Film and theater producer Scott Rudin has routinely bullied, abused, and thrown things at his employees, according to a Hollywood Reporter cover story by Tatiana Siegel. Rudin’s films, including Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men, have racked up 151 Oscar nominations and 23 wins over the years, while his plays have brought him 17 Tony Awards. That may explain why his career has lasted as long as it has, despite the fact that, according former assistant Caroline Rugo, “Everyone just knows he’s an absolute monster.” A spokesperson for Rudin declined to comment on the Hollywood Reporter’s specific allegations about the producer’s behavior, which include:
• Smashing a computer monitor down on an unnamed assistant’s hand hard enough to break the glass and send the assistant to the E.R.
• Agreeing to allow a modest accommodation for another assistant’s type 1 diabetes—a doctor-mandated 30-minute workout scheduled between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m.—then demanding the assistant skip it or “work faster.”
• Throwing a laptop at a conference room window during a meeting with a publicist, then retiring to the office kitchen and smashing up a napkin dispenser.
• Throwing a glass bowl at an employee, shattering it, in an incident that prompted one of his HR staffers to have a panic attack severe enough to require an ambulance.
• Throwing a baked potato an assistant.
• Throwing a stapler at another assistant.
• Throwing a teacup at yet another assistant, hard enough to punch a hole in the wall.
• Falsely accusing an employee of theft in an attempt to kill a job offer at a different company.
• Removing production credits from former employees as retaliation for quitting.
Stories about Scott Rudin’s behavior have been circulating for decades—the abusive boss in Swimming With Sharks was allegedly based on him—but as the Hollywood Reporter points out, in the past, Rudin’s abuse was often spun positively. A 2005 Wall Street Journal profile, which ran under the headline “Boss-Zilla,” included similar tales of bullying and thrown office supplies, noted that “caustic rants, shrieking threats, and impulsive firings are routine,” and mentioned in passing that Rudin had employed 119 assistants over the past five years (not counting the ones who washed out before their two-week trial employment period was up). And that was a positive story, one that gave Rudin space to describe his office as “hard-scrabble” and remark, “The thin-skinned guys don’t like it. … The thick-skinned people … understand that I’m working as hard as them.” In the Hollywood Reporter’s story, which Rudin did not comment on, Ryan Nelson, who worked as Rudin’s executive assistant from 2018–2019, paints a different portrait of the office environment:
Every day was exhausting and horrific. Not even the way he abused me, but watching the way he abused the people around me who started to become my very close friends. You’re spending 14 hours a day with the same people, enduring the same abuse. It became this collective bond with these people.
Silently enduring Rudin’s abuse allegedly came with career benefits—that 2005 profile is full of former assistants working in high-level Hollywood jobs after a tour of duty in his office—and the Hollywood Reporter story alleges that Rudin quietly settled with those who protested, while using non-disparagement agreements to ensure their stories stayed buried. The unnamed victim of the monitor-smashing incident allegedly received three associate producing credits and a monetary settlement. Meanwhile, Siegel describes an environment of fear among Rudin’s former employees, several of whom consulted lawyers before speaking to her. Annapurna Pictures founder Megan Ellison, who Rudin called a “lunatic” in an email leaked back in 2014, alleged on Twitter that there are many more stories to tell:
As one of Rudin’s former assistants noted, however, the harm Rudin has allegedly caused isn’t necessarily fixable. “Over his long career, there are hundreds and hundreds of people who have suffered. And some have given up their dreams because he made them feel and believe that they can’t do whatever it is they’re trying to do.”