“When you were a younger director and you said Scott Rudin was producing your movie, that was a stamp of ‘cool’ approval,” one producer tells TheWrap
Scott Rudin, one of the most legendary producers in Hollywood, can count films like “The Social Network,” “The Truman Show” and “No Country for Old Men” to his credits. But following accusations of decades of abusive and violent behavior toward staffers surfaced earlier this month, the EGOT-winning producer in recent days announced he would step back from his Broadway, film and streaming productions. So what does that mean for Rudin’s future in the industry?
According to a half dozen Hollywood insiders, few expect Rudin to leave Hollywood (and Broadway) altogether — but suspect that he may try to return to producing, quietly, after the dust settles on the current furor. “He’ll lie low for awhile, say he’s working on his demons and eventually get back in,” one partner at a major Hollywood talent agency told TheWrap. “He’s too successful.”
Join WrapPRO for Exclusive Content,
Full Video Access, Premium Events, and More!
Rudin suggested something similar in his statement on Tuesday, apologizing for past behavior that had been an open secret in Hollywood for years and announcing he would “take the time to work on personal issues I should have long ago.”
He also made vague promises about “stepping back” from ongoing Broadway productions like “The Book of Mormon” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” as well as upcoming film and streaming projects such as Netflix’s Amy Adams thriller “The Woman in the Window” and Alex Garland’s “Men” for A24.
But few expect Rudin — whose big-screen hits include Oscar Best Picture winner “No Country for Old Men,” “The Social Network” “School of Rock” and “Zoolander” — to withdraw entirely from the industry.
“My bet is a year from now, quietly, he will be back,” Stephen Galloway, dean of Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, told TheWrap. “Scandal used to tarnish someone for a while,” Galloway said, noting how Mel Gibson overcame a history of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic statements to make his directing comeback with 2016’s “Hacksaw Ridge.”
Mark Macias, head of Macias PR, a global public-relations firm, said that Hollywood is in such need of creative talent that the industry will often turn a blind eye to gifted filmmakers with personal demons who bring in the big bucks. “There will be a short reprieve, and then maybe in five years he’ll be back, but maybe not with as high of a profile,” he said. “The creativity will still be there behind the scenes, so in many ways, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a comeback but not as the front runner.”
The near-term outlook remains hazy. In his public statements, Rudin has not articulated just how much he plans to limit his involvement (and financial interest) in current and upcoming projects. He did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
On Tuesday, an individual close to A24 indicated that Rudin was no longer involved with five projects that the producer had been developing with the indie studio — including “The Tragedy of MacBeth,” “The Humans,” “Red, White and Water” and “Everywhere All at Once,” all in postproduction, as well as Alex Garland’s “Men,” which is currently shooting.
Multiple insiders told TheWrap that the particulars will depend on Rudin’s contractual agreement, and that Rudin would most likely have to agree to have his name taken off the credits. “You can’t just Kevin Spacey Rudin from his films,” one producer said, referring to how Spacey’s role was recast and reshot for 2017’s “All the Money in the World” after the actor was accused of sexual misconduct.
Rudin’s retreat follows a bombshell April 7 article in The Hollywood Reporter in which several named former assistants and employees accused Rudin of physical and mental abuse, including breaking a computer monitor on an assistant’s hand and throwing objects like potatoes and glass bowls at staffers.
Rudin’s bad behavior and temper have long been documented as part of the producer’s four-decade career. But industry players like Annapurna founder Megan Ellison were quick to condemn the producer. “This piece barely scratches the surface of Scott Rudin’s abusive, racist, and sexist behavior. Similarly to Harvey, too many are afraid to speak out. I support and applaud those who did. There’s good reason to be afraid because he’s vindictive and has no qualms about lying,” Ellison wrote on Twitter on April 7.
On Sunday, the twin brother of former Rudin assistant Kevin Graham-Caso posted a Twitter video accusing Rudin of bullying David Graham-Caso to the point that it led to David’s death by suicide, and demanded “real consequences” from people in the entertainment industry.
Also last week, Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster said they would move forward with a Broadway revival of “The Music Man” this fall — but only after Rudin agreed to step aside as lead producer.
“He needs to make sure that he has the industry PR behind him,” Macias said. “If talent says they aren’t going to work with him, then he’s done, because the industry is a collaborative one. But if you are extremely talented, there is going to be some leniency — I’ve seen it happen.” Macias cited the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who was known to harass women and create a toxic work environment, yet Rupert Murdoch “kept him because he was a making a lot of money, and he was behind the scenes so he could get away with it.”
But Galloway, a former Hollywood Reporter journalist who profiled Rudin a decade ago in an article titled “The Most Feared Man in Town,” said the question about Rudin’s future is more complicated, depending on whether the workplace toxicity and anti-bullying movement that intensified last summer around Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talk show will gain more momentum. The anti-bullying movement surfaced following #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, but it has yet to gain as much traction, which might be a saving grace for Rudin.
“The future of Scott Rudin is dependent of the future of the anti-bullying movement and whether it kicks in or whether people are exhausted of the movements that have come before it,” he said. “At what point do two stories like DeGeneres and Rudin’s reach a critical mass where it becomes an anti-bullying movement? In Hollywood, for decades there has been an acceptance of hazing rituals, the idea that if you work for people of monstrous temperament, that proves that you are strong enough to survive the killer culture of Hollywood. That needs to go.”
One producer, who asked to remain anonymous, added that there are implications for other bad bosses around town: “For somebody who is so creatively vibrant that the entire industry turned their heads to what was extremely well known, the larger question about the behavior has to do with now that people are comfortable talking about what happened behind the scenes, will it permanently change the way people of power have to behave?”
Outside of Broadway, where he continues to have immense influence in producing splashy productions with Hollywood stars, he is less of a big-screen hit-maker in recent years. After multiple major studio deals, including a 15-year first-look arrangement with Paramount in the 1980s and ’90s that led to commercial successes like “The Addams Family” and “Clueless,” Rudin has more recently produced lower-budgeted indie fare.
“He’s not looking to engage in the big movie studios anymore, as to the question of his future in Hollywood, because he doesn’t make tentpole movies,” the producer said. “Moving forward, you would suspect there would be hesitancy of not wanting the publicity headache from the streaming companies, but at the end of the day, audiences aren’t really paying attention to who the producer of a movie is in a way that would impact of the movie — it would mostly be the industry taking note.”
At 62, Rudin may also be looking to take a step back from the industry. “He might be done just because of age — he could just retire,” he said. “But with his departure, I truly think the New York film and theater community will suffer significantly.”
And given the PR challenges his name now evokes, will studios and smaller production companies be willing to work with him? “The answer is no, because getting anything made is a miracle and the last thing that any financier can afford is an obstacle that can impact the outcome of a movie,” the producer said.
“The bulk of Scott’s achievement especially in the ’80s and ’90s when he had deals at Paramount and Disney was that he was a magnet for high-level talent fundamentally because he was given carte blanche on how he developed his material and he had access to big books, but mostly the filmmakers wanted to work with him because he was the ultimate middle man for filmmakers,” the producer said. “When you were a younger director and you said Scott Rudin was producing your movie, that was a stamp of ‘cool’ approval.”
The producer added: “However, if Scott Rudin found the next ‘Harry Potter,’ would a studio say no because it’s Scott? That’s the 20 gazillion-dollar question.”