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Cover Illustration by Eric Heintz
“Everyone Just Knows He’s an Absolute Monster”: Scott Rudin’s Ex-Staffers Speak Out on Abusive Behavior
April 07, 2021, 6:00am PDT
Even as other Hollywood bullies are being sidelined, the uber-producer behind ‘The Social Network’ and Broadway’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ has been given a pass for his volcanic temper. Now, former employees open up about a boss who left many traumatized:”It was a new level of unhinged.”
On a brisk Halloween day in 2012, the thin facade of normalcy at Scott Rudin Productions shattered. Literally.
At about 4:15 p.m. — more than 10 hours into a typical Rudin day that began at 6 and never wrapped before 8 — the Oscar-winning producer was enraged that one of his assistants failed to get him a seat on a sold-out flight. In a fit of fury, he allegedly smashed an Apple computer monitor on the assistant’s hand. The screen shattered, leaving the young man bleeding and in need of immediate medical attention. One person in the office at the time described the incident as sounding like a car crash: a cacophonous collision of metal, glass and limb. The wounded assistant headed to the emergency room, and Rudin called his lawyer, according to another staffer there that Halloween afternoon. Everyone else huddled in the conference room, shaken. No one stayed until 8 p.m., with most of the staff heading over to a Times Square bar for a therapeutic drink.
“We were all shocked because we didn’t know that that sort of thing could happen in that office,” says Andrew Coles, a then-assistant and now-manager and producer, whose credits include
Queen & Slim
.”We knew a lot could happen. There were the guys that were sleeping in the office, the guys whose hair was falling out and were developing ulcers. It was a very intense environment, but that just felt different. It was a new level of unhinged — a level of lack of control that I had never seen before in a workplace.” Through a spokesperson, Rudin declined to comment on any of the specific allegations mentioned in this story. The alleged victim declined to comment.
For some four decades, Rudin’s abusive behavior has been chronicled — even celebrated — by the press. In a 2010 profile, this publication dubbed him”The Most Feared Man in Town” and called him”dazzlingly charming” one paragraph after describing acts of cruelty and intimidation. In a 2005
Wall Street Journal
profile with the headline”Boss-zilla!,” Rudin himself pegged the number of assistants he burned through in the previous five years at 119.
But in October 2017, Harvey Weinstein was toppled from power following twin investigative reports in
The New York Times
The New Yorker
detailing his sexual predation, ushering in the entertainment industry’s #MeToo era. That reckoning has expanded in scope to include toxic behavior encompassing everything from racism to milder microaggressions. Talent and executives, including Sharon Osbourne at
and three executive producers at
The Ellen DeGeneres Show
, have been kicked to the curb for bullying antics. Likewise,
America’s Got Talent
judge Gabrielle Union received a settlement from NBC in September after filing an employment complaint that alleged a”toxic culture,” which included fellow judge Simon Cowell smoking cigarettes on set and guest judge Jay Leno making a racist joke.
Still, there has been no reckoning for Rudin, 62, one of the industry’s most decorated producers, whose films have earned 151 Oscar nominations and 23 wins, including best picture for the Coen brothers’ 2007 drama
No Country for Old Men
He’s even more successful on the theater front, having nabbed 17 individual Tony Awards. His Aaron Sorkin stage collaboration,
To Kill a Mockingbird
, became the hottest ticket on Broadway in 2018. During a single week that year, the drama earned more than $1.5 million at the box office, breaking a 118-year-old record in the process.
On May 14, Netflix will release Rudin’s latest production,
The Woman in the Window
. Like most of his efforts, the film features A-list talent, including star Amy Adams and director Joe Wright. As was the case with many things involving Rudin, it was fraught with drama, say sources, with the producer taking the reins from Wright after the Fox 2000 thriller tested poorly, then hiring Tony Gilroy for reshoots. In the end, sources say, it tested about the same.
Even as others have been canceled or have dialed back their aggression, Rudin’s behavior has continued unabated, leaving a trail of splintered objects and traumatized employees in his path.
Caroline Rugo had expected a grueling environment when she joined Scott Rudin Productions as an executive coordinator in fall 2018. She accepted that her days began at 5 a.m., fielding emails before reporting to the New York office at 6. Given that she suffers from Type 1 diabetes, Rugo needed to carve out 30 minutes a day for exercise and provided a doctor’s note signed off on by Rudin that allowed her to work out from 5:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. Even with a narrow margin for an outside life, she was eager to work for the uber-producer behind
The Social Network
The Book of Mormon
. What she hadn’t anticipated was the onslaught of acts of intimidation.
“He threw a laptop at the window in the conference room and then went into the kitchen and we could hear him beating on the napkin dispenser,” says Rugo.”Then another time he threw a glass bowl at [a colleague]. It’s hard to say if he threw it in the general direction or specifically at [the colleague], but the glass bowl hit the wall and smashed everywhere. The HR person left in an ambulance due to a panic attack. That was the environment.”
Multiple people corroborated the incident involving the HR staffer, who never returned, as well as the laptop and napkin-dispenser episode, which took place in early March 2019 during a meeting with a publicist from SpotCo, a major Broadway ad agency. The following year, SpotCo sued Rudin for $6.3 million for unpaid pre-pandemic work on eight shows, becoming the latest legal action against him that spilled into public view. (The case is still active.) In 2018, the estate of Harper Lee sued Rudin, claiming that the Sorkin script altered characters, the setting and the legal proceeding at the heart of her novel. (The parties later reached a settlement, the details of which were not made public.)
Around the same time of the SpotCo complaint, red-hot writer Jeremy O. Harris called Rudin out on Twitter as”loudly racist,” in another public break. The
screenwriter continued,”He called me on the phone and cussed me out once and said ‘you’re a baby playwright who has written one good play no one gives a FUCK what you have to say’ To which I responded, ‘Why did you just pay me to say something in TWO plays?'”
Rudin tantrums have been well documented going back four decades and are said to have at least partly inspired the 1994 assistant revenge fantasy film
Swimming With Sharks
For More Details : Hollywood Reporter
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