Somehow, Ratner, with his boyish enthusiasm, can say this sort of think and not come off like a jerk. Somebody gave him a camers when he was 8, and that got him dreaming about being a big-time director one day. Living on the Beach, he spent a lot of time crashing Miami Vice sets and the set of Scareface before getting into NYU’s film School at 16. “Had he been realistic and realized what the odds were that he would succeed to the extent that he has, he probably wouldn’t have tried at all,” says Shareef Malnik, owner of the landmark Miami Beach restaurant The Forge.
Shareef’s father Al Malnik was a friend of Ratner’s paternal grandfather, developer Lee Ratner. Brett was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents, who are Cuban and Jewish. They all lived in a house a block away from The Forge. The elder Malnik mentored Ratner while he was a going to Hebrew Academy and then Beach High. “He grew up as my little brother,” Shareef says. He calls my dad Dad. He always had this tenacity. There was no way he was ever going to see anything but success and that director’s chair.
Ratner was psched when his hanging around the Scarface set scored him a second on the film as an extra. “You can see me when Al Pacino is out by the pool at the Fontainebleau, and he does that thing with his tongue.” He says.
And he is still the kid who can’t believe his luck. He’s still awed by the movies the same way he was when he was in grade school and saw Raging Bull for the first time.I found out that Martin Scorsese made it and that he had gone to NYU film school, and I said, “that’s where I want to go.” I found out that Martin Scorsese made it and that he had gone to NYU film school, and I said, “that’s where I want to go.”Yes, Ratner gets off on throwing big parties at Hilhaven Lodge, his famous Beverly Hills house. It was designed by Gordon Kaufman, architect of the Hoover Dam: Ingrid Bergman lived there. But mostly, Ratner invited celebrities there because the parties tickle his grandparents, Dr. Maroi and Fanita Presman, who live with him.
“I had this birthday party for my grandmother, and Salma Hayek shows up, Penelope Cruz shows up,Sofia Vergara shows up. My grandparents are living the life.” Says Ratner, who keeps the house on Sheridan Avenue where he grew up and stays there when he’s in town.Back in Hollywood, Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan and that crew are so enamored of Grandma they come around to visit and take her shopping. “The girls love my grandmother,” Ratner says. “She’s a character. You know, she’s Cuban. They don’t know other Cuban people in LA.” But doesn’t he have to keep things sort of clean with his grandparents, who are in their 80s also in the house? And isn’t that sort of a drag?
“It’s OK. I’ve never done drugs, and I’ve never had alcohol. Never tasted it. No interest. We’re Cuban and Jewish. And whether you’re Cuban or Jewish, it’s all the same. You’re gonna be close to your family.” Says Ratner, whose mom Marsha Pratts lives “between Miami and New York.” Maybe it’s that good-Jewish-boy thing that com;elled Ratner to hop a flight from the Paris filming of Rush Hour 3 to visit his high-school drama teacher Jay Jensen in the hospital shortly before he died of cancer in February. “He was important to me. He was amazing. Totally inspiring.”
Spanish doesn’t seem to roll too easily off Ratner’s tongue, but that doesn’t mean the cultural stuff isn’t close to the surface. “The most Cuban thing about me is the way I eat,” he says. “And my positive attitude. I don’t remember being sad one day in my life. I don’t know if that’s a Cuban thing or not. Every time he gets off a plane in Miami, he goes straight to Versailles. “The only difference is that now I arrive on a private jet. Yesterday I had picadillo. I was in the mood. Sometimes I have boliche. Sometimes I have pollo asado. But I always start with croquetas, and I always top it off with a mamey milkshake. Those flavors are just in me.” Given how hot Miami is, and how hot Ratner is, it stands to reason that the local bpy would take a whack at making a movie set in his hometown. But he’s not quite ready. “Every project that’s set in Miami comes to me. But….I don’t know. It would have to be a good period piece. Right now Miami is kind of a tourist trap. It was cooler in the 1970s and 1980s. There were guys like Al Malnik and Don Aronow, who created the Cigarette boats. It was edgy. There were the Cubans and the Columbians. But I mean, how can I top Scarface? That was a perfect movie. It really captured a moment.” It may be true that bad reviews don’t get to Ratner, but wouldn’t he like to make at least one movie that gets a thumbs-up? “Fast Times at Ridgemont High was another perfect movie. So was Risky Business. They captured something about the culture.