It started with a single comment, dropped by director Brett Ratner during a Q & A for his newest film, “Tower Heist.”
“Rehearsals are for fags.”
Not appropriate by any standards, but especially inappropriate when its speaker is the producer of the Oscars and serving as one of the public faces of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The comment made the New York Times Magazine, Ratner appeared on the Howard Stern show and said a few more distasteful things about actresses Olivia Munn and Lindsay Lohan, and by the end of the day had been asked to turn in his resignation.
A day later, Eddie Murphy stepped down as host. Brian Grazer stepped up to replace Ratner on Wednesday afternoon, but it's not clear who will replace Murphy.
Alex Ben Block, editor-at-large for the Hollywood Reporter, said on the Patt Morrison show that people should have known the risk that accompanied appointing Ratner.
"I don't think we should have been completely surprised, and the funny thing is he might have survived that if he apologized and moved on. But going on the Howard Stern show and then discussing his sex life – it showed that this wasn't a guy that we could put anywhere near a microphone and trust," Block said Wednesday.
Block went on to say that Murphy's personality was just as unpredictable, and Oscar officials appointed the comedian because they wanted edgier material.
"I think what they wanted was to go younger, they were trying to go hipper, they were trying to move the Oscars in a new direction," he said.
Murphy said in a news release that he had looked forward to playing host at the Oscars but that he understands and supports "each party's decision with regard to a change of producers."
The New York Times reports that Tom Sherak, the president of the Academy, understands Murphy's decision. "I appreciate how Eddie feels about losing his creative partner, Brett Ratner, and we all wish him well," Sherak said.
Popular responses to Ratner’s comment have ranged from outrage to eye-rolling, with the obvious question being, are we surprised? Did the Academy not know who they were hiring when they took on Ratner? At the same time, just because someone is known for having an abrasive personality or an offensive mouth, do they have a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to sticking with socially appropriate behavior? Finally, Richard Rushfield, writing for the Daily Beast, argues that the Academy cannot be both au courant and “progressive” and the same time, and that it will have to choose which mode to embrace, even if that means dwindling numbers. What are you interested in seeing from the Oscars?
Alex Ben Block, editor-at-large, Hollywood Reporter