Over the past week, a half dozen people involved with Broadway’s The Music Man converged on multiple conference calls to discuss Scott Rudin’s involvement in the upcoming play in light of abuse allegations made against the uber-producer in a THR cover story 10 days ago.
A source familiar with the calls says Music Man star Hugh Jackman was “very concerned” about the claims, which included on-the-record depictions of physical abuse and “what it would look like moving forward” with Rudin in a visible role. The source says that Jackman never made any ultimatums or threatened to leave the show, which is poised to kick off Broadway’s return after a debilitating shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. He did express his position that something needed to be done.
By contrast, Jackman’s co-star Sutton Foster did take a stand and said she would leave the highly anticipated musical if Rudin didn’t take a seat, says another knowledgeable source.
On Saturday morning, Rudin responded to the allegations of misconduct and physical abuse by giving The Washington Post a statement about his “history of troubling interactions with colleagues.” In the statement, Rudin continued, “I am profoundly sorry for the pain my behavior caused to individuals, directly and indirectly” and said he has “made the decision to step back from active participation on our Broadway productions, effective immediately.”
In The Hollywood Reporter story, several of Rudin’s ex-staffers chronicled his abusive behavior, which included throwing items at underlings in the New York office including a glass bowl, a baked potato, a teacup and a stapler. Also chronicled in the story, at least two staffers wound up in the hospital, one as a result of Rudin smashing a computer monitor on the young man’s hand. But in the immediate aftermath of the story’s publication, Hollywood remained relatively mum about the industry titan who has produced such films over the decades as Clueless, The Social Network and No Country for Old Men, which took home the best picture Oscar. Annapurna Pictures founder Megan Ellison and Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp were among the only notables figures to express disgust with Rudin’s behavior. “Similarly to Harvey [Weinstein], too many are afraid to speak out. I support and applaud those who did. There’s good reason to be afraid,” Ellison tweeted. Rapp echoed that sentiment on Twitter by noting that Hollywood’s #MeToo reckoning needs to “include addressing abuses beyond sexual crimes. I was wondering when, and whether, that would happen, and here we are with this long-overdue piece. I applaud the courageous souls who’ve come forward.” Still, one of the Music Man sources says there was a sentiment of “apathy” about the Rudin revelations among many of the play’s decision-makers.
But earlier this week, Moulin Rouge! star Karen Olivo called out the apathy on display within the Broadway community when it comes to Rudin. The Tony winner, who is currently up for another trophy for her role as Satine in Moulin Rouge!, said will not return to play the Broadway production in protest against the silence about Rudin. “Social justice is more important than being a sparkling diamond. Building a better industry for my students is more important than me putting money in my pockets,” she wrote on Instagram. “The silence about Scott Rudin? Unacceptable. Unacceptable. That’s the easy one, y’all. That’s a monster. That should be a no-brainer. Those of you who say you’re scared, what are you afraid of?”
In the wake of THR’s story, performers’ unions SAG-AFTRA, Actors Equity and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 condemned toxic work environments.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear what Rudin means by “active participation.” A representative for the producer did not elaborate on the phrase. A number of former staffers dubbed the gesture as hollow. “This guy’s not stepping aside from anything. Clever try though,” says one alum. The statement also did not address Rudin’s presence in the film industry, where he has a number of films on the horizon including next month’s Amy Adams starrer The Woman in the Window for Netflix as well as Jennifer Lawrence’s Red, White and Water for A24.
Other plays that Rudin presumably is stepping aside from include his latest Aaron Sorkin collaboration To Kill a Mockingbird. Sorkin, who has championed Rudin in the most glowing terms in the past, has remained silent even as he gives interviews for his Oscar-nominated film The Trial of the Chicago 7.