He's directed blockbuster movies like Rush Hour and X-Men: The Last Stand, but when filmmaker Brett Ratner isn't behind a camera, he's likely proofreading galley pages. Ratner has the publishing bug so bad he's launched his own book imprint, Rat Press, with plans to release a series of film-related books beginning in the spring.
Starting later this month, Rat Press will publish new editions of several classic but out-of-print titles by Lawrence Grobel, including Conversations with Robert Evans, a 1993 book-length interview with the notorious film producer that includes new material, and Conversations with Marlon Brando, a much-reprinted 1978 interview. In September, Rat Press will release filmmaker James Toback's Jim: The Author's Self-Centered Memoir on the Great Jim Brown, a quirky and probing book-length interview/essay on the football and movie star that was originally published in 1971. Later this year, Rat Press will publish Scott Caan: Photographs, an original book and the first volume of several collections of photographs by Caan, the actor/director/photographer and son of actor James Caan.
The prose books are small paperbacks, stylishly designed by Matthew Eberhart, and each title will have a 3,000-copy printing, except Caan's, which will have 3,500 copies. Distribution is by Perseus.
Ratner said he wants to rescue out-of-print books that inspired him as a young NYU film student. “Certain books I'd read over and over—the Brando is my favorite, or the Jim Brown book,” he said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “Life-experience books, books that evoke a kind of fantasy world about Hollywood at a certain time.” Ratner has done a bit of informal publishing already. In 1999, he published Mark Helfrich's Naked Pictures of My Ex-Girlfriends, and in 2003, he published his own book, Hill Haven Lodge: The Photo Book Pictures, a collection of photos taken in an old photo booth at Ratner's estate.
Publishing a list is demanding (“I'm hands-on and didn't realize how much work it would be”), but he's in it for the long haul, he says. He wants to bring Jerry Lewis's The Total Filmmaker back into print, and there's a novel on his next list (“a coming-of-age story by a guy from Miami, where I'm from”) that he plans to develop into a film. “I want to continue to do this and build a staff,” Ratner said. “I think books make the best movies, and I've worked on every inch of these books. I'm very proud of them.”