An interview with Brett Ratner
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International roundtable discussion with director Brett Ratner of Rush Hour II
Diverse cultural interaction has often been
side-splitting storylines in comedic films.
The list of successful films starring characters from seemingly
culturally divergent backgrounds is extensive.
We are reminded of films such as the Lethal Weapon with Danny
Glover and Mel Gibson or 48 Hours with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte.
Rush Hour established itself as an addition to this genre in
1998. In the sequel, the team
of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan begin in Hong Kong and travel the globe
fighting crime and creating laughs. In
this international roundtable interview, director Brett Ratner fields
questions about the sequel Rush Hour II as well as the compatibility
and appeal of Chinese and black culture in one film.
What’s different about this film in regards to the
first Rush Hour?
A: The budget, the cast. I think we have a much better cast in this movie, I’m not going to say that, but we have a good cast. And it was harder, much, much harder because we had already done it before. We had already been there. We were always challenging ourselves saying, “How do we do it better? How do we make this more exciting?” And I think the fans of Rush Hour are going to see the movie and they’re going to be happy. They are going to be pleased and they are going to go, “Oh, they didn’t just cash in because they made an [initial] good movie, they didn’t just make the sequel to get rich. They really tried to give the audience something special.
This is a very unusual casting. The first one put an Asian guy and black guy together as a lead. Did you ever worry that the casting would lack appeal to the audience?
A: Well the first one proved that they did.
Were you worried in the first one?
A: I wasn’t worried. No, because I came from doing rap videos and I knew hip-hop was becoming more popular, [it was] becoming pop culture. Urban culture; black culture was becoming pop culture. I knew there were a lot of white kids around the world that were dressing with a kangol hat like this guy and wearing shiny shirts with dragons on it. So it’s a mixture of the black and the Chinese, because Kung-Fu is a big part of hip-hop culture. So I knew putting the two guys together would be something special.
The real fans of Jackie Chan expect him doing stunts without a wire. Does the American style of action film precautions undermine Jackie’s reputation as a risk taker performing all the stunts?
A: But he does stunts without a wire also. It just depends on how dangerous the stunt is. That’s what I am trying to say, there is no difference. The only difference is if he jumps off a ten story building in Hong Kong he jumps into boxes. He doesn’t land ten stories below on his feet. In America, we have safety precautions. Not only do we have safety precautions, we have nets. There he jumps into three stories of boxes.
When you make an American movie like Rush Hour, do you try to balance between the humor and the stunts?
A: Yes, Yes.
Are you concerned that true fans of Jackie Chan want
more stunts and less humor?
A: No. I try to do what makes the story work. I’m not thinking about that . . .I set the tone of the film, which is very different then if this film was done in Hong Kong. If this film were done in Hong Kong it would be very different. It would have a very different style. American humor has various subtleties. Physical humor is international. Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Chan, but the comedy of Chris and Jackie together, the fish out of water is very much an American thing. So this is why I am the director and, I am American, not a director out of Hong Kong.
How was it to shoot it in Hong Kong? How was it working with the crew? [Side comment, “They did not speak English.”]
A: No they spoke some English, but with crews the language is universal. Cut, action, lights, etc. So the communication barrier was not hard, they make more movies over there than they do here.
What did you do to make this movie better? More action?
A: Much more action. Much more stunts. The stunt at the end of the movie is much bigger than in the first movie when Jackie slides down this huge banner. And there is much more comedy. Also, better cast and bigger budget.
What do you plan to do next?
A: A few movies have been offered, but what I would love to do next is the next James Bond.
Have they offered you?
A: No. But I am putting my bid in for it now, actually I am begging for it.
Did you choose these film pieces to show to us?
A: Yes and they are not the best at all. I just wanted to try to tell the story.
They are in Hong Kong, Chris wants to meet some girls, Jackie
wants to get the bad guy. They [the bad guys] lead them to Las Vegas. I wanted to show how they go from L.A. to Vegas through the truck.
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