The Hollywood Reporter’s cover story Wednesday on Rudin was, undoubtedly, a must-read for anyone in the film, television and theater businesses. Stories about a Hollywood heavyweight throwing glass bowls, staples and baked potatoes at underlings are hard to put down.
The trade publication spoke to four former employees who agreed to be named on the record to detail stories about the toxic work environment, in addition to some who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
Rudin, one of the most successful and powerful producers, with a heap of Oscars and Tonys to show for it, has long been known for torturous treatment of an ever-churning parade of assistants — 119 in a five-year span, he once said. Such behavior has long been engrained — and sometimes even celebrated — in show business going back to the likes of MGM head Louis B. Mayer and, more recently, Broadway producer David Merrick.
“The thin-skinned guys don’t like it,” Rudin told The Wall Street Journal in 2005. “The thick-skinned people... understand that I’m working as hard as them.”
But if Hollywood has taken steps to reform following a #MeToo upheaval that began with sexual abuse allegations against another much-rewarded New York uber-producer, Harvey Weinstein, the initial response to The Hollywood Reporter’s story on Rudin suggests the industry is less eager to curb cultures of verbal abuse and workplace toxicity.
“I’m astonished given what’s happened in the last few years that have been so revolutionary and meaningful and important,” Anthony Rapp who starred in “Rent” on Broadway and in “Star Trek: Discovery” on TV, told The Associated Press on Friday. “It’s not exactly controversial to say that abuse shouldn’t be tolerated. That’s like the least someone can do, and that almost no one has done it is sad and infuriating to me.”
No studio that has regularly done business with Rudin has commented on the article, nor have any of the A-list names that Rudin has helped propel to more than 150 Oscar nominations and 17 Tonys. Rudin, himself, hasn’t responded to the article or the AP's request for comment.
Not everyone was been quiet. The most prominent power player to raise her voice was Megan Ellison, the Annapurna Pictures founder who was executive producer on the Rudin-produced “True Grit,” by Joel and Ethan Coen.
“This piece barely scratches the surface of Scott Rudin’s abusive, racist, and sexist behavior,” Ellison said on Twitter. “Similarly to Harvey, too many are afraid to speak out. I support and applaud those who did."
The 62-year-old Rudin, a Long Island native, has produced some of the most acclaimed films of the last few decades, including “No Country for Old Men,” “The Social Network,” “The Truman Show,” “Fences” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” His Broadway hits include “The Book of Mormon” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In the past, he's defended his workplace environment as part of a tough business.
On Broadway, Rudin has a reputation for producing high-profile and prestigious works and often stocking them with A-list celebrities like Sally Field, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nathan Lane, Jeff Daniels, Jim Parsons, Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Daniel Craig and Denzel Washington.
In the days after the Hollywood Reporter story, many rank-and-file actors have expressed frustration that the allegations have been mostly met with silence by those Broadway figures in positions of power — and therefore likely to be tapped by Rudin one day again.
“A lot of times, unless you’re like a super A-list star, job security is not something you can feel is always there for you,” said Rapp, who has championed the #MeToo movement and accused Kevin Spacey of sexual assaults. “So it’s understandable if people are afraid of sticking their necks out. I mean, that is how dictators have always maintained their power.”
Mauricio Martínez, a singer-actor who was in the Broadway musical “On Your Feet!” called the silence disheartening and wondered if it was because the alleged victims were office assistants and not stars.
“It’s not an easy thing to do to come forward and say that you’ve been abused. So to just turn a blind eye, I think is very hypocritical,” he told the AP. “When we’re all reexamining the power structures and all the inequities, there’s just some things that we cannot enable and stay silent about.”
Some of those who spoke out against Weinstein have also denounced Rudin's behavior. Rose McGowan, who has said Weinstein raped her (an allegation Weinstein has denied) said Rudin “must be stopped.”
“What is wrong with you Hollywood?” said McGowan on Twitter. “You are putting your values in our minds. Your value system is sick. Stop poisoning us. End power abuse now.”
Richard Rushfield, editor of the Hollywood newsletter The Ankler, notes that Hollywood will spring into action against someone “the moment they’ve lost all their power and status.” Rudin, who runs his company Scott Rudin Productions, can’t be fired.
“Are people going to refuse to take meetings with him? Are writers going to refuse to sell their scripts? I doubt it, frankly,” says Rushfield. “I wish they would. But you’re a struggling writer and Scott Rudin is going to produce your movie, and with Scott Rudin producing you have a better than average chance of being a best picture nominee. You’re going to say no to that?”
Bahr reported from Pittsburgh.