Earlier this month, The Hollywood Reporter dropped its scathing expose of mega-producer Scott Rudin and laid bare one of the industry’s biggest open secrets: his abusive and intimidating behavior towards his employees. The piece included shocking allegations that Rudin injured an assistant with a computer screen that left him in need of serious medical care. It also brought to the forefront decades of stories and reporting on Rudin’s violent rhetoric and behavior, including throwing various objects at assistants, throwing them out of cars, and berating them to the point of serious trauma.
For those who knew these stories — or had just read any article about Scott Rudin over the past two decades — none of this was surprising, although the specifics remained horrific to read. What also proved to be shocking yet wholly predictable was the near-blanket silence of the film, television, and theater industries where Rudin is a major player. There were no mass tweets of indignation or condemnation of Rudin’s behavior. Nobody started a hashtag to collect the potentially thousands of experiences that those within the business have had with Rudin. Really, unless you were paying close attention, you wouldn’t know anything had happened.
Only a tiny portion of people have called out Rudin. One of them is Karen Olivo, the Tony-winning Broadway star who most recently originated the role of Satine in Moulin Rouge: The Musical. Olivo took to Instagram to announce that, in protest against Rudin and the industry-wide silence surrounding him, she won’t be returning to the show once Broadway reopens. She said:
Social justice is more important than being a sparkling diamond. Building a better industry for my students is more important than me putting money in my pockets. The silence about Scott Rudin? Unacceptable. Unacceptable. That’s the easy one, y’all. That’s a monster. That should be a no-brainer. Those of you who say you’re scared, what are you afraid of?
Are you going to protect your pocketbook? And let people go to the emergency room so you can do your next concert? That’s it. I don’t need to be on a stage. I need to be out here… People are more important than your pocketbook.
Olivo’s statement comes one day after three performers’ unions — SAG-AFTRA, Actors Equity, and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 — condemned workplace abuse in a statement following the Rudin report. In their statement, they said:
Every worker deserves to do their job in an environment free of harassment of any kind, whether that harassment creates a toxic workplace or, certainly in the case of sexual harassment, when that behavior is also against the law.
ll harassment is not only detrimental to the health and welfare of workers, but also a serious threat to the proper functioning of a company. Thus, every corporate Board of Directors should be deeply alarmed by credible reports of long-standing, repeated violent and aggressive harassing behavior by individuals who hold high positions within a company or on a production and exercise management power over subordinates. Workers who come forward to blow the whistle in these situations are incredibly brave and we applaud their courage.
As we mentioned, very few people of note have called out Rudin following this piece. Annapurna producer Megan Ellison was one.
This piece barely scratches the surface of Scott Rudin’s abusive, racist, and sexist behavior. Similarly to Harvey, too many are afraid to speak out. I support and applaud those who did. There’s good reason to be afraid because he’s vindictive and has no qualms about lying. https://t.co/0iFSgzJx9T— Megan Ellison (@meganeellison) April 7, 2021
As did actor Anthony Rapp.
It’s not controversial to say abuse in the workplace should never be tolerated, & yet here we are, with near-universal silence following the publication of this horrifying article. It’s heartbreaking to think about how abandoned these victims must feel. https://t.co/DSDqBEpSFI— Anthony Rapp Voted for Biden Black Lives Matter (@albinokid) April 9, 2021
But given how big a deal Rudin is, and the sheer plethora of A-List figures of stage and screen who have worked with him, this is peanuts. Rudin is an EGOT winner whose current slate of releases includes films with Joel Coen, Jennifer Lawrence, Joe Wright, Amy Schumer, and Alex Garland, as well as stage productions with Hugh Jackman. Rudin is at the top of his field right now. When Harvey Weinstein, currently serving a 23-year prison sentence for sexual assault and rape, was revealed to be a serial abuser, he was at his weakest professionally for decades. He wasn’t useful to anyone anymore. Rudin still makes a lot of people a lot of money.
But that can’t be the only reason the industry is keeping its head in the sand, right? OK, it totally can be, but I think there’s also something more insidious at play. We’ve seen this a lot over the past few years: A powerful man is accused of something horrific, but a lot of people respond with some variation of ‘Well, it’s not as bad as what Harvey Weinstein did, right?’ I think a lot of industry folks just see Rudin’s violence and terrorizing of lower-rung employees as part and parcel of doing business with him. Hey, as long as he isn’t hospitalizing them, it’s fine, right? Too many see this sort of horrific workplace cruelty as just part of the gig, the sacrifice you make to get to the top. It’s unjustifiable, of course, but none of them want to call it out when there’s a single dollar on the line.
I hope more people will bravely follow in Olivo’s footsteps. Frankly, a lot of them can afford to make the financial sacrifice. Let’s see if they do.
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