Joe Biden abandons pledge to govern for all America as one-term president rushes through laws

Joe Biden abandons pledge to govern for all America as one-term president rushes through laws

24 Apr    Finance News

The New York Times

Volatile and Vengeful: How Scott Rudin Wielded Power in Show Business

Scott Rudin has long been one of the most celebrated and powerful producers in Hollywood and, especially, on Broadway — an EGOT who won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and 17 Tony Awards while developing a reputation as one of the vilest bosses in the industry. Respected for his taste and talent — with films like “The Social Network” and “No Country for Old Men” and shows including “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Book of Mormon” — he is also known within the entertainment world for terrorizing underlings, hurling staplers, cellphones, mugs and other improvised projectiles in moments of rage. But the abuse of assistants is just a small part of the way he has wielded his power. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times He has a reputation for being vengeful: After a dispute with an agent over airfare, he allegedly pressured some of the agent’s clients to leave him. He is litigious: He sued an insurance company seeking an enormous payout after he blamed the closing of a musical on the pregnancy of a star, Audra McDonald. And he can be callous: When Rita Wilson, who was starring in one of his plays, told him that she had breast cancer, she said, he lamented that she would need to take time off during Tony voting season. Now, though, the 62-year-old producer is facing a reckoning. An article this month in The Hollywood Reporter detailing his long history of bullying assistants prompted an outcry, leading Rudin to announce that he would step back from “active participation” in his projects on Broadway, in Hollywood and in London’s West End. And in written responses to questions for this article, he said he was “profoundly sorry” for his behavior and revealed that he is resigning from the Broadway League, which is the trade association of producers and theater owners. “I know apologizing is not, by any means, enough,” he said. “In stepping back, I intend to work on my issues and do so fully aware that many will feel that this is too little and too late.” For decades Rudin had largely escaped consequences for his behavior. Established and emerging artists flocked to him, in part because of his appetite for artistically ambitious (and often award-winning) work. But he also benefited from his reputation for ruthlessness: Many of those harmed by his wrath have been afraid of retaliation if they speak out. Even some of his biggest backers say he needs to change. “He’s had a bad temper,” said billionaire David Geffen, who alongside his fellow mogul Barry Diller has been coproducing Rudin’s recent Broadway shows, “and he clearly needs to do anger management or something like that.” The New York Times interviewed dozens of actors, writers, agents, producers, investors and office assistants who have worked with Rudin, examined financial records of his stage shows and reviewed court papers from his many legal disputes. What emerged confirmed much of what was detailed by The Hollywood Reporter and provided a fuller picture of how he used and abused power not only in his offices but also as he alternately cultivated and castigated colleagues at all levels of the entertainment industry. After Rudin’s decades of dominance, his comeuppance — if that is what it is — arrives as the entertainment industry is contemplating a post-pandemic future that many hope will look different from the past. The Rudin employee handbook, distributed to new staffers, outlines strict rules of conduct. “Rude, offensive or outrageous behavior” is verboten. Co-workers must treat one another with “patience, respect and consideration.” Be courteous and helpful. Do not send angry or rude emails. But employees swiftly learned that there was one person to whom those rules did not apply: the boss. Mistakes, real and imagined, sent Rudin into a rage — an incorrect font (he insists on Garamond), a misspelled name, an unwiped conference table. Rudin routinely screamed and swore: “Why are you so stupid?” “You’re a hopeless idiot.” “A clown car is running this office.” “You’re a pathetic loser.” Former employees said he threw things at walls, at windows, at the ground and, occasionally, toward subordinates. His behavior prompted outrage after it was described earlier this month in The Hollywood Reporter. It had also been described, to less effect, in multiple other accounts over the years. Rudin offered both an apology and a bit of pushback to the stories being told about him as a boss. “While I believe some of the stories that have been made public recently are not accurate, I am aware of how inappropriate certain of my behaviors have been and the effects of those behaviors on other people,” he said. “I am not proud of these actions.” At Rudin’s pre-pandemic Times Square offices — which he moved out of last summer — he often holed up in a conference room. Two assistants described a sign on the door: “Turn around. Do not come in. There is nothing here for you.” For some, this was Tinsel Town boot camp, a place to gain irreplaceable insight into the entertainment world. Many former assistants have risen in the Hollywood ranks and credit Scott Rudin Productions with versing them in the ways of the industry. They laud Rudin’s perfectionism, his acumen, instincts — “a golden gut,” said one — and his relentless work ethic. But more than two dozen ex-employees shared memories of colleagues being excoriated: An intern receptionist was fired for moving too slowly to alert maintenance about a flickering ceiling light. A publicist sat quaking as Rudin punched the wall. An employee was fired for falling asleep while working late. Another was kicked out of a car on a highway after mispronouncing a name (the vehicle first pulled to the shoulder). Over a decadeslong career, Rudin built a reputation as a tastemaker admired for his skill at harnessing the talent and the money to present adventurous work too risky for most other commercial producers, often to critical acclaim. In Hollywood, as the industry gravitated toward franchises and reboots, he moved toward indie fare; among his most notable recent films have been “Lady Bird,” “Isle of Dogs” and “Uncut Gems.” On Broadway, he has been the most prolific producer: Over the last 15 years, he has been a lead producer on 36 shows, mostly starry productions of serious plays, but also the megahit “Book of Mormon,” which has grossed a whopping $659 million on Broadway over its decadelong run. He has had a knack for bridging the worlds of theater and film, luring movie stars to Broadway and finding film jobs for stage actors, directors and writers. His productions have starred a who’s who of entertainment, including Denzel Washington, Larry David, Chris Rock, Michelle Williams and Laurie Metcalf. But he has also racked up a long list of people who have had enough. A few actors and writers who worked with Rudin have begun to share stories about his bad behavior. In 2015, Wilson learned she had breast cancer while starring in a Rudin production of David’s play “Fish in the Dark.” When she told Rudin the news, she said, he complained that she would need time off during Tony voting season and asked to see her medical records, while Anna Shapiro, the director, grew upset about having to find a replacement. A few days later, just before the curtains rose, Wilson received a call from her agent, saying her surgeon needed to call the insurance adjuster immediately, per Rudin’s demands. The memory still pains her. “I felt like he was trying to find a way to fire me legally,” Wilson said. Shapiro said she had been trying to be helpful and had immediately apologized when it became clear that she had unintentionally upset Wilson; Rick Miramontez, a spokesperson for Rudin, said that Rudin’s recollection was that Wilson had wanted to open the show and then leave but that he and the director had not wanted her to delay treatment. The lavishly nostalgic 2017 Broadway production of “Hello, Dolly!” was a can’t-miss event: a beloved Bette Midler chewing the scenery in a musical with lots of it. Tickets sold fast — especially for the weeks when Midler was performing — and fetched eye-popping prices, topping out at $998 during a holiday week. Investors in the show were gleeful, as huge advance sales, boffo grosses and top-tier prices suggested a monster hit. But in the end, they made only a tiny profit, and many are now grumbling. “I’ve invested in a bunch of Rudin shows,” said Gabby Hanna, a Cape Cod real estate agent who said she put $50,000 into “Dolly” and made only a $5,000 profit, “and after ‘Dolly,’ I said I would never do it again.” Over the last 15 years, Rudin has raised about $200 million from a variety of investors to finance his stage shows, according to a review of Securities and Exchange Commission filings for each show. But some investors have grown frustrated with his big-spending, low-return track record: Over the last five years, about three-quarters of his Broadway shows have lost money, according to a review of recoupment and closing announcements and discussions with industry leaders. “Dolly” investors said in interviews that they had no way of really understanding why their returns were low — very little financial data was shared with them — but some said they believed Rudin had compensated Midler so generously, spent so heavily on marketing and kept so much for himself that there was little left to share with them. Rudin said suggestions that he spent too much on himself were “not true.” “I have repeatedly (on nearly every show) at various points given up hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees owed to myself to keep shows running,” he said, “and I have spent on top of that millions of my own money keeping shows running.” “Dolly” cost $16 million to put together and ran for 76 weeks, selling 811,203 tickets for a total of $128 million, according to financial filings and the Broadway League. The show’s weekly expenses were high — as much as $1.2 million — and opening night, which included a star-studded party at the New York Public Library, cost $842,000, according to documents filed with the New York state attorney general’s office. Some of the investors are now closely watching litigation between Rudin and SpotCo, a marketing firm that claims in a pending lawsuit that he owes the company $6.3 million. Rudin has made strenuous efforts to prevent people from talking about him — not just through intimidation but also as a prolific user of nondisclosure agreements. Confidentiality agreements reviewed by the Times bar employees from cooperating with interviews about him and prohibit disclosing “any aspect of any activity occurring at, in, or about any home, office, or other property owned, occupied, or used by Scott Rudin or any of his family members.” And a provision in the operating agreement for some of his shows bars investors from making “negative remarks.” In essays this week, two artists who have worked with Rudin, Tavi Gevinson and Michael Chabon, have reflected on not pushing back against what they knew about his behavior. But many of his powerful collaborators have declined to respond to inquiries about him. Among them: actors including Washington, Metcalf and Jennifer Lawrence; directors Wes Anderson, the Coen brothers, Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig and Alex Garland; writers Aaron Sorkin and Lucas Hnath; former studio executive Amy Pascal; and the studios that Rudin has recently been working with, A24 and FX Productions. Still, Rudin’s standing is damaged and his future is in doubt. At stake are a dizzying array of prestige projects, including a revival of “The Music Man” starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster that is supposed to start previews in December. Jackman and Foster have each said, in the wake of Rudin’s announcement, that they were committed to a healthy workplace at “The Music Man” and were pleased that Rudin had stepped away. (Both declined interview requests.) Rudin had many other projects planned before his behavior started to catch up with him. He was developing Broadway revivals of “Our Town” starring Dustin Hoffman, “The Piano Lesson” starring Samuel L. Jackson, and “Death of a Salesman” starring Nathan Lane. He was also planning a dance-focused new show with acclaimed choreographer Justin Peck; a new Adam Guettel musical; and “The Black Clown,” Michael Schachter and Davóne Tines’ musical adaptation of the Langston Hughes poem. The fate of those projects and of several films Rudin had planned to produce is now unclear. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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