the industry

21 Notorious Scott Rudin Stories

Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

Prolific producer Scott Rudin came under renewed scrutiny last week after a Hollywood Reporter exposé detailed his alleged abusive behavior toward his assistants, including hurling a baked potato at one and smashing a computer monitor on another’s hand. But the EGOT winner’s temperament is not a revelation in the industry, where he has a long-established record of combative conduct — in 1998, Fortune magazine described Rudin as being famous for “his habit of throwing phones, verbally abusing staffers, and expecting 16-hour workdays and seven-day workweeks.” He told The Wall Street Journal in 2005 that he had burned through 119 assistants in five years (some workers estimated the number would be 250 or more if it included those fired during their two-week trial periods). From his pushing people out of moving cars to engaging in a bitter feud with Harvey Weinstein, here are 21 tales about Rudin that helped build his unpleasant reputation.

He reportedly kicked and punched so many holes in his office walls that assistants had to cover them with plants.

According to a 2001 Observer article, Rudin’s office at Paramount reportedly contained a “jungle of foliage” meant to hide the destruction. “Between the enormous potted plants everywhere and the look of the faces on the interns and the assistants, it was like walking into Vietnam,” former employee Jason Eaton told the Observer, adding, “[N]o matter how bad you imagine Scott to be, it’s a thousand times worse.”

He called Angelina Jolie a “minimally talented spoiled brat” with a “rampaging spoiled ego.”

In an email exchange leaked during the 2014 Sony hack, Rudin refused to reach out to the actress, writing that “the masturbatory call is a wank I have no time for.” Gawker screenshots also show him calling potential Steve Jobs movie financier Megan Ellison a “bipolar 28-year-old lunatic” and comparing a financial proposal he didn’t like to sexual assault (“Nobody needs to make a movie this badly … to be raped in the process”).

He suggested President Obama would like Kevin Hart.

In another Sony conversation released by BuzzFeed, Rudin speculated that Barack Obama would also like the Black-led films 12 Years a Slave and Ride Along. He later apologized, saying the remarks were meant to be funny but were instead thoughtless and insensitive.

He reportedly pushed an assistant out of a moving car.

According to “Page Six,” an assistant was once late to pick Rudin up from the airport. “My last day is today,” the assistant said. “Your last moment is now,” Rudin allegedly replied, forcing him out of the car onto the Triborough Bridge. In another tale of vehicular rage, THR reported that an angry Rudin once sent an assistant flying into the windshield after slamming on the brakes. (When asked about such stories in the interview, Rudin laughed but made no denials.)

He reportedly cracked cell phones in half “like he was shucking oysters.”

A Rudin alumnus told Vulture in 2010 that Rudin had snapped a Motorola StarTAC in half when director Stephen Daldry asked if he could contact him later on his cell. The anonymous source alleged that Rudin had smashed so many BlackBerry phones on a wall between two assistants that he “almost never” knew his own cell number. A plastic U.S. mail crate of new phones was reportedly kept on standby.

He reportedly threw his corded phone so often that assistants measured the length of the cord so they could be out of reach.

According to the 2005 Wall Street Journal report, staffers wanted to keep an appropriate distance so they wouldn’t get hit. “The rookies often stood too close,” a former employee said. Assistants also reportedly moved a framed picture on his desk out of Rudin’s reach, afraid it would otherwise be hurled through the air the next time their boss wanted to vent his anger. Rudin admitted to throwing things “occasionally, but very rarely.”

He reportedly fired an assistant for mispronouncing a director’s name.

Derek Evans told The Wall Street Journal that in 1995, he had said Alan J. Pakula’s last name incorrectly while reviewing a list of upcoming calls. Rudin “went crazy” and instantly fired him, telling him “to get out of the office, off the lot, leave Hollywood, Los Angeles, and California, getting louder each time.” Evans waited for six hours at the Paramount Pictures commissary before getting a beeper message to return to the office.

He reportedly fired someone for bringing him the wrong breakfast muffin.

Rudin told the Journal that he didn’t remember the incident but said it was “entirely possible.” Food seems to be a point of tension for him — “Page Six” once reported that he had “pitched a fit” over getting the incorrect sushi, while a former executive told Esquire that Rudin would yell equally “if you give him the wrong flavor FrozFruit or screw up a $100 million deal.”

He reportedly sent heavy smoker Harvey Weinstein a crate of cigarettes during a feud.

Over the years, Rudin and Weinstein allegedly clashed over everything from casting to postproduction. According to New York Magazine, a particularly nasty fight centered on The Hours, with the two collaborators battling over Nicole Kidman’s prosthetic nose and the musical score. Weinstein reportedly said the movie wasn’t finished and nixed its Venice Film Festival debut. A furious Rudin then allegedly sent the cigarette “gift” to Weinstein with a snide note: “Thanks as always for your help.”

He reportedly put the definition of anticipate in huge letters over an assistant’s desk.

According to the 2005 Journal article, Rudin reportedly forced the assistant to tape the sign above his work space. Here’s how Rudin described his interactions with assistants to the Journal at the time: “When I ask you these questions, have an answer ready. Then I would think you’re intelligent.”

He reportedly fired an assistant who was on the way to his childhood friend’s funeral.

Jon Silk, the grieving assistant in his 20s, had made a chart that Rudin didn’t understand, according to the 2005 Journal report. Allegedly, Rudin yelled at Silk to learn to communicate, threw a stack of papers across the room, and demanded that he leave. Silk reportedly slammed the door, causing Rudin to fire him and ask for his cell phone and ID on the spot. Silk, who was later rehired, told “Page Six” that he was on anti-ulcer medication while working for Rudin.

He reportedly fired and rehired a legally blind assistant.

Rudin told the Journal he had fired the assistant multiple times “not because he was blind but because he wasn’t good enough at the job.” However, Rudin said he felt guilty seeing the man at the bus stop outside his window, so he rehired him.

He reportedly emailed a staffer 1,400 times over nine days.

An associate shared this experience with The Hollywood Reporter in 2010. Other stories also link Rudin to excessive communication — according to “Page Six,” he allegedly had an employee make 300 back-to-back calls in a single day, while another employee told Salon that they came to work at 7:30 a.m. to discover they had missed a chain of voice-mails from Rudin time-stamped from 11 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

His business strategy reportedly involved having assistants make calls at absurdly early or late hours.

“Between his offices in New York and L.A., he’s pretty much got fifteen hours, sixteen hours a day covered,” a former employee told Esquire in 2007. The game “went on for hours and hours and hours every morning.” According to the 2005 Wall Street Journal report, the goal was for Rudin to always be waiting for calls back rather than the other way around. This was so common that DreamWorks’ head of marketing reportedly once used a nighttime voice-mail greeting inviting anyone other than Rudin’s office to leave a message.

He reportedly jeopardized an entire production to get back at playwright Bruce Norris.

In 2012, according to the New York Post, Norris allegedly withdrew from a Rudin-produced HBO pilot after three months of contract negotiations. In response, Rudin dropped out of the Broadway production he was set to produce of Norris’s Clybourne Park, leaving the cast unsure if the show would go on (it did). Meanwhile, Rudin reportedly pulled the plug on two other Norris plays he had planned to produce in New York the following year.

He allegedly owes an advertising agency over $6 million.

Broadway News reported that the SpotCo agency had worked with Rudin on eight-to-12 shows from 2014 to 2020, providing advertising services for his Broadway productions including To Kill a Mockingbird and West Side Story. The agency reportedly asked for $6.3 million in damages, suing Rudin for breach of oral contract, breach of implied-in-fact contract, unjust enrichment, and breach of the warranty of good faith and fair dealing. Rudin’s attorney denied the merit of the case.

His lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters to amateur and stock theater companies over productions of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Rudin said an agreement made with author Harper Lee’s estate compelled him to enforce the rights of Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation, according to THR. The Daily Mail reported that child actors in a U.K. production had cried after learning their show would be canceled. THR reported that some theater-community members called for a boycott of Rudin’s productions for bullying, and Rudin later released a statement offering companies the right to perform the Sorkin version.

He banned a critic from all future screenings of his films for breaking a review embargo.

David Denby, a New Yorker critic, published a (positive) review of Rudin’s film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo one week ahead of the agreed-upon date. Rudin told Denby he had “very badly damaged” the movie and would not be invited to see any of Rudin’s films in the future. According to The Atlantic, a New York Press critic once claimed Rudin was part of a group that had uninvited him from a screening because of previous negative reviews he had written. (Rudin’s publicist denied this, and the critic, Armond White, was eventually able to attend.)

He slashed Broadway ticket prices at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

In March 2020, Deadline reported that in order to fill seats, Rudin was lowering prices for five of his Broadway shows to $50 through the end of the month. In a statement, Rudin framed his decision as an opportunity for people to see shows they might not normally be able to afford to see.

He reportedly got the musical Beetlejuice evicted from the Winter Garden Theatre.

In 2019, Beetlejuice co-producer Hal Luftig told the New York Times it was “no secret” that Rudin had wanted the theater for his upcoming production of The Music Man. The Times reported that a Broadway landlord had ordered the fan-favorite play to leave the theater by invoking a “stop clause,” which applies when shows fail to hit a specified gross for two weeks. While stop clauses do have precedents, the Times described the situation as unusual because Beetlejuice’s grosses had already rebounded.

He reportedly called assistants “a fucking waste of skin.”

An ex-employee told Esquire this was a frequent Rudin insult.

21 Notorious Scott Rudin Stories