On the afternoon of Halloween 2012, as other New Yorkers put the finishing touches to their scary costumes, staff at Scott Rudin Productions say they were forcefully reminded they had a ‘monster’ in their midst.
The calm at the Times Square offices of the Hollywood and Broadway powerhouse that had produced The Social Network, No Country For Old Men and Zoolander was reportedly suddenly broken by the explosive sounds of splintering glass and metal that one witness compared to a car crash.
Scott Rudin, whose Broadway triumphs include The Book Of Mormon and Hello, Dolly!, had lost his temper with a minion who had failed to get him a seat on a sold-out flight, and had allegedly smashed an Apple computer monitor on his hand.
According to a former executive, as the injured assistant was rushed to hospital, Rudin phoned his lawyer. The rest of his staff retreated to the company’s conference room and discussed their nightmare boss’s latest volcanic eruption. ‘It was a new level of unhinged,’ one of them would later tell the Hollywood Reporter.
Scott Rudin (pictured with Harvey Weinstein), whose Broadway triumphs include The Book Of Mormon and Hello, Dolly!, had lost his temper with a minion who had failed to get him a seat on a sold-out flight, and had allegedly smashed an Apple computer monitor on his hand
However, if multiple allegations are correct, it was far from the only example. Shocking claims that the tyrannical Rudin would hurl anything from glass bowls and staplers to baked potatoes and teacups in fury have enmired one of the most powerful figures in the entertainment world.
Having won 151 Oscar nominations and 17 Tony theatre awards, Rudin’s reign as the producer dubbed ‘the most feared man in town’ is now under threat after he apologised and announced he had ‘stepped back’ from Broadway.
The 62-year-old mogul — whose film credits fittingly include There Will Be Blood, the Oscar-winning Daniel Day-Lewis drama about a psychopathic oil prospector — hasn’t responded to specific claims about his tantrums and repulsive treatment of staff.
Instead, he issued a statement last weekend saying: ‘Much has been written about my history of troubling interactions with colleagues, and I am profoundly sorry for the pain my behaviour caused individuals, directly and indirectly.’
He went on: ‘I am now taking steps I should have taken years ago to address this behaviour.’ After what he called a ‘period of reflection’, he said he had decided to ‘step back from active participation on our Broadway productions, effective immediately’.
Pictured: Producer Scott Rudin and Nicole Kidman
That ‘period of reflection’ was forced on him by a wave of ugly allegations from former employees finally prepared to speak out in a business that, since the fall of Harvey Weinstein and rise of the #MeToo movement, no longer indulges the titanic bullies who have long held sway there.
In fact, it’s telling that the disclosures that now beset him first appeared in the Hollywood Reporter, the same film industry tome that ran a fawning 2010 interview, which described Rubin as ‘dazzingly charming’ even while acknowledging his reputation as a workplace tyrant.
Five years earlier, in another celebratory newspaper story about him headlined ‘Boss-Zilla!’, Rubin admitted he had got through 119 assistants in five years (colleagues put it at 250) and it was revealed staff measured the length of his phone cord to ensure they never came too close.
He chuckled that his management style was ‘a cross between Attila The Hun and Miss Jean Brodie’, and said it was ‘entirely possible’ he once sacked someone for bringing him the wrong breakfast muffin.
He’s not chuckling now. The allegations about his Attila-like behaviour (there’s precious little evidence of Miss Jean Brodie) prompted unions representing Hollywood and Broadway performers to condemn harassment that creates a toxic work environment. There’s also a campaign to persuade the Actors’ Equity Association to add Rudin to a ‘Do Not Work’ blacklist.
Although there’s no suggestion he is guilty of any sexual misconduct, he and Weinstein have much in common as heavy-set New Yorker bruisers whose thuggish behaviour was tolerated for years because they were so successful.
Like Weinstein, Rudin is accused of not sparing the lash with his staff — generally in their early 20s, and desperate to succeed — but switching on the charm as soon as any of his stars appeared.
In 2014, he was forced to apologise after a hacked haul of Sony film studio emails revealed Rudin describing Angelina Jolie in an email as ‘a minimally talented spoiled brat’
But though Weinstein’s spectacular 2017 fall following myriad sexual misconduct allegations prompted other Hollywood oppressors to rein themselves in, Rudin apparently ploughed on as usual.
‘Everyone knows he’s just an absolute monster,’ ex-Rudin employee Caroline Rugo told the Hollywood Reporter.
With a working day that began at 5am and never finished until 8pm, Ms Rugo said she knew life would be tough when she joined Scott Rudin Productions in 2018 as an ‘executive co-ordinator’. However, she hadn’t expected Rudin’s explosive tantrums.
‘He threw a laptop at the window in the conference room and then went into the kitchen and we could hear him beating on the napkin dispenser,’ she said.
‘Another time he threw a glass bowl at [a colleague]. It’s hard to say if he threw it specifically at [the colleague], but the glass bowl hit the wall and smashed everywhere. The HR [human resources] person left in an ambulance due to a panic attack. That was the environment.’ The Reporter said various people have corroborated the laptop and HR incidents. Ms Rugo, who needs to exercise for half an hour every day because she has diabetes, says she was effectively sacked after Rudin insisted she dispense with her daily 5.30am gym session so she could work even harder. She says she didn’t take industrial action for fear of being blacklisted.
Another alleged Rudin tactic was to order staff out of his car and let them walk. Kevin Walsh, producer of Oscar-winning film Manchester By The Sea, has said it happened to him.
An ex-assistant recalled an alleged incident in 2018 involving Rudin throwing a baked potato at his head for not being able to tell him why a film company executive had come to see him.
‘I went into the kitchen, and I was like: ‘I’m not sure what it’s concerning,’ ‘ he said. ‘And he flipped out . . . He threw it at me, and I dodged a big potato.’ He says he was later sacked.
According to the Reporter, a different former assistant recounted a violent encounter with Rudin, after they refused to drop everything and clean up the kitchen. Rudin reportedly hurled his teacup so hard against a wall that it left a hole.
Ryan Nelson, Rudin’s executive assistant from 2018 to 2019, claims he experienced and witnessed so much appalling behaviour — including Rudin hurling a stapler at an assistant and calling him a ‘retard’ — that he left the industry. ‘Every day was horrific,’ he said.
‘When you feel his spit on your face as he’s screaming at you: ‘You’re worth nothing’, it obviously makes an impact,’ said a former Rudin employee who estimates ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of people suffered at his hands.
At 6ft 3in, ex-assistant Miguel Cortes says he is taller than Rudin so the producer would wait until Mr Cortes was sitting down before he’d bawl at him.
‘I remember thinking: ‘That’s almost a genius move, getting me when I’m at my smallest’,’ he told the Reporter.
Former staff say Rudin vindictively pursued people even after they’d stopped working for him. He would reportedly go on the industry website IMDb and remove their names from the credits on Rudin productions on which they had worked.
And he hasn’t confined his aggression to subordinates.
Rudin reportedly clashed privately with British director Sam Mendes, with whom he worked on a Broadway production of the play The Lehman Trilogy and with whose ex-wife, Kate Winslet, he made various films.
In 2014, he was forced to apologise after a hacked haul of Sony film studio emails revealed Rudin describing Angelina Jolie in an email as ‘a minimally talented spoiled brat’.
There’s no sign of Rudin ‘stepping back’ from Hollywood, where actors are under growing pressure to speak out about him. However, some fear he is so influential he will weather the storm. ‘Scott Rudin’s behaviour toward his staff is not only an open secret, but one that has been tolerated for far too long,’ says Gale Anne Hurd, an influential producer whose work includes The Terminator, Aliens and drama series The Walking Dead. ‘Given the deafening silence from the industry to these recent accusations, it appears nothing is likely to change.’
Although her Broadway musical, Moulin Rouge!, has nothing to do with Rudin, Tony Award-winning actress Karen Olivo has pulled out of it in protest at the ‘unacceptable’ silence from fellow thespians over Rudin.
He is ‘but one dragon to slay’ in a notoriously abusive industry, she says.
One dragon, maybe, but with a fireball of a temper.