Brett Ratner may have been a bold, unconventional choice to produce the 84th Academy Awards, but the bad boy director is stoking controversy among Academy members who worry he might not be the best choice to shepherd the cherished, historic and fairly conservative property.
The Oscars are a brand, and this is tarnishing that brand, one longtime Academy member told TheWrap.
The Academy issued a statement chastising but supporting Ratner on Monday night, but their producer's outspoken and often uncouth behavior is clearly creating pressure to rein in, or even dismiss, him.
His latest mess began at the ArcLight in Hollywood, in which he used the offensive term word fag at a Q&A following a screening of his new movie, Tower Heist. On Monday morning he apologized in a statement, calling it a dumb way of expressing myself.
That same morning, though, he went on Howard Stern's show on Sirius XM Radio to apologize for recent comments in which he implied a relationship with actress Olivia Munn, who, he told Stern, was just a friend.
But in the process the conversation veered into a discussion of sex, masturbation, cunnilingus (I'm probably the best in the world at it), pubic hair, the size of his testicles, the sex habits of Hollywood moguls, condoms (he doesn't like them but now he uses them) and how he sends women to his doctor to be checked for sexually-transmitted diseases before I go all the way.
Among the girlfriends who needed a checkup before sex, he said, was a much-younger Lindsay Lohan.
The ArcLight Q&A, the graphic Stern appearance and the subsequent fallout are clearly not what the Academy reckoned with when they chose Ratner for his enthusiasm and desire to shake up the Oscar show.
Typically, Oscar producers stay out of the spotlight, and when they give interviews they talk about the show, not their sex lives.
Ratner admitted as much when he called in to the Stern show. I'm now the producer of the Oscars, he said, so I really can't talk about all the sex I got when I was young.
Of course, he went on to do exactly that.
Officially, the Academy still stands behind Ratner. On Monday evening, AMPAS president Tom Sherak released a statement condemning Ratner's gay slur but supporting the director.
Brett made a very inappropriate remark, a remark that goes against our most important beliefs and the beliefs of the creative community we represent, said Sherak. He very quickly issued an apology because he knew he had made a mistake.
We think Brett's apology was sincere and showed that he understood how insensitive he had been. We believe his apology reflects who he really is at heart.
Still, the next step for the Academy may be to muzzle Ratner before the chorus of disapproval gets too loud.
Mark Harris, a columnist for Entertainment Weekly and the Oscars columnist for ESPN's Grantland, has already called for Ratner's dismissal. Harris is married to Oscar nominee and Pulitzer-Prize winner Tony Kushner.
Already, some of those close to the Oscar show have noticed that Ratner's behavior comes on the heels of the October 31 death of Gil Cates, who produced a record 14 Oscar shows and was a model of restraint, decorum and old-fashioned probity.
If Gil Cates was still alive, said one longtime production staffer on Monday night, this would kill him.
Ratner clearly knows that he's stepped over the line in the eyes of the Academy. Near the end of his Stern appearance, he repeated that he needs to be careful these days.
I've got to change my image, he said, because I'm the producer of the Academy Awards.