Unlike past stories, The Hollywood Reporter’s offers, for the first time in Rudin’s almost 40 years as a producer, an unromanticized affirmation of the seemingly endless anecdotes about him as a manager. It details his alleged misbehavior as well as his influence, which has arguably made the industry and the journalists who report on it more likely to accept workplace aggression as a condition of great art. A closer look at the articles written about him over the years reveals how coverage of the producer helped hide his bullying tactics in plain sight, softening his image until it became passively accepted.
Read: In the valley of the open secret
Ironically, many pieces about Rudin portray him not merely as a producer, but as a protector. “Auteur types like the [Coen brothers] and the [Wes] Andersons gravitate toward Rudin because of his mantra to create ‘the safest possible environment’ for them to realize their visions,” Variety observed in 2008. Rudin is known for supporting lofty literary adaptations, pushing big creative swings from directors with difficult reputations, and making critical favorites. He holds the rare title of EGOT winner—as in, someone who has scored an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony—and his fingerprints are probably all over some of your favorite stage and screen projects. (They’re definitely on mine, given my love for Clueless, Lady Bird, and The Social Network.) Rudin’s stewardship of acclaimed artists made him well liked by A-listers, but his intuition made him bulletproof. “Scott brings an intellectual rigor to all things,” John Lesher, then a Paramount executive, told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. Rudin has elsewhere been described as a “voracious consumer of culture” with “unimpeachable taste” and a “propensity for intellectually complex projects and high-energy negotiation.”
Pieces that referenced his alleged mistreatment of employees characterized him as a defender of art. Entertainment reporters wrote of Rudin’s belligerence—he butted heads with Harvey Weinstein to get movies made the way he wanted and blacklisted The New Yorker after the publication broke the review embargo for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—and occasionally challenged him on his meanness. Sometimes, Rudin leaned into his notoriety, talking about his hostility as a strength. As he told the Los Angeles Times in 2003, filmmakers he works with “want that combative ability … They want you to go and kill for them.” Every film or play that led to a trophy only seemed to fortify the idea that Rudin’s vicious approach was a necessary pathway to prestige.
Some stories about working for him were so absurd, they sounded like fiction. Because the producer reportedly went through an estimated 250 assistants in five years, tales such as that of the entry-level employee who got fired for buying the wrong breakfast muffin could seem unremarkable. And indeed, satires such as Swimming With Sharks and Tropic Thunder reportedly based their unhinged and intimidating entertainment-industry moguls on figures like Rudin. To make it in Hollywood, these depictions made clear, you needed to pay a heavy psychological toll.