Brian Grazer has long toiled over the heist comedy that director Brett Ratner told Deadline is “the quintessential New York heist movie, where a bunch of blue collar employees in a tower building pull off the ultimate heist.” After more than four years of development that saw the likes of Donald Trump and Eddie Murphy sign on and off, Universal Pictures has green lit Imagine Entertainment’s Tower Heist and set a November start date in the Big Apple.
Ratner will direct from a script that has been touched by the golden fingers of some of the industry’s most respected scribes, including Russell Gerwitz (Inside Man), Leslie Dixon (The Thomas Crown Affair), Noah Baumbach (Greenberg) and Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can). Ben Stiller will star as the overworked manager of a luxury building who, along with other staff, lost their pensions to a Bernie Madoff-like Wall Street crook who happens to be under house arrest – in the penthouse upstairs. A motley crew of maintenance men, led by manager Stiller, plan an elaborate heist to get even.
Tower Heist has generated so much buzz over the years that it’s hard to not get excited about it. I’m on board with the entire creative team except for Ratner, who I think of more as a producer than a director these days. The last film he helmed was 2007’s Rush Hour 3, which came a year after he tarnished the X-Men series with The Last Stand. Neither inspires much confidence, but the man does know a thing or two about heist-comedies (most of his films include both, from Money Talks to After The Sunset), so having him return to familiar territory is about as reassuring as it’s going to get.
Additionally, Ratner told the source that he hopes this partnership with Imagine/Universal will continue with Playboy, the company’s long-gestating Hugh Hefner biopic that is infinitely more interesting than what he’s currently cooking.