Sure, Brett Ratner is a big-time Hollywood director now. But the Los Angeles big shot doesn’t forget where he came from. He can’t.
He thinks about his home of Miami Beach all the time.
“It’s emotional whenever I come here,” Ratner says from his favorite local joint, the Athens Juice Bar in North Miami Beach. “I fly in and drive over the Julia Tuttle Causeway and get that feeling, like I’ve arrived. I’m going to this place with so many experiences of my life. My history. I’m such a Miami guy.”
The Miami Beach Senior High graduate was in town to launch The Hilhaven Lodge whiskey, named after his sprawling Beverly Hills mansion once owned by a famed real estate mogul and numerous movie stars.
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Memories? Boy, does he have a few.
“Growing up here is fascinating and unique. It’s such an eclectic and diverse group of people, whether they’re imported or not. I mean, I lived next door to Meyer Lansky [at the Imperial House]. He used to walk his dog, and I rode my bike next to him. We would talk for hours.”
Despite a case of homesickness, the man behind such blockbusters as Rush Hour (1, 2 and 3) and X Men: The Last Stand, does have some family around. More than a decade ago, the famous bachelor moved his grandparents out to the West Coast.
“I was living there in this giant house and said, ‘This is crazy. I’m not married. I need to share this with somebody,’” the 47-year-old remembers.
Though Ratner’s grandfather, renowned radiologist Mario Presman, died in 2014, his glam-ma — aka Princess Fanita — is still living it up at Hilhaven.
“She’s 93 and comes to every one of my parties,” Ratner says. “She has her own Instagram account! Everyone is obsessed with her. Kim Kardashian, Salma Hayek, Paris Hilton. They’re all like, ‘We don’t want to talk to you. Where’s your grandmother?’”
Oh, to be a fly on the wall at that house — all 35,000 square feet of it, complete with discotheque and requisite photo booth.
“It was made for entertaining,” said Ratner of the 1927 stunner first built for Hoover Dam architect Gordon Kaufmann and later owned by Ingrid Bergman, Kim Novak and James Caan. “I just happen to be the owner for this generation.”
Ratner says his booze — actually a blend of bourbon, rye and whiskey — embodies the vibe of the storied estate, whose bay windows were the model for the elegantly shaped bottle.
“I wanted to have a drink associated with the house. A place where people come to celebrate. It’s kind of a living, breathing embodiment of Hilhaven. I wanted to channel the vibe somehow of this very special place.”
Sorry, guys. Ratner says his 80-proof Hilhaven — available at 1 Hotel South Beach, The Forge, Faena and Casa Tua — is targeted more toward his female guests, like bestie, Mariah Carey.
“I want to do for whiskey what Patrón did for tequila. Make it friendly for women to sip. Our [product] is smooth. It’s phenomenal. That’s really another reason why I created it.”