On Friday, writer Michael Chabon added his voice to the rising tide of those speaking out about producer Scott Rudin, a conversation initiated by an April 7 Hollywood Reporter story, and continued in a Vulture report published Thursday, in which dozens of the producer’s former interns and assistants allege bullying, threats, and physical intimidation by Rudin in the workplace. In an essay entitled “Apology of a Rudin Apologist,” published to Medium, Chabon acknowledges he knew about at least some Rudin’s behavior and apologizes for normalizing it: “I’m not proud of that. Let me state it more honestly: I’m ashamed.”
“Twenty years is a long time to collaborate with an abuser. My impulse is to excuse, exonerate, or at any rate minimize my complicity by saying that, personally, I never saw or heard anything approaching the level of the most egregious incidents reported on vulture.com and elsewhere, that I never heard Scott use vulgar or demeaning epithets, or saw Scott cause physical injury,” the author writes. “I heard stories of Scott’s tantrums and vindictiveness, but not of smashed hands and people pushed out of moving cars. But I knew enough.”
In his essay, Chabon recalls seeing Rudin treat his staff with “careful, even surgical contempt” and once throw a pencil at a fleeing assistant. While he, too, was sometimes the recipient of the producer’s anger, the author says he ‘took for granted’ that enduring Rudin’s behavior was the price one paid to make it in Hollywood. “To say ‘I took it for granted’ is letting myself off too easily, because what I did, to ease my own conscience, was buy into, and thus help to perpetuate, the myth that professional and artistic success, encoded as ‘survival,’ require submissiveness to abuse, encoded as ‘toughness,’” writes Chabon.
After optioning Chabon’s The Gentleman Host in 1994, Rudin produced 2000’s Wonder Boys, based on the author’s 1995 book of the same name, and worked for years to adapt Chabon’s 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, though the project never came to fruition. Last Saturday, Rudin announced his decision to step away from his Broadway productions, and made the same announcement regarding his current film projects on Tuesday.
“And for twenty years, on and off, I sat there as he dished it out to people who, over that period, grew ever younger, until any of them might have been one of my own children with a right to expect, or at least to hope, that I might use my voice, my privilege, my authority as a white man, as a person Scott respected, even as a father, to protect them, to speak up on their behalf, to say something like, “Hey, Scott, take it easy on the kid,” or, better, ‘It’s not okay to talk to people that way. Stop,” writes the author. “I didn’t do that. I didn’t do anything but carry on, as if. I’m not proud of that. Let me state it more honestly: I’m ashamed. I regret, and I want to apologize for, my part in enabling Scott Rudin’s abuse, simply by standing by, saying nothing, looking the other way.”
Says the author, “I regret most of all that Kevin Graham-Caso is not here for me to tell him personally how sorry I am.” On Sunday, Graham-Caso’s brother David Graham-Caso posted a video statement about the detrimental effect he says Rudin’s “traumatic abuse,” including allegedly shoving him from a moving car, had on his brother while the latter worked as the producer’s assistant between 2008 and 2009, going so far as to assert it was a factor in Kevin Graham-Caso death by suicide this past October.
In the end, Chabon reveals, it wasn’t Rudin’s volatile anger or “personal insults” that lead him to break ties with the producer, but rather when the author learned around 2015 that Rudin had allegedly begun to “demean and shit-talk my wife,” author Ayelet Waldman, behind his back.
“But it’s not enough to draw a line, however belatedly,” concludes Chabon. “You also have 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. Like so many but, thank God, not all of us, I left that feat of public bravery for other — less privileged — people to enact.”
In a statement issued through a spokesperson Thursday, Rudin responded to Vulture’s report and the allegations against him: “Scott has acknowledged and apologized for the troubling office interactions that he has had with colleagues over the years, and has announced that he is stepping back from his professional work, so that he can do the proper work to address these issues. That said, the ‘stories’ you have cited specifically herein are in most cases extreme exaggerations, frequently anonymous, second- and third-hand examples of urban legend.”