Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Barry Sonnenfeld used pillow forts to hide from producer Scott Rudin while making The Addams Family

Illustration for article titled Barry Sonnenfeld used pillow forts to hide from producer Scott Rudin while making iThe Addams Family/i
Photo: Archive Photos / Stringer (Getty Images)

Today, EW published an excerpt from Barry Sonnenfeld’s Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker, an autobiography from the Get Shorty director which publishes tomorrow. The excerpt concerns the making of The Addams Family, and essentially centers on two separate stories: how Sonnenfeld came to be hired, and how he was forced to make children cry so he could rush off to be with his wife as she underwent surgery to determine whether or not she had cancer. (It’s funnier than it sounds.) The piece is worth reading in full, but we’re going to focus on one little anecdote which concerns the driving force behind both of those stories: superproducer Scott Rudin, better known at the moment as the person who shares Adam Sandler’s “life, my home, my laughter, my tears.”

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You learn a lot about Rudin in this piece. For example, he’s a trailblazer, mercilessly dodging actual phone calls in the age before text messages:

I’ve been sitting in hotel rooms when suddenly my message light would glow, at which point I’d call the operator:

“Hi. I’m sitting here and my message light suddenly went on.”

“Yes, Mr. Sonnenfeld. Mr. Rudin left word.”

“I’m sitting right here. Did you try my room?”

“Mr. Rudin did not want to disturb.”

He also likes to order large plates of pasta with iced tea and then not eat the pasta (a travesty.) But most tellingly, the piece teaches us this: Scott Rudin would never, ever disrespect the sanctity of the pillow fort. Some things, it seems, are sacred.

Scott’s screaming was fierce. I realized the only way to deal with it was to out-juvenile him. When he would start to scream at me, I would get off the couch and remove all the bolsters and pillows. Using the back and bottom bolsters as building blocks, I would turn them into walls and build a fort on top of the couch. Crawling into the one end I had left open I’d stuff a pillow into the gap and yell:

“I can’t hear you. I’m in the fort.”

“Barry. Get out of there,” Scott would bellow.

“I think you may have said something, but I can’t hear you because of how thick the walls are in this fort.”

“I’m serious. Get out of the fort right now, Sonnenfeld. I am busy and this is stupid.”

“Can’t hear you.”

[Screenwriter Paul] Rudnick would confirm, that indeed, I was in a fort, and if Scott wanted me to hear him he’d have to yell louder.”

“Seriously, Sonnenfeld. GET OUT OF THE FORT. I have work to do.”

“If you say you’re sorry, and promise not to yell, I’ll get out of the fort.”

“Ucchhh. I’m sorry. OK? C’mon. We have work to do.”

The part of this that amazed Rudnick and me was that Rudin would never invade the sanctity of my fort. He’d bend over and scream at me, but he’d never remove a pillow and say,

“Schmuck. There is no fort.”

The things you learn. We do not suggest attempting this tactic in real life, but if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of Scott Rudin’s fury, now you know the trick. Other such delights can be found within EW’s excerpt of Sonnenfeld’s book; we encourage you to read it in full.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!

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