Aaron Sorkin: Abusive bully Scott Rudin ‘got what he deserves’

85th Drama League Awards  - Arrivals.

In April of this year, The Hollywood Reporter did a cover story about producer Scott Rudin. For many years, Rudin has been one of the biggest names behind-the-scenes, producing awards-bait TV shows, films and Broadway shows. THR’s cover story revealed something which was common knowledge in Hollywood and New York: Rudin is an abusive monster who terrorized staffers – men and women – for years. He destroyed careers on a whim, he traumatized young interns and writers and he is an egomaniacal douchebag, basically. In the months since THR published that story, most of Rudin’s collaborators backed away from him, but few actually said anything about him (for or against) publicly. Well, Aaron Sorkin is promoting the Broadway return of his adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. Rudin produced the original, pre-pandemic run and Sorkin was asked about what he knew and when he knew it. From Vanity Fair:

Sorkin on removing Rudin from the show: “There was only one conversation. It was a Zoom call with Bart, Scott, and myself, and it was made clear that Scott would no longer have any relationship with To Kill a Mockingbird, either the Broadway company or the London company or the national tour. So Scott isn’t involved anymore. And we brought in a wonderful producer named Orin Wolf, who was already producing the national tour. He’s doing a great job as captain of the ship now.

Whether Rudin has a financial stake in the show: “Scott’s no longer compensated as a producer of the show—and he’s not pulling the strings from backstage. He has a stake as an investor, which will continue to be honored.

Sorkin collaborated with Rudin a lot: “In the last, I think, 12 years, I’ve worked with Scott a lot—three feature films, an HBO series, and a Broadway play. And it was painful to read that Hollywood Reporter story, particularly because it’s pretty likely that some of those assistants who were being abused were working on something I wrote while they were being abused. So I took it personally. Whether it’s a movie set, or a rehearsal room for a play, or backstage for a play, or a television series, morale is important to me. And I take a lot of pride in creating a place where people are really happy to come to work, where they feel a sense of ownership, a sense of authorship, a sense of family. And we have that at Mockingbird. We’ve always had that in Mockingbird. So this came as a big shock.

He didn’t know the extent of Rudin’s abuse: “I’ll tell you that in a number of the follow-up stories that I read, you’ll see people quoted saying, “Everybody knew, everybody knew.” And that’s ludicrous. Everybody did not know. I certainly didn’t know, and I don’t know anybody who knew. First of all, I have my own experience with Scott, and it’s a higher class of bullying, but I get it. The stories that I had heard over the last 12 years were the kinds of things that—they could have been scenes from The Devil Wears Prada, there was no violence. There’s nothing physical at all in the stories that I heard. Had I known, there’s no chance I would’ve tolerated it, there’s no chance Bart Sher would’ve tolerated it, that Jeff Daniels would’ve tolerated it. So we didn’t know. And once we did, we did something about it.

A higher class of bullying?? “Listen, I think Scott got what he deserves. He’s lying flat on the mat right now, and I don’t know how it’s helpful for me to stand on his torso and kind of jump up and down.

How people really didn’t come out & say anything about Rudin: “I think that if the Hollywood Reporter story had come out and nothing had happened as a result—that everybody just kind of shrugged and said, “Oh, well, that’s Scott, that’s show business”—I would have felt compelled to say something, to say, “Why are we still working with him? We shouldn’t do this.” But that isn’t what happened. The consequences came swiftly, and he sort of got the maximum penalty you can get for this. And I saw in those articles that we’re talking about that my name would always be part of a list of people who have chosen to remain silent, with the implication being that we somehow endorse what Scott did, or we don’t think it’s a big deal, or we want to make sure we’re able to work with him when and if he makes a comeback, something like that. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but in my case, first of all, you should know I don’t have any social media. But it’s not like I didn’t have the opportunity to be quoted. The New York Times asked me to say something and maybe someone else. And the reason I didn’t was, again, he’s flat on the mat, and I couldn’t think of anyone who would benefit from my saying something but me. That I get to stand there and say, “Hey, I’m with the good guys.” And it just didn’t feel right to do that.

[From Vanity Fair]

At one point in the interview, Sorkin says he hopes Rudin “gets better,” and compares Rudin to an addict or alcoholic. Not to take Sorkin’s side or anything, but I do think Sorkin is hesitant to rip Rudin to shreds because Rudin supported him and worked with him when Sorkin was battling his own addiction demons. But that’s another thing – people like Sorkin and Rudin get second chances and third chances, because they’re both the kind of men who give other men those chances. Rudin is not the victim here and Sorkin knows it. I don’t particularly believe Sorkin when he talks about how people didn’t really know – Rudin has been an abusive pig for a long time. The Sony Hack even revealed how disgusting he was, what a petty back-stabber he was, etc. But “people didn’t know!”

rudin THR cover

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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18 Responses to “Aaron Sorkin: Abusive bully Scott Rudin ‘got what he deserves’”

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  1. BNY says:

    I’m sorry but there is absolutely no way Sorkin did not know about this behavior before the press stories. I work in theater in NYC and I learned about it in the first year of my career, which I’ve had for over a decade. Yes, Rudin got what he deserved but far too late because people who knew the abuse he perpetrated kept working with him.

  2. MF1 says:

    Oh please. I don’t work in Hollywood and even I knew about Scott Rudin!

    • Pix says:

      Exactly. I’ve know for years – since the invention of google. Anyone remember the movie Swimming With Sharks with Kevin Spacey as (ahem) the abuser to Frank Whaley? That movie is old and it’s, supposedly, based on Rudin.

      • …and I’m old and at the TIME IT CAME OUT everyone knew it was him but it was when that behavior was at it’s height, and it was all HAHA, look how tough these guys are to work for! Think of Don Simpson, etc. There was almost a “Hollywood Glamour” to how abusive and “legendary” the stories of those abuses were! Vanity Fair did articles about it and everyone oohed and ahhed and nothing was done because this behavior and stories about it appealed to the same people responsible for this behavior. It was Roman Polanski and Jack Nicholson and young girls and coke, and over and over and over….it’s all cool to young men and older men and there you go.

  3. OriginalLala says:

    He says it pretty clearly that he knew Rudin was a verbally awful person but this was somehow ok, and it’s only when he found out there was a physical component that it became unacceptable.
    We need to stop with this kind of thinking.

    Verbal harassment and bullying is incredibly traumatic and not ok, and I’m fed up with the sheer number of powerful people who seem to be completely toxic and get away with it.

    • SarahCS says:

      That’s probably the part I have most trouble with. ‘Sticks and stones’ and all that rubbish. This has got to be addressed and changed, it’s not acceptable and does just as much damage if not more as the psychological impact can just eat away at you long after anything physical would have healed (I’m not saying there is no lasting damage with physical abuse, they both can do long term psychological harm).

  4. AmelieOriginal says:

    I really have no idea who this man Scott Rudin is as I tend to not pay attention to producers and I have literally not seen any of Sorkin’s shows or movies, though I know who he is. But I do wonder when people say they had no idea. Are they so insulated that nobody dares to speak up to them about problematic behavior or they just don’t run in the crowds where you hear rumors and stories of problematic people? And if he did hear stories, did he just excuse it or consider it hearsay? And if he did witness any problematic behavior, what did he do? It’s kind of like when you try to wonder how to feel about Weinstein’s wife. Did she really have no idea the extent to how awful her husband was? There are stories of her being in his presence when he was a rude bully. You want to believe people but I’m always suspicious.

  5. Becks1 says:

    He seems to be dancing around things a bit, but I think its clear that he knew Scott was a verbal bully (and that Scott was an ahole to him at times) but he didn’t know about the physical aspect. It seems sort of off to me that he’s willing to tolerate verbal abuse like that. You can be an abusive ahole without every laying a hand on anyone, and you can harass your employees without ever getting physical.

  6. STRIPE says:

    I believe Sorkin knew Rudin was an a**hole but just thought he was a run of the mill or slightly worse than average Hollywood bully. I think it’s very possible Rudin kept it *relatively* together in front of people he viewed as equals and peers.

    Not to totally defend Sorkin, but to put his response or lack thereof in context…I don’t think it can be understated how pervasive and ingrained bullying is in the industry. I left because of the casual abuse of interns/assistants. At some point it’s probably hard to recognize – the last thing that can describe water is a fish, ya know?

    • Christina says:

      Agreed. Abuse is normalized in the entertainment industry. Having lived around it, I didn’t have the stomach for it. And every man I know who entered made it in some capacity and has made a decent living or executive salaries. I personally know of NO women from my 20’s who were able to stay and survive in it behind the scenes. My friends and I are in our 50s now.

      I am somewhat devastated that my child has made entertainment her chosen career. She wants to transform the mysogyny in the business, but I am not as hopeful.

      • My kid grew up in hollywood and I’ve done everything I can to keep him out and away from the business. He goes to school many many states away and I’m hopeful he now has some perspective on how horrible the whole business is. When you grow up around it you just take all this shit for granted and it’s normalized.

    • MF1 says:

      Totally agree that abuse is normalized in the entertainment industry. I think a lot of people knew about Rudin but will say they didn’t know. What they actually mean is, “I heard some stuff about Rudin but didn’t want to admit how toxic and terrible he is.”

  7. Coco says:

    If the average person outside of Hollywood heard stories about Scott Rudin, then know one in Hollywood can you claim that to have known.

  8. Willow says:

    Isn’t he a leader in the industry? Producers are bosses? They influence the work environment, including how employees are treated? That’s the impression I have.
    In that case, ALL of the producers, after that article, should have said, Rudin’s behavior was wrong, not how employees should be treated, I don’t treat anyone that way or allow it.
    Giving a statement has nothing to do with how it affects Rudin personally and everything with how their influence affects hundreds of employees! He totally missed the point.
    And verbal abuse is abuse. ALL types of abuse leave victims with long-lasting harm.

  9. Lionel says:

    I call BS on AS. The movie “Swimming with Sharks” was written by Rudin’s ex-assistant in the mid-90s. After the industry screening, when it was still called by its original name “The Buddy Factor,” Rudin went up to her and mimed choking her. Sure, that’s a gesture that could be interpreted as playful. But EVERYONE knew. I doubt AS, as an up-and-coming writer at the time, was living under a rock, which is the only place one could have been in the industry to not know about it at the time.

    It’s true that everybody knew and nobody did anything about it, and that while he was known as one of the worst he wasn’t abnormal for industry power players at the time.

    Rudin was played in SwS by Kevin Spacey, who at the point hadn’t broken out in “The Usual Suspects” (or perhaps did concurrently.) I will say that not everybody knew about him at that moment, that was still to come.

  10. Izzy says:

    So as long as the abuse was verbal and mental, he was fine with it. No offense, but Sorkin ain’t looking too good either.

  11. LWT00 says:

    Lolol this is rich coming from Sorkin. This is the guy who in, writer’s rooms, puts his name on every episode, which greatly diminishes the script fee and residual payments those writers get for the rest of their careers. Is it technically allowed? Yes. Is it a massive, massive dick move? Also yes.

    Describing any workplace as a family is a biiiiig red flag, too.