December 13, 2018

Gal Gadot is GQ’s Woman of the Year

IsraelI actress and all-around badass Jewess role model Gal Gadot has been named GQ’s Woman of the Year. Gadot joins GQ Men of the Year Colin Kaepernick, Stephen Colbert, and Kevin Durant. GQ has been doling out this honor for 22 years and Gadot is only the fourth Woman of the Year.

Gadot is also in the news this week because according to a Page Six report, she will not sign on for a Wonder Woman sequel unless Warner Brothers dumps disgraced producer Brett Ratner. Warner Brothers denies the story.




Ellen Page Alleges Brett Ratner Subjected Her to Homophobic Comments

FILE PHOTO: Director Brett Ratner seen at the 89th Academy Awards, Oscars Vanity Fair Party in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok/File Photo

Actress Ellen Page is accusing director Brett Ratner of subjecting her to homophobic comments while on set.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Page claimed that when she was 18 years old and working attending a “meet and greet” for an upcoming film, Ratner told a woman who was 10 years older than Page, “You should f*ck her [Page] to make her realize she’s gay.”

Page went on to say in the post that she “felt violated when this happened.”

“This man, who had cast me in the film, started our months of filming at a work event with this horrific, unchallenged plea,” wrote Page. “He ‘outed’ me with no regard for my well-being, an act we all recognize as homophobic.”

Page added that Ratner made several degrading comments to the women on set and that she eventually got into an “altercation” with Ratner.

“He was pressuring me, in front of many people, to don a t-shirt with ‘Team Ratner’ on it,” wrote Page. “I said no and he insisted. I responded, ‘I am not on your team.’”

She was later “reprimanded” for how she spoke to him.

Page went on to detail how on she was sexually assaulted by someone else in the industry and how someone else made an unwanted sexual advance on her.

“My safety was not guaranteed at work,” wrote Page. “An adult authority figure for whom I worked intended to exploit me, physically.”

Page encouraged women to speak out against those who have sexually abused them.

“We’ve learned that the status quo perpetuates unfair, victimizing behavior to protect and perpetuate itself,” wrote Page. “Don’t allow this behavior to be normalized. Don’t compare wrongs or criminal acts by their degrees of severity. Don’t allow yourselves to be numb to the voices of victims coming forward. Don’t stop demanding our civil rights.”

Prior to Page’s Facebook post, Ratner had been accused by six women of sexual harassment. The Journal’s Danielle Berrin has claimed that Ratner has behaved inappropriate toward her.

Wiesenthal Center Voices ‘Distress’ After Ratner Allegations

Brett Ratner (far left) was honored at the Jewish National Fund Tree of Life dinner. Photo courtesy of Jewish National Fund

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has expressed concern about allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Hollywood producer and director Brett Ratner, who serves on its  board.

“Our Center has zero tolerance for this kind of behavior,” the center said in a Nov. 3 statement. “We are deeply distressed by these reports and we will be following the developments closely.”

The Los Angeles Times reported Nov. 1 that six women had come forward with accusations against Ratner.

“Our Center has zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.” — Wiesenthal Center statement

Wiesenthal Center Communications Director Michele Alkin said on Nov. 6 that the organization’s board plans to discuss the accusations against Ratner during a regularly scheduled meeting next week.

The center is one of at least two Jewish organizations with which Ratner has ties. He is also a supporter of Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) Alexander Muss High School in Israel. JNF honored Ratner Oct. 29 at its Tree of Life dinner.

JNF did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the allegations and its decision to honor him.

In a 2008 Journal story, writer Danielle Berrin said Ratner had made unwanted sexual advances as she attempted to interview him in his home.

In 2011, he resigned as producer of the Academy Awards after he came under fire for making an anti-gay slur during an interview.

“Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot, who is Israeli, had been scheduled to to present Ratner with the JNF award, but backed out, citing a scheduling conflict. That decision caused speculation that she was distancing herself from Ratner.

“Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, filling in for Gadot, told the JNF audience that Ratner supported her early in her career, asking nothing in return. Ratner “singlehandedly made my presence here as a director possible,” she said in presenting the award.

Ratner, who is Jewish, is one of Hollywood’s most successful filmmakers. The website of his entertainment company, RatPac Entertainment, says his films have grossed more than $2 billion. The movies include the “Rush Hour” franchise, “Horrible Bosses” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

He is one of several Jewish figures in Hollywood and other industries facing recent accusations of inappropriate behavior toward women. Others include disgraced Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein and actors Dustin Hoffman and Jeremy Piven. The allegations against Weinstein have spurred the #MeToo social-media campaign, with women recounting alleged sexual assault or undesired attention from men.

Literary editor Leon Wieseltier, journalist Mark Halperin and screenwriter James Toback have also faced accusations.

None of the allegations has led to criminal charges. Ratner, through his attorney, has disputed the accusations against him, the Los Angeles Times reported.

ADL hosts an evening of contemporary art for social change

The concept of a world without hate remains as powerful — and, alas, as elusive — as ever. As the theme of the Anti-Defamation League’s ArtWorks auction on Oct. 22, that idea brings together dozens of local artists and allows supporters of ADL’s mission to assemble for a cause. 

Like ADL’s first such gathering in 2013, this year’s “ArtWorks ADL: Justice, Advocacy & Art” reception and auction will bring artists and art lovers alike to the home of Jeanne and Tony Pritzker. More than 40 artists have donated works that will be displayed and sold, with all proceeds benefitting ADL. Event organizers are expecting more than 400 attendees.

“In its first iteration, this event was more of a ‘friendraiser,’ a fun way to get together, have a nice evening and buy some art,” said Amanda Susskind, regional director of ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region. 

The 2013 event raised $410,000, out-earning the combined totals of all ADL chapters that organized similar events. Organizers hope to at least match that amount at this year’s event.  

“I’ve heard time and again from artists, from gallery owners and from attendees how much of a win-win event this is,” said Diane Lazar, director of major gifts for ADL’s Pacific Southwest Region. “You can come to this event and be a 23-year-old attorney who is just starting out, and you’re shmoozing with somebody who has been in the art industry for dozens of years. The venue is beautiful, the art is beautiful and we’re promoting dialogue.”

Although that dialogue may not permeate the event itself, it certainly is a major reason the artists and ADL supporters will be gathering. 

The event’s theme, “Imagine a world without hate,” is the same as 2013’s, and the ADL has created a powerful 80-second video to help drive it home. The video shows contemporary men and women accessing news stories, both in newspapers and online, trumpeting the feats that reformers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Yitzhak Rabin, Matthew Shepard and Harvey Milk might have achieved had they not died prematurely. King champions immigration reform. Anne Frank wins the Nobel Prize following the success of her 12th novel. Rabin is lauded for promoting two decades of Israeli-Palestinian peace. 

“If we all stood up to bigotry,” the video concludes, “we could change history.”

“It [was] the theme of our centennial, and it resonates with the artists,” Susskind said. “The ADL fights bigotry of all kinds and in so many different ways. The theme works, so why change it?”

The 42 artists participating in ArtWorks span a variety of personal and professional backgrounds as well as artistic disciplines. They run the gamut from 23-year-old pop surrealist Otiswoods to USC Fine Arts professor Ruth Weisberg to film director and producer Brett Ratner. Twelve artists who participated in 2013 will be back for ArtWorks 2015. Joining them are artists who have been selected to participate based on their backgrounds and to make the variety as diverse as possible, according to Lazar. 

A photograph that George Legrady took at Israel’s Jaffa Gate in 1970 has been reworked into a lenticular narrative format, meaning that when a viewer walks around the image and views it from different perspectives, he sees multiple images — like a moving postcard that tells a story of past and present with three images.

Legrady shot the original image from a hotel room that cost him $2 per night. When he returned to Israel last month, much had changed visually and politically. 

“Back then, it was just dirt. Now there’s a wall around the city of Jerusalem and a luxury shopping mall attached to that wall,” said Legrady, who chairs the department of media arts and technology and is the director of the Experimental Visualization Lab at UC Santa Barbara. “Photographs are stamped with history like postcards. You can see a postcard from 40 [or] 50 years ago and right away see it has a historical and time imprint to it.”

Although he supports the ADL and the message of the evening, Legrady concedes that the theme is “utopian.”

“A world without hate would involve everyone having their own sense of being treated well and respected,” Legrady said. “That’s getting more and more challenging.” 

Two years ago, when she participated in ArtWorks 2013, Seonna Hong donated a small landscape painting. For this year’s event, she opted for a mixed-media work titled “Brightness and Contrast.” Because the piece contains bright colors and children at play, the artist felt its hopefulness was appropriate for this event.

In contemplating themes of hope and the absence of hate, Hong — an Emmy Award-winning production designer — considered the perspective of her young daughter, Tiger Lily.

“I’m an Asian woman, and I would say the most surprising thing when you’re on the inside looking out is that you don’t know why people are treating you differently,” Hong said. “Now I have a half-Asian daughter and I look at her and I think in some ways she’s got it easier and in some ways it’s harder, and she’s straddling more worlds and more cultures because of what her makeup is.”  

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Ratner and Diddy, Wolpe and Hitchens, the pocketbook and the soul

Brett Ratner

The Brett Ratner cover story was so telling on so many levels (“Just a Nice Jewish Director,” Oct. 24). It was telling of the young female writer in that the very superficiality that she suggests has plagued Ratner’s career (the decadence of his home and lifestyle, name-dropping who’s in his cell phone, his playboy image) is exactly what her article indulges in.

Nowhere in the article is there any extensive discussion or exploration of Ratner’s movies (aside from naming them in passing), which is very unfair to this young and accomplished filmmaker. Of course, that’s expected, as Ratner’s body of work, which — box office grosses aside — is not really worthy of extensive discussion.

And yet, that in itself is very telling of The Journal, which has devoted a cover story to this filmmaker, when so many worthier Jewish filmmakers who are true mensches (Sam Raimi? Sidney Lumet?) have yet to get a cover story.

The Journal, simply put, is more enamored with shallow Hollywood power, pretension and materialism than the writer of this piece is. It would be akin to a credible black publication sticking Diddy on its cover — hell, he’s young, black, filthy rich and successful. Who cares if he has absolutely nothing to say in his work?

Jacob Kurtzberg
Thousand Oaks

Conscience or Pocketbook?

As a Jewish Democrat, I have heard repeatedly the question asked by political pundits as to why Jews vote with their conscience for Democrats, instead of with their pocketbook for Republicans (“The Debates Won’t Matter,” Oct. 3).

This year, I am pleased to note that my vote for a Democrat will care for both my conscience and my pocketbook.

Martin A. Brower
Corona del Mar

Soul Searching

I would like to thank Gary Wexler for sharing with us his own “soul searching” in regards to what his responsibility is toward his mother (“Soul Searching,” Oct. 24). As one who sees many families struggling with end-of-life decisions, I certainly recognize his angst.

I suggest that he was given a gift by his mother when she gave him a directive by expressing her thoughts while on the 405 years ago. By hearing her, he can be guided if confronted with difficult choices.

At the same time, I personally feel uncomfortable with describing her now as “without her full soul.” I suggest that this reference, which can understandably be perceived, as changes in quality of life, are best attributed to losses in the mind/brain and not to the soul.

While the mind/brain in an “Alzheimer’s victim” can be understood to have decreased function, I believe the soul remains unchanged and eternal. If, as his friend beautifully describes, the essence of the soul can be passed on to others, then like love the soul itself need not be diminished.

Kenneth Leeds, M.D.
Beverly Hills


The so-called quarrel between Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi David Wolpe is no more than a sideshow, complete with sophistic books and $45 theater tickets (“Religion: The ‘First and Worst’ Explanation” and “We Were Intended by God — Not Afterthoughts,” Oct. 24).

In one corner, the alternately smug, smarmy and snarling Hitchens; in the other, the put-upon, poetic and pastoral Wolpe. Neither, apparently, has much understanding of science, Wolpe less than Hitchens; neither admits to the inconvenient truth that faith is just that, faith, an unarguable irrationality.

Rather than manufacture a conflict between faith and science, Hitchens and Wolpe would do well to engage the philosopher Sir Karl Popper (e.g. “Dialectica 32:342, 1978”) and the Nobel laureate biologist Sir Peter Medawar (“The Limits of Science,” 1984). Science and religion ask and answer very different, nonoverlapping questions.

Science does not make assertions about ultimate questions: How did it all begin (before Planck Scale)? What purpose do we serve? How will it all conclude?
Answers to such neither arise out of nor require validation by emperical evidence. Thus, it is meaningless to argue whether these answers are true or false, unless, of course, you want to sell books and collect speaking fees.

In the spirit of teshuvah, I invite Hitchens and Wolpe to audit my graduate class of 20 years on the epistemology and ethos of bioscience. There will, of course, be no charge.

Dr. Michael Melnick,
Professor, Developmental Genetics

Both Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi David Wolpe are wrong in their arguments about creation. Time is a human measurement of movement and not a dimension of reality. The universe is an all-inclusive system in motion.

Thus any motion of the universe determines its next motion, hence, it is not a universe in chaos as argued by Hitchens, but one of cause and effect, deterministic to infinity. The complexity of the universe as shown by science, from the human body to subatomic physics to astronomy, makes it self-evident that the big bang was caused by some intelligent force.

Wolpe is wrong when he argues we have free will and, by inference of religion, there is a personal god. Free will is an illusion. If a stick being carried down white water rapids in a river were to suddenly gain consciousness, it would think it was directing itself through the rapids, rather than realizing the rapids was directing it. The stick, as all things in the universe and the universe itself, is a movement of cause and effect. We humans like to see ourselves as observers of the universe, rather than what we are, a part of the universe.

The purpose of a human is simply being a human in a moving universe.

Leon M. Salter
Los Angeles

Just a nice Jewish director: Public and private images of Brett Ratner clash

I’ve been cornered downstairs in the gold lamé disco basement at Brett Ratner’s house and he’s hitting on me.

His insistence suggests he’s accustomed to getting his way with this, and I’m trying not to think about the surroundings — a wealthy bachelor’s lavish playpen, which quite conspicuously insinuates sex.

“Can we go on a date?” Ratner asks, drawing closer. “My mom loves you.”

He doesn’t seem to care that I’m a journalist on assignment or that when he offered to give me a tour of his Benedict Canyon manse, I was thrilled to explore the architecture: a Tudor-style estate designed by Hoover Dam architect Gordon Kaufman.

I push him away and tell him I’m seeing someone, but he insists that shouldn’t matter since I’m not yet married.

“I really want to pursue you,” he says in his soft, almost effeminate voice. “When are we going out? I like you. Are you gonna make me wait? Don’t make me wait.”

Not like he made me wait. I first met Ratner at American Jewish University back in March, when he was presenting a lucky screenwriter with the $10,000 Bruce Geller screenwriting prize. He ordered me a cocktail and gave me his phone number. I texted him a few weeks later, asking for an interview. “Do I get a date with that?” he replied. When he guest-edited the summer edition of Heeb Magazine, appropriately titled, “The Notorious Issue” (and, also appropriately, featuring the “first-ever Jewish swimsuit calendar” with Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli), I texted again — to no avail.

I had just about given up when, lunching with a few friends, I saw him pacing through the M Café parking lot, talking on his cell phone. He seemed less intimidating, wearing baggy jeans that left half his behind exposed. Choosing not to interrupt his conversation (which he later told me was with Oliver Stone), I sent him one last message, hijacking his favorite mantra as a final plea: “Don’t take no for an answer.” He has often told the story of how in high school he wrangled his way onto Brian DePalma’s “Scarface” set, then into NYU film school and ultimately, Hollywood.

“OK!!” he wrote back. “Be at my house at 7 p.m.” and gave me his address.

Ratner is hardly unusual as a successful Hollywood director with a bad-boy reputation. At just 39, his eight feature films — including the popular “Rush Hour” franchise, starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan; “X-Men: The Last Stand,” a Marvel Comics adaptation; and “Red Dragon,” adapted from Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter series — have grossed more than $1 billion and earned their director a $7.5 million-per-picture paycheck. Despite the fact that this feat places him in the company of only a handful of directors who’ve reached this milestone before the age of 40, it’s the slimmer side of Ratner’s renown. To the director’s dismay, he is probably more famous for his jet-setting lifestyle: bacchanalian parties, beautiful girlfriends and power-player comrades. To the press, Ratner is fond of complaining that he is the most misunderstood director in Hollywood.

Ratner is the first to admit his public image trumps his talent profile. “I think I’m probably the most misunderstood person,” he told me when we sat down to talk at his house one night last August. “I don’t drink; I don’t do drugs. Do I like to have fun? Yeah. Do I like to enjoy myself, enjoy my life? Yeah. But I’m not a decadent person. I’m not into dark stuff. I’m just a nice Jewish kid from Miami Beach who loves movies and pretty girls.”

Ratner may think of himself as a nice Jewish boy, but in gossip rags he is routinely depicted as a devil-may-care narcissist with proclivities toward womanizing and decadent behavior. In the mainstream press, his work as a filmmaker is often assailed, criticism that he has categorically dismissed. “Critics are snobs,” he told The Miami Herald in August 2007. “People like [Roman Polanski] know that it’s easier to make a pretentious art movie than a movie that makes f—ing $500 million.”

Despite his grievance with the press, Ratner praises Scott Foundas of LA Weekly as “the only journalist who got me” for his profile that said, “Brett Ratner is a talented filmmaker who deserves to be taken seriously,” suggesting that the ruthless criticism he’s engendered may come because people are jealous of Ratner “enjoying his life too much.”

If Ratner comes off as arrogant, it’s probably because at a young age, he has amassed all the glory Hollywood can bestow — wealth, fame, powerful friends. Still, he is denied the artistic legitimacy that would justify his meteoric rise to the upper echelons of Hollywood. It must hurt that when people hear about the company he keeps — Warren Beatty, Robert Evans, Oliver Stone, Francis Ford Coppola — the typical reaction is, “Why him?”

Before I met him, I had heard all of this. But I also knew about his Judaism — surely the least scintillating part of Ratner’s persona but perhaps the most accessible. Understanding Ratner as a yeshiva-educated, high-school-in-Israel alum, who is also the youngest member of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Board of Trustees, led me to believe there might be more to Brett Ratner than could fit his narrow Hollywood image. Could he be a playboy party animal who secretly craves monogamy? Does he enjoy making blockbusters — or does he dream of directing the next “Schindler’s List”? Is he a self-important megalomaniac or a hard-working artist who is living his childhood dream?

More importantly, does Ratner himself know?

“I always knew I was gonna be making films because it was the only thing I was thinking about 24 hours a day,” he says. “My dream was not to be in Hollywood. My dream was to make movies.”

The first person I meet when I arrive at Ratner’s house is his mother. Visiting from New York, she sits in the living room of Hilhaven Lodge, talking on the phone in her slightly nasal, Miami-New York inflection. She appears striking in this classic setting, dressed in a yellow cashmere cardigan and art deco frames — her youthful contrivances recall that, having given birth to Ratner out of wedlock at age 16, her own youth was cut short.

Ratner grew up on Miami Beach, where, beginning in preschool, he attended RASG Hebrew Academy until he was expelled in the eighth grade for touching a female classmate. He proudly claims he was kicked out for “negiyah.” During his youth, Ratner’s young mother was more like a sister to him, while his Cuban Jewish maternal grandparents, Mario and Fanita Pressman, raised him. Since Ratner didn’t meet his biological father until he was 16, he called high-powered Miami attorney Al Malnik (a multimillionaire entrepreneur best known for having represented mobster Meyer Lansky) his father. Malnik had a formidable influence on Ratner: “If I wasn’t a director, I’d definitely be a gangster. I’d have to use my street smarts. But with gangsters, money is their God, and I don’t know if I would kill people,” Ratner said.

The well-known story that follows is: After sweet-talking his way onto the “Scarface” set, Ratner dropped out of high school to attend NYU film school, where he was initially rejected for poor grades but eventually managed to charm the dean, who admitted him. Desperate for cash to finish his student film, he sent request letters to many Hollywood directors but only one responded — Steven Spielberg, with a check for $1,000.

“I always knew he would be famous,” his mother, Marsha Ratner-Pratts, tells me, gleaming.

Channeling the vestiges of glamour that haunt the house like wild spirits, Ratner-Pratts does her best to fit in. The house has a storied past — from residents Ingrid Bergman to Alan Carr (producer of “Grease”) — and its current inhabitant ensures its continuing relevance. Traipsing around here might mean an encounter with a canon of Hollywood legends — from Ratner’s close friends, Beatty, Evans and Russell Simmons, to the glamorous younger stars who show up for his parties, Penelope Cruz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Paris Hilton and Jay-Z. But screen legends begone, on this ordinary evening in August, the reigning queen of Hilhaven Lodge is a Jewish mother — and she lets her son get away with everything.

The scene in Ratner’s bedroom is a microcosm of his life. There’s a filmmaker who needs a favor, a student looking for work, assistants carrying out orders and writer-director James Toback, screenwriter of “Bugsy,” lying on the couch, oscillating in and out of consciousness.

When I first greet Ratner, there’s a queue of people ahead of me, all needing something. And he makes everyone wait their turn, because they will.

“Didn’t I see you today?” Ratner asks, recognizing me not as the journalist who’s been pestering him for an interview but as the blonde who passed him on the street after lunch.

His mother shows me some photographs lining the bottom shelf of his bookcase: a portrait of her when she was young, another from Ratner’s film school graduation and many with his celebrity friends, Dino De Laurentiis, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson.

“That’s Brett’s girlfriend,” she says, pointing to a picture of her son with an exotic, dark-haired beauty. This gets the director’s attention.

“No, we broke up!” Ratner cuts in, placing the framed photograph back on the shelf. “I can’t marry her. She’s not Jewish.”

He points out his book collection on the other side of the bookshelf, noting the values.

“These are all photographs of people having sex in parks,” Ratner announces, poring over his collection of art books. He picks out a limited-edition volume by Ed Ruscha, which he values at $5,000.

“This is like $100,000 in books right here,” he says, sweeping his arm across the bookcase.

Ratner’s taste in art and photography is undeniably highbrow. His shelves teem with examples: Leni Riefenstahl’s “1936,” Alessandro Bertolotti’s “Book of Nudes,” Fellini’s “Mirror of Venus,” Picasso, architect Jean Prouvé, French photographer Guy Bourdin. Andy Warhol’s General Mao portrait dangles in various iterations throughout the house. (Asked why he chose the Mao, he exclaims, “It’s Andy Warhol! The greatest artist who ever lived.”) Splayed across his bed is a collection of Helmut Newton photographs, a recent gift from the artist’s widow.

“She gave these to you?” his mother asks, incredulous.

After tending to everyone else first, Ratner is finally ready to talk. He sits on the couch along the far window of the room, in between Toback and a film student whom he’s meeting for the first time. He leans back and rests his face in his hands, legs propped up on the ottoman, just a few feet shy of his bed.

He turns toward Toback and talks about me as if I weren’t there: “I saw her today, and I wanted to chase her down the street.”

“You don’t chase after girls,” I counter.

“You I would chase ’cause you look like a WASP,” Ratner says, as if that were supposed to flatter me. “What’s the point of this article? Is it about Judaism?” Ratner asks.

I tell him that I’m interested in Jews who work in Hollywood.

“Jews used to run Hollywood,” Toback chimes in. “But what we see now is the diminishing of Jews in power.”

Toback proceeds to rattle off the names of media moguls.

“Rupert Murdoch, not a Jew; Bob Iger, not a Jew ….”

(For the record: Iger, head of The Walt Disney Co., is a Jew.)

“Walt Disney hated Jews,” Ratner says.

“Sumner Redstone is a Jew, but he’d probably like not to be, since his real name is Sumner Rothstein, but he is a Jew, so that’s one, but then Kerkorian — well, Kerkorian is out of the business now. There are so few f—ing places with Jews left. Oh and Sony,” Toback adds.

I mention Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“I’m talking about the corporate control,” Toback fires. “Amy Pascal is an employee — the people who can fire Amy Pascal.”

“The Jews have lost ownership of the movie business,” Toback claims.

Ratner tries to change the subject: “Let’s make a list of the most powerful Jewish directors,” he jokes.

As a kid who grew up in love with “old Hollywood,” Ratner’s passion for movies is unbridled and nostalgic. He talks about “Scarface” and “Raging Bull” as if they were spiritually enlightening. He reveres the auteur-driven cinema of Martin Scorsese, Coppola and Spielberg, the so-called “movie brats” of 1970s Hollywood, whose film school education graduated them from being mere directors to “filmmakers.” In a way, Ratner is a love child of the cinematic revolution that they started, but he works in a changed industry.

“I love old Hollywood because old Hollywood, for one, was run by Jews. Two, the people who ran the studios were the guys who bought the first pencil for their company. That’s what I loved about New Line [Cinema], dealing with Bob Shaye — if I need some money for my film, I get a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ directly from a guy who owns the company and bought the first pencil,” he says. “Now it’s become such a corporate kind of conglomerate business.”

The irony is that Ratner is a prize in today’s Hollywood, when only four out of every 10 films turn a profit, according to the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers, banking at the box office makes you something of an idol. Unlike the maverick filmmakers of the ’70s who started a countercultural shift with the kinds of movies they made, Ratner works in an industry where films that pander to the lowest common denominator often have the widest appeal and make the most money.

“Look, I make big, commercial Hollywood films so I’m very lucky to do that, but the business is completely changing, and I’m very old fashioned. I revere guys like Jim [Toback], who are legendary in Hollywood, and Warren Beatty and Bob Evans, because they’ve seen it all and survived in a different system. They were the mavericks, the rebels of the business,” he says.

“You can’t really become that anymore, because it’s a different world. Bob Shaye was the last of those guys. Now the film companies are so big, the business is so big, the cost of making movies is so big. You can’t have your own personality. You have to be part of a system.”

Ratner’s edgy artistic tastes contrast with his mainstream work as a director. At first, it might seem that his penchant for high culture somehow belies the sensibilities that define his own artistic expression. Considering the movies he makes, his highbrow interests are confounding; his favorite films are the product of an elite film school education, and the art and photography he owns are indicative of a sophisticated eye. Even his home, far from being an overwrought “McMansion,” is instead an architectural gem.

And while art collecting is common in Hollywood — both because it can be a good investment and enhances social caché — Ratner’s interest in art represents his own educated taste. So while nary a room in his house is without a nude photo, Ratner’s interest is not necessarily in the pornographic, so much as the erotic. In other words, he is a connoisseur of the best of what’s popular, not lowbrow. And it’s a mistake to assume that because his movies are commercially successful they lack artistic sophistication.

“I happen to have a commercial sensibility, because my interests happen to be the interests of the mainstream audiences. It’s because I am a student of urban culture, which became pop culture,” Ratner says.

He attributes the development of those sensibilities as a filmmaker to growing up during the zeitgeist of the street culture explosion, when hip-hop began taking root as a cultural phenomenon. He credits his friend Simmons for mainstreaming that culture and marketing it through the creation of Def Jam Records.

“Everything black was always cool,” he says. “When I was a kid, the black kids were always the coolest kids — the kids who knew how to dance, the fastest runners; they knew how to fight, they were athletic, they had the coolest clothes. I took all my bar mitzvah money and went and bought the entire line of Fila.”

But, he says, “I didn’t want to be black. I wasn’t one of those white kids acting black. I knew who I was.”

The notion that urban culture informs Ratner’s work also supports his belief that being a good director has less to do with content and more to do with style.

“The films I loved, you know, were not the films that I necessarily would make.” Ratner explains. “The best filmmakers have a point of view. I see movies that have no style, no personality, no charm, no individuality, no whatever. They could be directed by anybody.”

“What I’m proud of is that I have friends that admire my work, like him [points to Toback] and friends like Polanski and even Warren that recognize it,” he says. “Because directors aren’t snobs; they’re critics. Directors recognize a good movie when they see one — a well-made movie, a movie with great performances. They don’t care about the genre. We know how hard it is to make a movie that works.”

Ratner has a point. During a time when independent films are drowning at the box office and critically acclaimed filmmakers can’t get financing for their films, the ability to make a movie that sells has trumped artistry.

But as a cinephile, Ratner also knows that there’s more to moviemaking than nine figures — “If I compared myself to Steven Spielberg, I wouldn’t be a happy person.”

Full of contradictions, Ratner is both self-satisfied and frustrated. He is a grand self-promoter who name-drops heavyweights in Hollywood almost every other sentence. But he also seems desperate to be taken seriously by all the people and the press who, because of his playboy reputation, continue to dismiss him as the flavor of the month. This has been the most challenging piece of Ratner’s otherwise glorious reign in modern Hollywood.

“The hardest lesson that I’ve learned is that somehow my public image affects the opinions of my work, which is crazy because my work is my work. My public life is my public life. If I choose to date every girl in this town, which I don’t do, but I’m saying if I chose to … ” he says, having trouble finishing the rest of his thought.

“I don’t judge people. But because I have some image thing, people would say, ‘Oh, will they not take me seriously?'”

His voice trails off, and, for a moment, I wonder if Ratner, who calls himself “a pathologically positive person,” is allowing himself to be vulnerable.

“The people who are real filmmakers — real producers like Brian Grazer and Chuck Roven, the producer of “Batman” — these guys all want to work with me ’cause they don’t give a s— about my personal life.”

If it’s true that Ratner has impressed the most important people in the movie business and if his films continue to top box office charts, he’s likely to have staying power. At the same time, Hollywood is a fickle industry, and Ratner’s overconfidence may be masking his own fear of failure.

“My movies are just movies that people want to go see,” he says, even though he admits eventual failure is “guaranteed.”

Ratner views his success as the product of hard work. To succeed in Hollywood, he says, it’s more important to be self-aware and know your limitations. He even has a formula: “I always say, you could have 90 percent talent and 10 percent effort, and you’ll be less successful than someone with 90 percent effort and 10 percent talent.” He doesn’t aspire to be the best director in the world but promises he’ll work harder than the best director in the world.

“I’m blessed for one reason: Because I knew what I wanted to do my whole life, and it wasn’t because I read stories about directors getting laid. It wasn’t about the wealth and the Hollywood of it all, the bulls—. I don’t give a s— if the biggest stars in the world are all hanging in my living room at a party. They’ll all be there, and I’ll be sitting in the back having a conversation about filmmaking. I care about filmmakers,” he says.

Some could argue that Ratner’s passion for moviemaking is what keeps him grounded amidst the whirlwind of his success. Others might suggest it’s his family and friends. His maternal grandparents currently live in the guesthouse of Hilhaven Lodge, and it has been suggested that in the absence of his biological father, Ratner has engaged in relationships with older, male friends — paternal types — as a substitute.

“If you’re not down-to-earth, everything starts to fall apart because you start to believe the hype. You get self-involved, and then you become an asshole, and then people just want to see you fail,” Ratner admits.

There’s also Ratner’s strong Jewish identity. Though he says he is no longer observant, he also says “the discipline, the praying, the culture, the Jewish law, everything that I’ve learned is what grounded me and made me the person I am today.”

He considers himself pro-Israel. He counts Marvin Hier as his Los Angeles rabbi. And every now and then, he enjoys putting on tefillin with Ron Perelman in Perelman’s private chapel in New York.

“I’m not religious anymore, but I’m still spiritual,” he says. “I realized God loves me if I’m religious or not. The truth is, I believe in God. I fear God. I’m very close to my family; I love the Jewish customs and traditions — I have mezuzahs on every door.”

What he’s missing is feeling connected to a Jewish community. He says there are too many self-hating Jews in Hollywood.

Those are the last thoughts he shares seriously, before asking if I think my parents will like him. A bit restless, he offers to show me around Hilhaven Lodge.

“Where’s my journalist?” Ratner shouts after our house tour. I’m enjoying a moment’s reprieve in the bar adjacent to the living room, wondering why someone who doesn’t drink has enough alcohol to supply a West Hollywood nightclub — for six months. Ratner’s filmmaker-friend, Jeff Vespa, who recently screened his short film, “Nosebleed,” at the Cannes Film Festival, has come to show it tonight for Ratner’s feedback. The director insists I sit next to him for the screening, which a group of 10 watches on his state-of-the-art home-theater projection system. Ratner drapes his arm around me and tries to hold my hand. Usually, I can confidently extricate myself from unpleasant situations, but here, admittedly, I failed.

Compelled to entertain while he has a captive audience, Ratner decides he is going to play one of my favorite films, Albert Lamorisse’s “The Red Balloon,” and I’m tempted to stay. But his advances are increasing, and although flattering, I’m sensing the interview is over — and if I don’t want my shoes winding up in the “ex-girlfriend” section of his mahogany walk-in closet (beneath the high-couture gowns), it’s time to go.

His assistant summons him to the bedroom, where she is packing his suitcase for an early morning departure to Paris. Seizing an exit opportunity, I leave the red balloon swirling through the streets of Paris and collect my belongings. Because, while Ratner is many things, he is not someone you can say “no” to easily. I didn’t say no to Ratner. I told him, “Thank you” and “goodbye.”

Then, I put this story to rest for a while.

Months later, contemplating Ratner is still mystifying for me. After spending time with him, clearly he’s earned his reputation as a Hollywood lothario, but it also seems somehow calculated — as if Ratner (like his friend Paris Hilton) has created an image to project that he believes the public wants — an image that sells. And he’s a hero to Jewish boys everywhere who, relying on talent and smarts, realize they don’t have to look like Brad Pitt to be a king in Hollywood. In truth, Ratner is more than his sum reputation, and trying to figure him out means accepting all the contradictory facets of his personality.

Yet, Ratner probably knows himself better than we think.

“I never thought about being rich, having a big house — all I thought about was making movies. The cars — all this s—, all this s— can go. If I can still make movies, I don’t give a s—, all this s—, all my books, all my art, I don’t care. I just have it because it’s the benefit of being successful.”

“If you’re in it for the wrong reasons,” he added. “You won’t last.”