called The Good Life, that really led to the good life.
HL What projects are you coming out with?
BR I am doing a series of documentaries on directors, the first will be The Work of Brett Ratner, it will have all my short films and music videos.
HL Any upcoming projects on the horizon?
BR My next movie will be Playboy: The Life of Hugh Hefner. There’s a writers’ strike now, but that will be the next one. I find myself also wanting to do a sequel to The Hillhaven Lodge: The Photo Booth Pictures too. I love music videos, too-I love music. I love commercials, I love short films-any medium of story telling that I can be a part of, I want to be a part of.
HL And we hear you are venturing out into business with Al’s son, Shareef?
BR I am not much of a businessman, but I love the restaurant and casino business. So who better to join forces with than Shareef Malnik, and we plan to launch The Forge in Las Vegas. It will eventually expand all over the world, but right now I think Vegas is the ideal market for The Forge. I call Shareef a raconteur, because he’s the ultimate host. The Forge could be the next global brand the way that Nobu is a global brand. And it doesn’t work without Shareef-he is the face of The Forge. He is the restaurateur version of what I do.
HL Tell us about your approach to life and work.
BR For me, I do what I love, and for every person that’s successful, it’s because they’re doing what they love, when they put passion into it. When you love something, it shows and works. I don’t think I could ever get bored of what I do because it’s what inspires me, and I’m always creating, whether it’s a book, or it’s a photograph, or a campaign for a company. I feel like right now since I’m in the center of it all, I know what they see and what they feel.