"My goal is to do the motion picture as an event," Ratner said.
A Hefner biopic has been in development since 2007. Initially Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment owned the rights to the project; Robert Downey Jr. and Hugh Jackman were reportedly possible choices for the Hefner role. The rights later went to producer Jerry Weintraub for Warner Bros., and Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin was in talks to take on the project.
When Weintraub died, Ratner's RatPac Entertainment took over the biopic rights. "In recent years there has been plenty of interest and much conversation about doing a feature film based on my life," Hefner said in a statement in April. "I have always believed that when the timing was truly right, the perfect creative partners would come together for this project. I believe we've found those partners in Brett Ratner and RatPac Entertainment."
Hefner died last month at age 91, and Leto never got a chance to meet the Playboy founder. "There's enough footage on Hef out there that Jared will be able to get as much information as he wants," Ratner said. "Jared is an old friend," the director added. "When he heard I got the rights to Hef's story, he told me, 'I want to play him. I want to understand him.' And I really believe Jared can do it. He's one of the great actors of today."