Brett Ratner Resigns as Oscar Producer After Gay Slur

When Brett Ratner looks back on what killed his once-in-a-lifetime chance to produce the 2012 Academy Awards, it'll boil down to one sentence -- just a handful of words -- that he really, really shouldn't have said. During a Q&A for "Tower Heist" Friday night in Los Angeles, he dismissed the notion of rehearsing with his actors, claiming at one point "Rehearsal's for f*gs." And with that simple, stupid, homophobic comment, Ratner had to have known that it was merely a matter of time until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would decide to extricate themselves from Ratner and his comments.

At first it seemed like the embattled director would get off with just a stern warning from the Academy -- even after Ratner made things worse with a raunchy appearance on "The Howard Stern Show," where he talked explicitly about dalliances with Olivia Munn and Lindsay Lohan. But apparently the organization has decided to take it one step further: He's "voluntarily" stepping down (as first reported by THR.com), which sounds an awful lot like being canned.

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Director Werner Herzog cast as baddie in new Tom Cruise movie

Renowned for his prolific, fearless filmmaking, Werner Herzog is in fact nothing if not a polymath: Opera director, guerrilla film-school proprietor,diarist and author, septi-continental gadabout, and actor for hire (among other interests). It’s this latter quality that he and I discussed briefly today as he made the rounds for his new capital-punishment doc Into the Abyss — a diametric opposite to the biggest onscreen gig he’s taken to date.

Word came down last month that Herzog would co-star in One Shot, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s adaptation of the bestselling thriller by novelist Lee Child. The ninth in the series of Child’s thrillers featuring ex-military investigator Jack Reacher, One Shot centers around the tough guy’s attempt to hunt down the cold-blooded sniper responsible for five murders in a small town, and as if the project didn’t attract enough notoriety for having Tom Cruise as its leading man and co-producer, McQuarrie intensified the spotlight by casting Herzog as Reacher’s trigger-happy adversary known simply as The Zec.

The role will supply Herzog with his highest-profile screen performance yet.

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Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer talk about making ‘J Edgar’

For nearly five decades, J. Edgar Hoover was the face of law enforcement in the U.S., but to most Americans, the longtime Federal Bureau of Investigations director remains an enigma."J. Edgar," directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover, chronicles the FBI founder's controversial tenure as a hunter of gangsters and a collector of secrets and explores his mystery-shrouded private life, defined by a devoted relationship to his colleague Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).

Last week at Warner Bros. studio — on the stage where they shot much of the film — Eastwood, DiCaprio and Hammer spoke with The Times about Hoover's public legacy, his secrets and the future of adult dramas in contemporary Hollywood. The following is an edited excerpt of their conversation. "J. Edgar," which was written by Dustin Lance Black and also stars Naomi Watts as Hoover's trusted secretary, Helen Gandy, and Judi Dench as his imperious mother, opens Nov. 9.

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Shah Rukh Khan – The Biggest Movie Star in the World You’ve Never Heard Of

You might not expect an Indian actor to get much attention strolling past the high-end stores on Rodeo Drive. Yet as the Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan turns the corner to walk into a Beverly Hills hotel on a recent Friday afternoon, Indian nationals materialize out of nowhere to point and stare. Eager onlookers pull out cameras and take photos with him. Even gaggles of white teenage girls gawk — they don't know Khan, but there are few men who could pull off a mod jacket and jet-black ponytail so convincingly.

Brad Pitt and Will Smith may have millions of fans around the world, but Khan — or SRK to the faithful — quantifies his groupies with a few added zeros. He is the biggest movie star you’ve never heard of. And perhaps the world’s biggest movie star, period. In a country of 1.2 billion where movies are a way of life, Khan delights fans with romance, comedy and action, sometimes all in the same movie. (This is Bollywood, after all.)

The actor had come to Los Angeles on a rare publicity trip to promote one of the most important releases of his career, “Ra.One,” which opened around the world and in a number of Southland theaters last week. With a budget estimated at $30 million, the film, directed by the veteran Anubhav Sinha, is touted as the most expensive project in Bollywood history.

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Avant Garde Cinema Flourishes in the Shadow of Hollywood

In January 1943 the Russian-born poet, essayist, former radical and future filmmaker Eleanora Deren wrote a friend that her husband, Alexander Hammid, was having a tough time finding work as a cameraman in Hollywood. The union, she wrote, was one of those “racketeer things,” though there might be a job at Paramount Pictures. “There are other prospects,” she added, “but in Hollywood prospects are a dime a dozen.” Four months later she and Hammid carved out a different future in the poetic form of “Meshes of the Afternoon,” a black-and-white, 14-minute silent film and a classic of the American avant-garde cinema that they shot a few blocks from the Sunset Strip.

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Set Design brings alive 1930s train station in Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’

Surely, any author's dream is to be able to walk into the world they've created in their book. Plenty of writers have been afforded virtually that experience as their books have been adapted to film, but perhaps no one has realized this dream so intensely as Brian Selznick when he visited the set for the Nov. 23 release "Hugo," based on his 2007 book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret."

The film — director Martin Scorsese's first geared toward a young audience — was shot on a full-scale train station set built from scratch, directly inspired by Selznick's illustrations.

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On the Set: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law talk ‘Sherlock Holmes’

This much is clear: It's 1891, a year after their first adventure, and the great English detective and Dr. Watson are facing off with Professor Moriarty, a mysterious, peripheral character from their initial blockbuster.

Ask the creative forces behind "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" for more details on the new Robert Downey Jr.movie, due in theaters Dec. 16, and you'll find tight lips. But the set here, a 40-minute train trip west from London, was rife with clues last winter.

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Next Gen 2011: Hollywood’s Fastest-Rising Stars

What is talent?

For some, in the ever-evolving business world of Hollywood, it's the ability to see potential before anyone else does. For others, it's a knack for negotiating a deal through complex industry channels. Sometimes, says Fox co-chairman Jim Gianopulos, it's "coming up with the right answer. More often, it's coming up with the right questions. … And if you're smart enough to already have the answer, that's talent."

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‘Headhunters’ Movie Blasts by ‘Transformers,’ Closes in on ‘Harry Potter’ in Norway

Headhunters, the Norwegian crime thriller based on the novel by Jo Nesbo, continues to set box office records in its home territory. This weekend Headhuntersreceipts should pass the 50 million Kroner mark  - around $9 million. That’s more than twice the $4 million earned by Transformers: The Dark Side of the Moon in the territory and puts tinyHeadhunters (budget $5 million) in a class with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, this year’s box office champ in Norway with a total take of $11 million.

In terms of admissions, Headhunters is already the most successful film released in Norway this year, with 535,000 tickets sold. That's about 20,000 less than Potter 7.2 but ahead of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which sold 508,000 tickets in Norway. Pirates has a greater gross, however, due to higher prices for 3D tickets.

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Micro-budget film is back with Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

The history of micro-budget mainstream movies is a chequered one: for every Blair Witch Project there's a Birdemic: Shock and Terror, the famously inept 2010 homage to Hitchcock's The Birds which cost just $10,000 to make and featured horror scenes in which iffy CGI avians appeared to have been glued randomly onto the screen. The key to making a good film without spending much money seems to be in the scale: the first Paranormal Activity ($15,000) worked so brilliantly precisely because the major action utilised just a single camera setup, while Kevin Smith's Clerks ($27,000) was so tightly-focused on two adjacent New Jersey stores that one wondered where the money actually went.

Joss Whedon's forthcoming adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing looks, at first glance, like a pretty grand project. It's rare that the Bard's works find their way onto the big screen without millions being lavished on expensive location shoots, period costumes and A-list actors. Kenneth Branagh's 1993 take on the play was pretty cheap at just £8m – you can tell because there was clearly no money left over for to pay Keanu Reeves's accent coach. Michael Radford's The Merchant of Venice cost a respectable $30m in 2004.

Whedon hasn't revealed quite how much he spent on his latest film, but given it was shot in just 12 days on location at his Santa Monica home during a break from filming The Avengers, with a cast of Whedon regulars and in black and white, one suspects there will be few tears at the film-maker's local branch of Bank of America. A press release put out through Whedon's website speaks of "hilariously miniature paycheques" and a "DIY ethos". It all sounds delightfully distant from the usual Hollywood cash carousel.

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