A wrap? Producer Scott Rudin’s unhinged behavior

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For the past few years the climate in Hollywood (among many other cities and industries) has been evolving from sexist and toxic work environments to more transparent, harmonious, and inclusive. After allegations against the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Joss Whedon have been coming to light we are now hearing more shocking allegations against others.

After decades of being permitted, and even enabled, to continue his toxic, violent, and unacceptable bullying, The Hollywood Reporter has recently documented many witness accounts of Academy Award winner Scott Rudin’s unhinged and traumatizing behavior over the decades. 

Scott Rudin is the producer behind The Social Network, No Country for Old Men, The Truman Show, Uncut Gems, Fences, and Lady Bird, just to name a few. He also has extensive Broadway credits as producer for shows such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, West Side Story, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Carousel. 

The Hollywood Reporter detailed this account that allegedly occurred on Halloween 2012:

At about 4:15 p.m. Rudin 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,” Andrew Coles, a then-development executive and now-manager and producer, whose credits include Queen & Slim, told THR. “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.” 

The alleged victim declined to comment.

“Everyone just knows he’s an absolute monster.”

Caroline Rugo, Netflix

Not only were Rudin’s infantile tantrums well documented, they also appeared to even be endorsed and celebrated by the press over the span of 40 years.

In a 2010 profile, The Hollywood Reporter referred to him as “The Most Feared Man in Town” and then went on to call him “dazzlingly charming” just one paragraph after describing acts of cruelty and intimidation and in a 2005 Wall Street Journal profile with the headline “Boss-zilla!”, Rudin himself bragged the number of assistants he burned through in the previous five years at 119.

The times are changing for those who have been enabled and encouraged to bully those under their employment since the birth of the #metoo and #timesup era beginning with the fall of the mighty Harvey Weinstein in 2017. 

Rudin has still been able to continue his behavior with little or no consequences as he has continued to rack up 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. 

Netflix will release Rudin’s latest production, The Woman in the Window starring Amy Adams and directed by Joe Wright on May 14, 2021. 

Caroline Rugo details her own account of working with Rudin in the most recent Hollywood Reporter piece:

“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.”

“I got fired for having Type 1 diabetes, which is a federally protected disability,” notes Rugo, who now works in development at Netflix. “I one hundred percent could have sued him. But I didn’t because of the fear of being blacklisted. But I’ve worked at Netflix for a year and a half now. And it was such a shock to the system because it’s one of the most respectful and progressive workplaces in terms of employee relations. Now that I have established myself here and I am a part of a team where my opinions are respected and welcomed, I have no issue speaking out about Scott.

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.)

Writer Jeremy O. Harris called Rudin out on Twitter as “loudly racist,” in another public break. The Slave Play playwright and Zola 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?’ “

Manchester by the Sea producer Kevin Walsh told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014 that Rudin demanded Walsh get out of his car where he then abandoned him on a highway. In the same article, producer Adam Goodman called the environment “really, really, really gnarly.” 

One recent Rudin assistant told the Hollywood Reporter that the producer threw a baked potato at his head in 2018 for not knowing why someone from indie distributor A24 was in the lobby.

“I went into the kitchen, and I was like, ‘Hey, Scott, A24 is on the way up. I’m not sure what it’s concerning,’ ” he says. “And he flipped out, like, ‘Nobody told me A24 was on my schedule.’ He threw it at me, and I dodged a big potato. He was like, ‘Well, find out, and get me a new potato.’ “

Adding insult to injury, the assistant was fired by Rudin not long after dropping out of college to join his staff full-time.

Ryan Nelson, who was Rudin’s executive assistant from 2018-19, also told THR that he experienced and witnessed so much mistreatment, including the producer throwing a stapler at a theater assistant and calling him a “retard,” that he left the industry altogether.

“Every day was exhausting and horrific,” he says. “Not even the way he abused me, but watching the way he abused the people around me who started to become my very close friends. You’re spending 14 hours a day with the same people, enduring the same abuse. It became this collective bond with these people.”

Another assistant, Miguel Cortes quit the industry and became a bike mechanic for a year after leaving Scott Rudin Productions in 2019, feeling scarred by the experience and assuming that all offices operated this way.

“There was definitely a distance you wanted to maintain when you were talking to Scott at any time,” he recalls. “I’m a tall guy. Like 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, well, I’m not intimidated by him. He’s shorter than me.’ But every time I’d be sitting down is when he’d come over and lord over me. I remember thinking, ‘That’s almost a genius move, getting me when I’m at my smallest.’ He would be right over me and literally shouting at me.”

Another assistant, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, detailed a kitchen encounter with Rudin in 2018 that devolved quickly.

“He asked me to clean the kitchen. I told him, ‘That’s really not my job.’ I had to do a bunch of other stuff that was urgent,” the former assistant says. “The kitchen was not urgent. And then he flipped out, and he took his teacup, threw it, and it shattered and left a hole in the wall. I was like, ‘I’m a human. This is a physical act of aggression.’ “

One former Rudin assistant says the producer relished in the cruelty but was able to pivot from berating staff to turning on the charm as soon as talent walked in the door like a true, textbook narcissistic sociopath:

“When you feel his spit on your face as he’s screaming at you, saying, ‘You’re worth nothing,’ it obviously makes an impact, and we’re young,” the assistant says. “Over his long career, there are hundreds and hundreds of people who have suffered. And some have given up their dreams because he made them feel and believe that they can’t do whatever it is they’re trying to do.”

Not only has Rudin been accused of violent tantrums, it has been reported that Rudin has also attempted to disrupt people’s careers with lies, fighting with Weinstein himself over an employee who left Rudin to work for Weinstein. He’s also sparred with director Sam Mendes, 

Whoopi Goldberg, and referred to Angelina Jolie as a “minimally talented spoiled brat”, not to mention making racially insensitive jokes about President Barack Obama. Rudin also has been known to change credits, both as incentive and punishment. Several sources say that the victim of the computer monitor incident received three associate producing credits in addition to a monetary settlement. Others have seen the flip side of Rudin’s leverage.

“When they ultimately quit — which they always do at some point — he vindictively goes on IMDb and takes away any credits they may have amassed while working for him,” says one producer who hired a traumatized assistant following a Rudin stint and saw the practice play out.

Even though it seems his behavior is common knowledge, Rudin continues to have no issues working with the best in the film business. His next projects include Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, and Jennifer Lawrence’s Red, White and Water, both for A24. 

Much like the decades of sexual assault R. Kelly was permitted to continue, bullying claims against Rudin have never seen the light of day and are settled quietly (according to a knowledgeable legal source). Fear of reprisals has kept many from speaking out. Employees typically sign a non-disparagement agreement. 

Coles, who detailed the Halloween 2012 incident hopes that fear of Rudin’s power will not stymie progress in the industry just at a time when Hollywood appears ready to confront abuses of power, stating:

“Part of the change we want to see in the industry means starting to talk about these things openly, to name names, to talk about the things that actually happened. And you don’t get a free pass for abusing people,” he says. “I’m not afraid of Scott Rudin.”

The question here is when will we start to see this kind of toxic behavior exposed in other industries such as advertising and public relations? The Reel 360 team is waiting and has their own stories.

In the meantime, we can pretty much consider Scott Rudin’s career a wrap.

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