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Brett Ratner: From 'Rush Hour' to indie publisher

June 19, 2009 |  9:41 am

Brett Ratner does not need to publish books. He's made gobs of money directing movies -- "Rush Hour," "X Men: The Last Stand." He's got such a reputation for being surrounded by leggy babes that he wound up playing himself -- at a party thick with models -- on "Entourage."

Yet there he was Thursday night at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, in the quiet and unglamorous upstairs reading room, introducing Scott Caan and Lawrence Grobel, two authors he publishes with his new Rat Press.

"I've been a book collector since I was young, since I was a kid," Ratner said. "For me, it's about taking books that I love and sharing them with people."

Rat Press aims to reveal Hollywood in ways old and new. It's reissued Grobel's fascinating Playboy interview with Marlon Brando -- the journalist spent a week with Brando on his atoll in 1978 -- and writer/director James Toback's 1971 memoir of living with actor/athlete Jim Brown. Two of Grobel's interviews with outsized producer Robert Evans -- one decades-old, one contemporary -- are put together in another book. And Scott Caan's photographs, packed in an oversized, gorgeous photo book -- are all new.

"I want to print books by people in the film industry," Ratner said. 

Nevertheless, at Vroman's on Thursday, there was very little Hollywood attitude. Caan -- an actor/writer/director as well as photographer -- wasn't sure what to say about his photos and answered questions openly, including one about his relationship with his dad, actor James Caan. Ratner bounced with enthusiasm, jumping up to read from Grobel's book so people could get a feel for it.

Judging by the queue of people who lined up to buy books afterward, there was much enthusiasm for the offerings from Rat Press. The books are beautifully designed: The reissues are white and pocket-sized, with enticing covers and two-color interiors. Caan's photo book -- titled "Volume 1" in hopes of there being a sequel -- is mostly black-and-white but includes a section of color nudes.

Ratner is certainly busy -- he has more than a dozen movies in development and a couple more in production, according to imdb.com -- but he still has his publishing house on his mind. He's thinking about publishing a novel by a film editor, he told the audience, and hopes to reissue Jerry Lewis' now-rare 1971 book, "The Total Film-Maker."

Despite the bookishness of the evening, where Brett Ratner goes, Hollywood follows. Beauties teetered around Vroman's in spike heels, and there were more than a few hopeful screenwriters who pushed their scripts into Ratner's hands, that oh-so-familiar Hollywood story.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Scott Caan, from left, Brett Ratner and Lawrence Grobel. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg