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The silence is audible.
After The Hollywood Reporter‘s April 7 cover story reported claims of Scott Rudin’s abusive behavior, an agent who represents the sort of high-end talent who would be likely candidates to write, direct or appear in a Rudin production called with a question: How radioactive is he?
In other words, will clients suffer reputational damage if they do business with a man who has now been accused, on the record, of tormenting scores of assistants and others who worked with him over the years, including at least one allegation of physical assault?
That is the calculation underway for many who have worked with Rudin, 62, and answers are slow in coming. There has been little from the biggest stars and talent who have been Rudin favorites. Representatives and executives who have worked for or with the producer have been silent. But speaking on background, several argue vehemently that the latest revelations of abusive behavior should not mean the end of his career. The arguments from those quarters:
— I’m not condoning the behavior, but it’s hardly news that Rudin is a horrendous bully and if you worked for him, it’s on you.
— I’m not condoning it, but there are very few people with his level of taste and access to material.
— I’m not condoning it, but he trained a lot of people who went on to have successful careers.
— What are we going to do, cancel everyone?
A source who has been in touch with Rudin says he’s “genuinely sorry the talent will have to answer for him.” There’s good reason for that beyond whatever empathy he may be capable of mustering. Rudin knows where he’s vulnerable; if talent feels compelled to flee, that’s the final curtain.
At this point it seems that no reckoning is likely to come from various players in the business world. Nothing so far from WME, which has represented Rudin in television deals, and nothing publicly from A24, which has kept Rudin going in the movie business as the major studios have tired not only of his tantrums and demands but also of interesting art house material. As for volatile moguls David Geffen and longtime Rudin backer Barry Diller — the primary funders of the producer’s Broadway ventures — they wouldn’t call out bullying and are hardly in a position to do so.
On the talent side, the silence has not been universal but almost so. This is an industry that gave an Oscar to child rapist Roman Polanski, and standing ovations to Woody Allen, accused of molesting his daughter (an allegation he has long denied). Harvey Weinstein, now jailed for sexual assault, had free rein for decades. Hollywood does not rush itself when it comes to moral reckonings.
Among the very few who have addressed Rudin’s conduct, the standout was Karen Olivo, who said on Instagram that she was dropping out of Moulin Rouge! — not even a Rudin show — due to disgust with the industry’s nonresponse. “Everybody’s scared and nobody’s really doing a lot of the stuff that needs to be done,” she said. Calling Rudin “a monster,” she asked, “What are you afraid of? Shouldn’t you be more afraid of not saying something and more people getting hurt?”
A few days after Rudin announced (vaguely, via a non-New York publication and on a Saturday morning) that he would “step back from active participation” in Broadway productions, Sutton Foster — set to appear in the upcoming Rudin-produced revival of The Music Man alongside Hugh Jackman — spoke out. (THR also reported that she had threatened to leave the production if Rudin didn’t step away.) In her public comments, Foster did not utter Rudin’s name or explicitly condemn his behavior. “It’s an unbelievably unfortunate situation, but the only positive outcome is the one that is happening — and I know Hugh feels exactly the same way,” she said.
Several days later, Jackman released a statement saying “how much I respect and applaud the people that have spoken up about their experience working with Scott Rudin,” and added: “he has now spoken up and stepped away from the Music Man. I hope and pray this is a journey of healing for all the victims and the community.”
On the film side, not a word from talent like Frances McDormand, who electrified the audience at the Oscars in 2018 with the “inclusion rider” battle cry, and who will appear in Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, produced by Rudin. (Her rep also did not respond to a request for comment.) Nothing from Aaron Sorkin, a close Rudin collaborator whose whole oeuvre has been a call for justice.
To the extent that the industry has spoken, it has been through entities. Actors Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 initially made a general statement against bullying and toxic environments but did not call out the powerful producer by name until Rudin issued his statement acknowledging misconduct. At that point, Equity demanded that Rudin release employees from NDAs, as did Time’s Up Foundation president Tina Tchen.
Whether he does or doesn’t, two things are clear: More reports of abusive conduct are likely to come, and many in Hollywood are nonetheless rooting for Rudin. One top rep whose firm previously worked with Rudin calls him “a real asshole and a bully” but says, “I suppose the basic issue is, do we, as a community, want those types of offenders to have a chance at changing their behavior, some path to redemption and forgiveness, or not?”
Clearly, many are hoping the answer will be yes. Expect Rudin to disappear, at least for a while. Whether he can eventually return, says a top agent, depends not only on “what else comes out” but on whether “people buy that he is sincere in changing.” It seems important to note here that though Rudin said in his statement that he is “profoundly sorry for the pain” he had caused, he did not actually mention any plan to change. (In a follow-up statement, Rudin included “a commitment to grow and change.”)
Given that, is there a world in which a new Rudin emerges? “You can’t change someone’s DNA and who they are,” says one industry veteran who has dealt with Rudin. “The assholes are the assholes.” But another person who also has Rudin experience — and is more sympathetic to his cause — thinks the veteran producer might return even if the DNA is immutable. “The Republicans have taught me that if they can put January 6 down a memory hole and be like, ‘What insurrection?’ 60 days later,” this person says. “If he’s gone for a year and Music Man is a big hit — I don’t know how long anything lasts anymore.”
A version of this story first appeared in the April 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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