Screenwriter Michael Chabon, a longtime collaborator of Scott Rudin, is speaking out in the wake of The Hollywood Reporter‘s April 7 cover story on allegations made against the producer.
In a column on Medium shared on Friday, Chabon writes that he “regularly collaborated” with Rudin — including the 2000 film adaptation of one of Chabon’s novels Wonder Boys and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay — and, by doing so, “worked with and got to know many of his employees — a generation of them — from the VPs, to the researchers, to the assistants who worked the phones” including Kevin Graham-Caso , whose brother revealed he committed suicide following years of struggle with PTSD. “He was a sweetheart — and it was a gut-punch to learn, from his brother David’s recent video, about his suicide,” Chabon writes.
While reflecting on their working relationship, Chabon acknowledges that “twenty years is a long time to collaborate with an abuser.” He goes on to claim that he “regularly, even routinely” heard Rudin treat his staff “with what I would call a careful, even surgical contempt, like a torturer trained to cause injuries that leave no visible marks.”
One of the abusive events he claimed to have witnessed included Rudin throwing a pencil at an assistant, “as the young man fled Scott’s office and Scott’s shouting.” “The pencil struck the back of the assistant’s head, eraser end first, and fell to the carpet. A minute later, Scott called me into his office, and we started talking, as if nothing untoward had happened, about whatever script we were working on at the time… In those five words, the recipe for a culture of abuse, in families, in the workplace, and in the world,” he writes, adding that Rudin was not aware he saw the shocking moment.
Chabon says that while in his presence “Scott’s behavior was relatively controlled” and “his criticisms and castigations were offered in a tone that could pass for ‘bantering.’ “But there would be moments he could see Rudin easily “flush with anger” and attempting to “keep a lid on himself.”
Chabon adds that he “didn’t just know,” but rather “took it for granted” because “Scott was the way he was, Hollywood was the way it was, and to be a professional, to be a grown up in Hollywood, you could not take Scott’s behavior too seriously, even when it was unprofessional and juvenile.” “But that was just bullshit,” he adds. “To say ‘I took it for granted’ is letting myself off too easily.”
He proceeds to offer an apology for playing a part in perpetuating “the myth that professional and artistic success, encoded as ‘survival,’ require submissiveness to abuse, encoded as ‘toughness.’ “
Chabon also claims that he didn’t end his working relationship with Rudin even when in 2010 Rudin “turned the fury, vitriol and vituperation against me, in a dispute over the terms of a deal, in a series of potent Rudin email bombs packed with nails, razor blades and personal insults.” He also claims that Rudin would go on to “demean” his wife, which led Chabon to draw a line and “resolved not to work with him again.”
Chabon concludes that “it’s not enough to draw a line,” and it’s imperative “to point to it.” “You have to call people’s attention to it, and explain why it’s there, why you drew it. That’s another thing I did not have the courage or, to be completely honest, the inspiration or the vision, to do. It just did not even occur to me.”
THR has reached out to a rep for Rudin for a request for comment.
Following THR’s April 7 story which included recollections from some of Rudin’s ex-staffers who spoke on the record to share allegations of abusive and aggressive behavior over a number of years, Rudin addressed the claims by issuing a statement for The Washington Post noting that he plans to “step back” from Broadway productions in the wake of the allegations. “Much has been written about my history of troubling interactions with colleagues, and I am profoundly sorry for the pain my behavior caused to individuals, directly and indirectly,” wrote Rudin. “After a period of reflection, I’ve made the decision to step back from active participation on our Broadway productions, effective immediately.”
Rudin has also since announced that he plans to step back from the upcoming A24 Jennifer Lawrence film Red, White and Water, as well as Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington. “When I commented over the weekend, I was focused on Broadway reopening successfully and not wanting my previous behavior to detract from everyone’s efforts to return,” Rudin said in a statement. “It’s clear to me I should take the same path in film and streaming. I am profoundly sorry for the pain my behavior has caused and I take this step with a commitment to grow and change.”