Shortly after fainting from delight from reading the phrases "Brett Ratner is set to direct," "Brian Grazer is producing," and "film about the life of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner" contained in the lede of today's Variety story on the progress of a Hef biopic, a quick-thinking intern revived us with smelling salts, allowing us to read about how Hollywood's most lovable fauxteur and its leading, newly single superproducer have come to team up on the dream project. Reports Var:
Grazer optioned Hefner's life rights several years ago. The producer's "8 Mile" scribe Scott Silver tried it as a musical, and Oliver Stone developed several drafts. Making a film of Hefner's long life as icon of the sexual revolution has proven difficult, but Ratner and Hoffman found a way to do it that pleased Grazer and the 81-year-old Hefner, who approved the take late last week in a meeting at the Playboy Mansion.
Ratner, who completed "Rush Hour 3" for an Aug. 10 release through New Line and has a rep as a playboy himself, knows much about the mag's history, though his mansion visit was his first. When Grazer made his original deal with Hefner, Ratner sent the producer his Playboy pinball machine, which sits outside Grazer's office at Imagine. [...]
Hef came from a puritanical upbringing and reinvented himself to be the godfather of the sexual revolution," Ratner told Daily Variety. "He also used his magazine to advocate civil rights and free speech, and put James Brown on his show 'Playboy After Dark' when they didn't put black performers on national television. He broke all kinds of taboos, especially in sexuality. I want to show it all, from the First Amendment struggles to his first orgy to the stroke in the 1980s that almost killed him."
Perhaps the most surprising element of this thoroughly incredible story is that Ratner, whose Hillhaven Lodge aspires to be a to-scale facsimile (complete with its own randy, superannuated patriarch prowling the grounds) of the famous Mansion, had never previously visited Hefner's Xanadu. But fun tidbits like that one aside, we're encouraged by Ratner's obvious passion for his subject, an exuberance that leads us to believe that he won't have to wait for the passing of his mentor to make his long-promised Oscar film, finally leaving behind the genital-cleaving, broken-English-misunderstanding, buddy-comedy hackwork upon which he has wasted his considerable talents up to this career-validating moment.