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Frances McDormand and Joel Coen say they never witnessed any bullying behavior by producer Scott Rudin, who has been accused by ex-staffers of workplace misconduct, though Coen acknowledges he was aware of Rudin’s fearsome reputation in the industry.
“I think there isn’t anyone who works in the business who hasn’t heard those stories over the last however many decades that Scott has been working,” said the Tragedy of Macbeth director in a Deadline interview published Thursday.
The comments were the first by the pair since The Hollywood Reporter detailed extensive allegations against Rudin that included verbal and physical abuse, such as Rudin smashing an Apple computer monitor on an employee’s hand. After THR’s April 6 cover story, Rudin backed away from several projects, including as producer on Macbeth, the A24 film produced by Coen and starring McDormand and Denzel Washington, which is making its debut at the New York Film Festival.
In a follow-up THR report June 23, former assistant Eric Emauni said Rudin berated a staffer once when McDormand and Coen were close enough to hear. “He invited Frances McDormand and Joel Coen into the office for a meeting.” He added that in the middle of the visit, Rudin exited his office to the assistant bullpen just outside and “laid into [a female] assistant while they were there. They sat there, [then] they continued their meeting. Right after that, she quit.” Emauni is now managing director of LAByrinth Theater Company in New York. At the time, McDormand and Coen categorically denied having seen or witnessed any such behavior but declined to comment through their representatives.
But Coen and McDormand are now expanding on that denial. The director insisted that while he has witnessed “all kinds of behavior” by “all kinds of people,” he personally did not witness any misbehavior by Rudin. “But on the other hand, I heard the stories and to a certain extent, I didn’t doubt the stories,” said Coen. “I knew there was … you hear a lot of it and you figure a lot of it is probably true. But like I say, I hear stories about lots of people, and I’ve seen questionable behavior from lots of people, but I never, ever saw anything like that from Scott. I don’t condone it, of course, but I never saw it.”
Coen also explained why Rudin was involved with many of his projects, including Macbeth. “As far as the allegations and Scott’s behavior, yes, I think there isn’t anyone who works in the business who hasn’t heard those stories over the last however many decades that Scott has been working,” said Coen in the interview, noting Rudin had been a “natural fit” for the project as a longtime collaborator.
Though Coen didn’t name Emauni, who gave his account to THR on the record, he doubled down on his denial. “So from my point of view, whoever is saying we did see it is not being honest. So, that makes me skeptical of anything else that particular person might be saying.”
In THR’s story, Emauni also detailed an incident in which Rudin allegedly told staffers to call the police on the former assistant, an exchange that took place while media mogul Barry Diller was on the phone. The account was corroborated by another employee who was in the room at the time. “Scott says, ‘Somebody call the police on him. Get him out of here,’” Emauni told THR. “And it was that moment for me, as a Black man, that I said, ‘I need to remove myself from this space.’ Because, if you can so cavalierly just shout something out like that to your staff, without any consequence to what that means for me, that’s a huge problem.”
Diller denied this description of events: “I’ve never been on a phone conversation with Scott Rudin where he berated anyone, much less called the police,” he said in a statement.
For her part, McDormand told Deadline: “I think the most important thing that Joel has said is that we have worked with Scott for many years, we have not witnessed his disrespectful bully behavior to his employees, and what Joel has just said, anyone that questions our reputation should speak to us about that. Because I think anybody in that industry would not question our reputation when it comes … we do not handle ourselves that way professionally or personally. So, I think that’s enough.”
Tatiana Siegel contributed to this report.
Sept. 24, 1:40 p.m.: Updated with Barry Diller’s denial (as also included in THR’s June 23 story) that he has ever been on a phone conversation with Rudin where he berated anyone.
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