The Directors: Brett Ratner, ‘Tower Heist’

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

It didn’t take long for Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) to fleece investors out of countless millions. Transforming Shaw’s Ponzi scheme into “Tower Heist” proved a bit more time-consuming.

Envisioned six years ago by Eddie Murphy as an all-black take on “Ocean’s Eleven” (with a hoped-for supporting cast of Chris Rock, Chris Tucker, Dave Chappelle and Jamie Foxx), “Tower Heist,” directed by Brett Ratner, slowly evolved into a multi-ethnic ensemble drama about the staff of a luxury high-rise trying to recover their pilfered pension from a penthouse-dwelling swindler.

In the film that opens Nov. 4, Ben Stiller plays Josh Kovacs, the manager of a Manhattan apartment tower where the average digs run $5.6 million. When Kovacs learns that Shaw boosted his colleagues’ savings and may have stashed $20 million somewhere in his home, he enlists three co-workers (Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe), a down-on-his-luck tenant (Matthew Broderick) and a none-too-slick thief (Murphy, playing a lesser role than first imagined) to turn the tables on the well-heeled thief.


As rewritten by “Ocean’s” scribe Ted Griffin and Ratner’s frequent “Rush Hour” collaborator Jeff Nathanson (the story is by Adam Cooper and Bill Collage), “Tower Heist” aims to mix quick-riff comedy with high-altitude thrills. “I wanted it to be really reminiscent of a 1970s heist film — ‘The Hot Rock,’ ‘The Anderson Tapes.’ It’s character-driven, not just about some guys stealing something,” said Ratner, who recently signed on to co-produce next year’s Academy Awards.

“I love the tone of it — that’s what I’m most proud of,” said the director, whose last feature was 2007’s “Rush Hour 3.” “It’s the most exciting thing I’ve done.”