New York, I Love You: Brett Ratner in Central Park

New York I Love You

Brett Ratner’s segment of “New York, I Love You” stars James Caan, Anton Yelchin, and Olivia Thirlby. The film, whose concept was created by Emmanuel Benihby, is being release October 16, 2009 by Vivendi Entertainment.

When the neighborhood pharmacist (Academy Award nominee James Caan, THE GODFATHER, MISERY) suggests an enthusiastic and recently heartbroken teenager (Anton Yelchin, CHARLIE BARTLETT, STAR TREK) take his beautiful daughter (Olivia Thirlby, JUNO) to the prom, he is in for a night of wild surprises in Central Park. Upon meeting her, the boy is surprised to find she is in a wheelchair.

Undeterred, he escorts her to the prom, but when they are forced to walk home through the park, the night will shift into a magical, romantic mode, that will make a perfect dream come true. This youth-charged view of New York comes from leading American director Brett Ratner, who made his debut with the major action hit RUSH HOUR, starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker – and has since directed two more RUSH HOUR movies. Other notable films from Ratner include the third movie in the X-Men series, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND; THE RED DRAGON with Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes; and AFTER THE SUNSET with Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek. He also produced the hit television series “Prison Break.” Ratner brought with him the Polish director of photography Pawel Edelman (an Academy Award nominee for THE PIANIST) to shoot his segment.

It was Ratner who first approached Emmanuel Benbihy, having heard about the project from his friend, Yvan Attal. Benbihy loved the idea of involving a dynamic, action-oriented director from within Hollywood. “I like that he has a style that represents the vein of current American cinema, and at the same time he’s a very sharp and talented director,” says Benbihy. “It’s also nice to have this burst of American comedy right next to some of these more poetic pieces. It’s surprising and light and a lot of fun. Brett was really excited to join this project and he brought a great deal of energy and moviemaking knowledge to the process.”

Ratner, who made a number of innovative short films before becoming one of Hollywood’s leading directors, loved the down-and-dirty filmmaking style of NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU. “I loved that there were rules and parameters, that you could only shoot for two days, which for me was a lot of fun,” Ratner says. “It was such a completely opposite experience from doing something epic and vast like X-MEN, where you have to walk in knowing exactly what you want. Here I was free to experiment. There was something liberating about it, but also very challenging in its own way.”

He developed his story with his longtime screenwriting partner, Jeff Nathanson (RUSH HOUR 3, THE TERMINAL, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN), based on a tale of youthful indiscretion he admits is semiautobiographical. “The story is part autobiographical, part urban legend,” Ratner quips. “But what I like about it is that it is different in tone from all the other pieces. In a movie about love, you want to both laugh and cry, and I was excited to go for the laugh. I’ve always been drawn to movies that capture a feeling of youth and I wanted to bring that kind of quality.”

Marina Grasic believes that Ratner’s segment does just that: “Brett brings in the youngest characters in the movie and explores what I’ve since learned is a surprisingly common experience in New York – Central Park moments of sexuality and love. One of the wonderful surprises for us of this shoot was Olivia Thirlby who was so in control of her character and worked beautifully with Anton Yelchin. They nailed all the awkwardness and humor in the story.”

As a native New Yorker, Thirlby says she was thrilled to be part of NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU. “I was already a big fan of PARIS JE T’AIME, so I was excited at the prospect of participating,” she says. Once on the set, things became even more interesting. Thirlby continues: “Brett and I had a wonderful working relationship because we both like to use improvisation. We worked together to try to make our piece as sweet and funny as possible, and hoped that the audience would be as charmed by its silliness as we were.”

Surprisingly, this segment of NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU involved some of the greatest logistical challenges. It turns out that when shooting in Central Park, the City of New York strictly prohibits the touching of greenery and trees – which meant that the production had to haul in their own tree for a key sequence.

Thirlby says: “For me personally, the biggest challenge was having to shoot that scene in cold March weather wearing a thin cocktail dress!” Sums up Ratner: “In some ways everything that could go wrong in the two days of our shoot, did go wrong! But it was exciting to try to be ambitious within that framework. In the end, I was so happy with the casting and the way it all came together. I love that our funny story fits inside this eclectic form of storytelling.”

Mr. Riccoli JAMES CAAN
Ex-Girlfriend BLAKE LIVELY
Director of Photography PAWEL EDELMAN