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Brett Ratner Steps Down as Oscar Producer [UPDATE]

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 22:  General view of atmosphere at the 81st Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on February 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) Brett Ratner.

It looks like the Academy's Brett Ratner experiment has come to a close. After a torrent of bad publicity over the last week, including a notorious comment (first reported by Vulture) where Ratner said "rehearsal is for fags" at a weekend Tower Heist Q&A, THR is reporting that Ratner has decided to step down as producer of this year's Oscars telecast.

Yesterday afternoon, Academy president Tom Sherak was standing by Ratner, telling Deadline "The bottom line is, this won’t and can’t happen again. It will not happen again. He apologized and we will move forward."

Still, Sherak's statement did little to calm the calls for Ratner's ousting from online commentators and even within the membership of the Academy, according to The Wrap's Steve Pond. When taken in sum with Ratner's recent comments about actress Olivia Munn as well as his Howard Stern interview yesterday, where he discussed bedding Lindsay Lohan and a bevy of Victoria's Secret models (but only after forcing them to get tested for STDs), it became clear that Ratner had to go, "not for the original remark, but for the pure lack of discretion," one Academy member told Pond. "Once the producer becomes the story, it's not good for the Academy."

But will Oscar host Eddie Murphy stay on without Ratner? Developing...

UPDATE: "He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself," Sherak said in a statement. "Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent."

UPDATE 2: Ratner himself has now weighed in:

An Open Letter to the Entertainment Industry from Brett Ratner

Dear Colleagues,
Over the last few days, I’ve gotten a well-deserved earful from many of the people I admire most in this industry expressing their outrage and disappointment over the hurtful and stupid things I said in a number of recent media appearances. To them, and to everyone I’ve hurt and offended, I’d like to apologize publicly and unreservedly.

As difficult as the last few days have been for me, they cannot compare to the experience of any young man or woman who has been the target of offensive slurs or derogatory comments. And they pale in comparison to what any gay, lesbian, or transgender individual must deal with as they confront the many inequalities that continue to plague our world.

So many artists and craftspeople in our business are members of the LGBT community, and it pains me deeply that I may have hurt them. I should have known this all along, but at least I know it now: words do matter. Having love in your heart doesn’t count for much if what comes out of your mouth is ugly and bigoted. With this in mind, and to all those who understandably feel that apologies are not enough, please know that I will be taking real action over the coming weeks and months in an effort to do everything I can both professionally and personally to help stamp out the kind of thoughtless bigotry I’ve so foolishly perpetuated.

As a first step, I called Tom Sherak this morning and resigned as a producer of the 84th Academy Awards telecast. Being asked to help put on the Oscar show was the proudest moment of my career. But as painful as this may be for me, it would be worse if my association with the show were to be a distraction from the Academy and the high ideals it represents.

I am grateful to GLAAD for engaging me in a dialogue about what we can do together to increase awareness of the important and troubling issues this episode has raised and I look forward to working with them. I am incredibly lucky to have a career in this business that I love with all of my heart and to be able to work alongside so many of my heroes. I deeply regret my actions and I am determined to learn from this experience.

Sincerely,
Brett Ratner

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images, Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/2009 Getty Images