The dam appears to have well and truly broken on Scott Rudin. After years of being the subject of half-jokey profiles about being a “bosszilla,” the EGOT-winning film and Broadway producer is now being painted—per the THR report that initially broke the silence, and subsequent pieces in Vulture and The New York Times—more bluntly as a bully and abuser, one who terrorized colleagues, rivals, and especially underlings during the long tenure of his entertainment empire. And while the majority of the interviews on Rudin’s behavior have been with his hundreds of assistants over the years, who had to bear the brunt of verbal abuse, thrown objects, psychological torment, etc., there’s now been an increasing number of more known names that have made it clear that Rudin’s aggressions, well-known tantrums, and outbursts reached well beyond his own office.
Take an account from Rita Wilson, one of the few people to go on-record in the recent Times piece. The actress described her experiences on 2015's Fish In The Dark, which Rudin produced, and during the pre-production of which Wilson was diagnosed with breast cancer. When Wilson informed Rudin, she says, “he complained that she would need time off during Tony voting season and asked to see her medical records.” “I felt like he was trying to find a way to fire me legally,” Wilson said. “He is the kind of person who makes someone feel worthless, unvaluable, and replaceable.”
Rudin has issued a blanket apology for his decades of behavior, albeit one that discounts the specific details of almost every accusation levied against him. He’s also stepped back from both the Broadway League and all of his Broadway productions, stating that he doesn’t want his involvement with shows like The Book Of Mormon, To Kill A Mockingbird, and the upcoming Music Man revival with Hugh Jackman to color Broadway’s attempts to revive itself in the wake of COVID-19. It’s not clear at present whether he’ll still make money from the shows, or how much impact the reactions of their creators to the recent stories about him influenced that decision; Mormon’s Matt Stone apparently issued an ultimatum to Rudin, stating that “Your actions have made it impossible for us to keep working together.” Other partners, including FX Productions and A24, have stayed quiet.
As several people have pointed out online, there’s a danger here of treating Rudin as singular, rather than a symptom; the man is a remarkably successful example of the Hollywood/Broadway bully, but not a unique one. Still, though, it’s fascinating as ever to see the industry try to figure out what “consequences” look like for someone who’s gone exempt from them for so long. Is there any permanence to this self-imposed exile? Would all of this have gone even this far if Rudin’s Broadway shows hadn’t—per the Times piece—been slipping in their returns for investors? Is the lesson for other abusers in the industry “Treat people better?” or “Keep up the hits if you want to stay safe?” Time will tell.