'Tower Heist' director apologizes for epilepsy joke
September 6th, 2011
01:36 PM ET

'Tower Heist' director apologizes for epilepsy joke

Director Brett Ratner has apologized for a joke about epilepsy that was featured in the trailer for his upcoming flick, “Tower Heist.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the mea culpa was instigated by actor Greg Grunberg, whose teenage son has epilepsy.

Former “Heroes” star Grunberg called for a boycott of the Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy film last week after seeing the trailer, which has Murphy’s character making fun of Stiller’s character over his childhood illness. He calls Stiller’s character “little seizure boy” twice.

Naturally, Grunberg let his 1.4 million Twitter followers know about the scene: “TERRIBLY OFFENSIVE TRAILER for #TowerHeist – Making fun @ people w/ seizures is NOT FUNNY & WRONG! “Seizure Boy!” REALLY? #Boycott RT,” he tweeted.

“The movie is filled with all of my favorite actors,” Grunberg told ABC News Radio. “It’s a funny concept for a movie, [but the joke is] irresponsible, ignorant and not funny.”

Ratner was listening; Grunberg’s epilepsy awareness organization TalkAboutIt.org posted on its website over the weekend that the director has apologized.

“I am so sorry you are offended. ... I sincerely feel bad,” Ratner wrote to the actor.

The organization also notes that Ratner has asked Universal Studios to pull the offensive jokes from planned television spots.

According to Twitter, Ratner has smoothed things over with Grunberg: "THANKS @BrettRatner for ur SINCERE APOLOGY to the Epilepsy Community! I'm lifting my personal boycott of ur hilarious film #TowerHeist RT," he wrote.

But Grunberg hopes Universal will get on board the apology train.

“Just for them to reach out to the epilepsy community and say, ‘We mean no personal harm to anybody,’ which of course they don’t," the actor told ABC News Radio. "They probably just don’t even realize the people they are offending and how this could possibly offend people.”

In addition to Murphy and Stiller, "Tower Heist" also stars Gabourey Sidibe, Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda and Tea Leoni.

The movie hits theaters November 4.


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soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. HACK WATCH CO.

    YOU BOTCHED THAT HACK UP TOO.....I AM SO HAPPY HE APOLOGIZED.

    June 29, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. **** because she told everyone now he will react too it as an LMAO

    heading out....bye all

    June 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rana Meola

    One of the many problems that some narcoleptics experience is cataplexy, a sudden muscular weakness brought on by strong emotions (though many people experience cataplexy without having an emotional trigger).'..*^

    Most interesting piece of content on our very own webpage <http://www.livinghealthybulletin.com

    June 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jas

    Life of an epileptic with tonic clinic seizures.
    1. Meds meds meds- they slow your brain down , memory is not that great, always need to take them on time, can never forget to take them, get plenty of sleep it's very important.
    2. No alcohol.
    3. For a woman Most of the meds can't be taken during pregnancy It's dangerous
    4. Tonic clinic seizure what happens- lose consciousness if you are standing you fall to the ground an could suffer damage from hitting your head.
    Tongue starts getting tore up to shreds and blood starts coming out of your mouth
    You deficate and urinate because you have lost complete control of your body
    You shake or convulse which will be painful on your bones and muscles for at least a week
    The cry is a sound ppl make during a clonic tonic b/c they are struggling to breathe
    . The moment it's over you usually have some type of memory loss whether it's days to years for me it was 5 yrsand it took a couple of hrs to get my memory back.
    4. Can you imagine not being able to drive after age 16 and for 2 yrs? It's hard to ask for things and be a burden.
    5. It took 30 secs which was an eternity to my sibling who saw each one to change my entire life.
    6. At 25 I had 2 random seizures , put on meds, meds were too strong for me that my memory and thinking skills were not enough to function at school or in daily life. Had to leave grad school for one year to recover and to change meds.
    7. The most frustrating thing is that are no answers and all tests are good and show nothing. This is bad because there is no identifiable cause so forever I will be on meds and pray to god that I never have another one. I'm fortunate there are ppl that get a 100 a day yes a 100. And majority ppl of epileptics are likewise no known reason as to why they had a few seizures or less in middle life and with good tests results.
    ***think about this before you Hollywood ppl decide to make a joke because it's not a joke it's a nightmare that is stills hard to cope with it even after 5 yrs. For all the moms and dads that have to see heir little children seize its not funny. Spare your jokes on any health condition cuz you just don't know how horrible it is. And I think you more than a apology how about some donations to research for epilepsy.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Will

    I'm going to have to go with the First Amendment, as much as I think its not funny to make fun of people with conditions that they can not control people do have the right to say whatever they want. I will always stand behind our rights! Bless America for that.

    October 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marie

      Will, obviously you have no clue, I know someone with epilepsy and it is NO JOKE. What an idiotic response. But then, who else watches his movies?

      September 24, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dman

    I have epilepsy. I thought it was funny. Only a parent would get upset and that is reasonable but I just want to be treated like anyone else and I can definitely take a joke. People are too sensitive.

    September 8, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  7. LifeIsTooShort

    I am an epileptic and I have seen far more offensive lines in movies toward other people with other "abnormalities," personalities or lifestyles. If we can't laugh at ourselves, we are saying there is something extraordinarily wrong with us. I hear seizure jokes all the time and I thought this was funny. We would have to boycott every movie out there to appease these all too sensitive people. Building confidence in children today about who they are is far more important than protecting them from every comment everyone makes. Yep, that description is about right about what a seizure can look like and that's ok. Just don't see the movie if you don't like it.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. Eleanor

    There is a difference between allowing a potentially offensive joke to remain in a movie vs. including it a trailer/ad. You can chose to go see an R rated movie and probably already know ahead of time that the comedy will get a bit rough. But a trailer is seen my many, many more people than will actually go to the movie (including children, who are still learning what is and is not socially appropriate humor.) I have a daughter who has 20-40 seizures a day and it is deeply not funny. But I do have a sense of humor, and believe in free speech. There is no need to censor the movie, but there is a need to be careful what you gratuitously throw out in front of the general public that can hurt people and influence children.

    September 7, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Greg

    Brett Ratner was also a producer on the Fox drama, "Prison Break."

    Ratner's an idiot.

    I read a memoir recently by a real life convict, who recalled how he and his buddies used to laugh at that ridiculous and unrealistic Hollywood version of life behind bars.

    One episode had a notorious pedophile and child-murderer as the leader of a white supremacist prison gang.

    In reality those are the type of people who would kill a pedophile on sight.

    September 7, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jbean

    Several of you are saying that people are too sensitive about seizures and we should be able to laugh at the joke like it's no big deal. Tell that to my friend who lost her 4 year old son to uncontrolled seizures and another who's family friends lost their 7 year old daughter, both in the last week. Are they being too sensitive because they don't see the joke?

    September 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Carmelita Campos Angelman Syndrome

    EPILEPSY ITS NOT FUNNY.
    ITS A MONSTER THAT TAKES OUR CHILDREN AWAY FROM US.
    ITS NOT FUNNY. ='(

    September 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. douglasjames

    My sister suffered from epilepsy. I have seen her have seizures that started at the age of 11 and ended at 60. I am not amused at his "joke."

    September 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dan the Red

    Grunberg's a piece of work. He can offend/make-light of other people's sorrow, but, boy-oh-boy, don't step on his pet medical condition! As a parent of children with autism, I could make it my topic to get bent out of shape about...but, I'd rather laught about it! (My kids rock!!) For one thing, it's more fun to laugh than cry. (If you're happy and you know it, flap your hands!) I'd comment on his thin skinned attributes, but, I don't to offend the Society of Thin Skinned People. They're a touchy bunch, ya know....

    September 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. washedupactor

    i guess grunberg will be star in the next Ratner film

    September 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. marine1

    from a person who has seizures "me" honestly, I have to joke about seizures to be able to get through everything...they call me percalation man at work....Its really not a big deal. yes seizures are seriouse but you have them....there is nothing you can do about it except own it! if you cannot joke about yourself and your life then you wont be able to live a happy and fun life....just my perspective.

    September 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Sickoftards

    I have Epilepsy and I didn't find it horribly offensive, maybe people should stop looking for reasons to be offended.

    September 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randall

      Thank you. People need to lighten up and quit being so "sensitive". Gawd, what a world we currently live in!

      September 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Jake

    i think people get to worked up about everything. Next they might want us to apolagize about talking about 9/11 because it may hurt a Islamic Terrorist's feelings. For the record I saw the trailer and I have seizures and I did not cry. So to all you wimpy actors go take a Midol and stop complaining....

    September 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  18. INtheNo

    I have three words for this guy – get a life. I've had epilepsy nearly all of my life – so what. I wouldn't ask for a medal or some special committee to feel sorry for me. Life can be funny. So, here's a thought – if it offends you, don't watch.

    September 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  19. A

    Okay, the joke has been pulled from the trailer but it's still in the movie. So because it's not in the trailer you can see the movie and laugh at the joke in the movie. That makes sense.

    September 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Thomas McGuire

    Shocker – R rated comedy may contain offensive humour...

    September 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Steve-O

    I suffered a seizure watching Heroes 2nd season.

    September 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  22. the Boom

    who cares. it's a movie for god's sake.

    September 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  23. comment

    i'm not epileptic, but i did have a seizure once, and i poke fun of myself about it all the time. if the intent behind the joke was to really offend someone, then it's a problem, but highly doubt that was the case.

    September 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ness

      You had one seizure? Do you have 30 a day? No? Then you really can't speak on behalf of those who do. Idiot.

      September 7, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Rob

    Interesting how this less-than-D-list actor has an issue with this.... anybody offended by the thought of "Assisted suicide"? Because he is currently working on a movie about just such a thing.
    I just can't stand people like this.... and there are too many of them around.

    September 7, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  25. marion

    the way I see it, he didn't actually apologize for doing the joke. He said "I'm sorry you were offended", not I'm sorry I included such an offensive joke in my movie. I think there's a difference..he could have even said I'm sorry I offended you.

    September 7, 2011 at 5:49 am | Report abuse |
  26. Nat Q

    The "epilepsy community?" Really?

    September 6, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • sweet cheeks

      But everyone needs to feel connected with a community. I started an IBS community, and i find fart jokes VERY OFFENSIVE. However, the smell of my farts? Delightful!

      September 6, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • HMC

      Being someone who has had to deal with epilepsy for years now, this is something that's hard to relate to people who haven't experienced it. A community is only meant to provide people with a chance to meet and discuss with others who understand what they're going through in an environment where they won't be judged for something they can't help. There is still quite a stigma associated with this, evidence being the pokemon reference above.

      September 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Joe

    Who the hell raised you people to have no class. I seriously pity you. Yes, I do have epilepsy, my sister is deaf I have two people in my family confined to wheelchairs and one with brain cancer. So maybe I am a little sensitive to others. Yeah I can take a joke but sometimes people go a little too far. JMPO

    September 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evel Knievel

      Maybe you should watch the original episode of "Pokemon" to calm down.

      September 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amigo

      Holy moly Joe. My condolences to you and your family. I also suffered from epilepsy as a child. Luckily the disgusting pink liquid they made me drink as a child cured me of it; although I did have an episode at Woodstock 94. But nothing since. Pretty sure that was unrelated. Anyways, that said I don't take offense to the joke. It's a joke. You can't let it effect you that way.

      September 6, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Creed Wait

    So, a film director makes a one-line joke about an illness and all of Hollywood is up in arms screaming for a boycott. But if Broadway comes up with an entire musical mocking my faith (The Book of Mormon Musical) and showing the founder of my faith engaged in beastiality then we give the production an armload of Tonys all while laughing ourselves silly at the raunchy humor. The American entertainment industry, with its moving target style of morality, is a fickle mistress, even on the best of days.

    September 6, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      Even thou this whole thing is stupid. There talking about a real live thing. Your religion is here say. Or better known as...fake believe.

      September 7, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Ness

      I think that's a fair point. I would like to point out that I have Narcolepsy... and if a person has severe Narcolepsy/Cataplexy as I do, his or her life is hell. Absolute hell. People still laugh when I confess it. They think it's funny because of movies. I don't like that- but, do as you will hollywood! And that goes for Mormons and Epileptics.

      September 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  29. alecia

    @portal just straighten out your left antennae and youll be okay! I agree with most of you. and to borrow a phrase from Boston Legal- we've gotten so namby pamby and politically correct that one can't take a step in any direction without hurting someone's feelings or getting sued! Have a Coke and a smile guys! :)

    September 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Duh

    next thing ya know, you'll only be allowed to tell jokes about deaf people, cuz they won't be able to hear it!

    September 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amigo

      Better make sure that the mouths are not show on the screen or you can cross the deaf off of your list too.

      September 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Anomic Office Drone

    Everyone just be less sensitive. They are surely making fun of a lot of people for a lot of reasons in this movie. I'm sure these seizure people laughed at every joke until one was about them.

    September 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Zen Master

    It is always better to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission.

    September 6, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  33. ProperVillain

    It's called a sense of humor people. You should get one...they're nice....

    September 6, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  34. John1

    It seems everyone has to apologize for something these days. It's just ridiculous.

    September 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Snarky

    Yeesh, does an Eddie Murphy/Ben Stiller movie really need another reason for me not to see it?

    September 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Mary

    At oh okay- A lesson for the trolls too. They are really bad on these blogs. Lol

    September 6, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  37. OMG

    You have to be kidding right??? Why are people so damn sensative these days???? Its a joke, its supposed to be crude.. If you dont like it, change the channel whenever it comes on!! He isnt making light of the disease, its a joke! Lighten up people!!!!!

    September 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Olivia

      Lately, people have forgotten that comedians push the envelope a bit. I've been to alot of stand-up comedy shows and I like watching it on tv. I've never been offended by anything a comedian says. It's all jokes and in good fun. If you're close minded and don't like to laugh, don't watch it. Simple! Comedians are not PC people. They get paid to tell jokes. I never want to go to a show or wacth a movie where a comedian is afraid to do their act.

      September 7, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russell

      Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy USED to be my favourite comedian actors... My son seizures every day with TSC due to 6 brain tubers. Maybe someone should make a movie about a couple of washed up comedians that lost it all chasing too much money by disrespecting disabled children!!!!

      September 9, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  38. portalpunk

    @Jan- neither was I. Maybe I'm slipping. The metal plate in my head has started to pick up cellular transmissions. Even my 4-layer foil hat won't stop it.

    September 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Jan

    This is where that idiot poster writes "firsty!"

    September 6, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  40. oh okay

    well at least he apologized. he shoulda known that was gonna happen. just gotta think it through. it IS possible to be funny without being hateful. a lesson for Kathy Griffin to learn.

    September 6, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russell

      You would think a black man and a jewish man would remove themselves from roles that might upset minority groups! Can you get any lower than jokes about seriously ill children?

      September 9, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Joe

    You are just as bad as he is.

    September 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Amigo

    That's not funny. I used to suffer from seizures when I was a kid. Just kidding about the not funny part. I really did used to suffer from them as a child but I can find the humor in anything. People are way too sensitive. It's a joke. That's all. There's no need to cry about it.

    September 6, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  43. emh

    a**hole

    September 7, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  44. Dan the Red

    Nicely said. And, better from you, who can speak from the point of view of one with epilepsy. From your comments, I think we would see eye-to-eye. Let's shake on it. (rim-shot!)

    September 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |

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