What happens when an open secret stops being a secret?
In the case of Hollywood and Broadway mega producer Scott Rudin’s alleged abusive temperament, one could hardly call it a secret at all For years, his constant stream of assistants, his propensity for verbal abuse, and his brusqueness have been burnished as part of his producorial legend. Everyone laughed about his misanthropy; everybody cashed his paychecks.
Because he was so successful—an EGOT winner!—many publications found it in their best interests to avoid writing an exposé, even as they tackled other Hollywood monsters. That ended with the publication of The Hollywood Reporter’s cover story, featuring Rudin through a shattered prism with the simple headline BULLY.
Other outlets were quick to pick up on the most outrageous tidbits. (I would vote for the time he threw a potato at an employee.) Missing among them is Variety, which is another great example of how entertainment publications may see their best interests as tied to his.
However, Broadway has proved to have remarkable Teflon skills when it comes to scandal. James Barbour went to jail for endangering the welfare of a minor (after being initially indicted for statutory rape) and was back onstage starring in A Tale of Two Cities later that year. Despite longstanding rumors of a major New York Times #MeToo story about the Broadway community, nothing has ever been published.
So as wagons are circled around one of the major employers of theatrical talent (one who is currently co-producing the pop-up performance events serving as tentative steps in the reopening of Broadway), will there be any lingering repercussions for Rudin? I’m worried there won’t be, that he will continue to be able to throw things with impunity—or simply apologize, go into therapy, and pick up his career where he left off: with a major revival of The Music Man, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster.
But here’s the thing: Finally, an outlet has been brave enough not to put a “creative geniuses get a pass” face on this kind of behavior. No, Rudin is not accused of rape, as Harvey Weinstein was. And there’s no underage scandal here either, like what Kevin Spacey and Woody Allen are accused of. But this kind of normalized abuse—“People who do fantastically tend to end up going on to very strong, illustrious careers, and the people who wash out tend to not be heard from again,” Rudin once said of his much put-upon employees—demands to be retired.
Too bad Broadway is about as anxious for new things as they are for original content not based on existing IP.