Tuesday, September 28News That Matters

Scott Rudin to Step Back From Broadway Amid Bullying Reports

Scott Rudin, a powerful Broadway producer facing renewed accusations of bullying, apologized Saturday for “troubling interactions with colleagues” and said he would step aside from “active participation” in his current shows.

Rudin, who has won a raft of awards for prestige productions not only onstage but also in Hollywood, was facing renewed scrutiny over a long history of tyrannical behavior toward workers in his office following a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter. He made his apology in a written statement first given to The Washington Post.

“After a period of reflection, I’ve made the decision to step back from active participation on our Broadway productions, effective immediately,” he said in the statement. “My roles will be filled by others from the Broadway community and in a number of cases, from the roster of participants already in place on those shows.”

Rudin, a prolific producer of starry plays whose biggest Broadway success is the long-running musical “The Book of Mormon,” acknowledged the concerns about his behavior, without detail. Through a spokesman, he declined a request for an interview.

“Much has been written about my history of troubling interactions with colleagues, and I am profoundly sorry for the pain my behavior caused to individuals, directly and indirectly,” he said in the statement. “I am now taking steps that I should have taken years ago to address this behavior.”

Rudin has been dogged for decades by reports that he threatened, verbally abused, and threw objects at people who work in his office, but had continued to thrive in an entertainment industry with a long history of tolerating poor behavior by people who produce acclaimed art.

The Hollywood Reporter article, coming at a time of intensified concern about abusive behavior in many sectors of society, described an assistant who said Rudin had thrown a baked potato at his head and an earlier incident in which Rudin allegedly smashed a computer monitor on a different assistant’s hand.

Over the last week, some performers had begun to publicly express concerns about his dominant role in the industry. When Karen Olivo, a Tony-nominated star of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” which was not produced by Rudin, announced a plan last week not to return to that show when performances resume, Olivo called on others to speak up, saying, “The silence about Scott Rudin: unacceptable.”

Rudin is known as a detail-oriented producer involved with every aspect of the shows he produces, from casting to marketing, and his statement Saturday did not explain what stepping back from active participation means, prompting immediate skepticism from some corners of the entertainment industry.

The Actors’ Equity Association, a labor union representing more than 51,000 stage actors and stage managers, called on Rudin to release his former employees from nondisclosure agreements that in some instances bar them from describing their experiences in his employ.

“We have heard from hundreds of members that these allegations are inexcusable, and everyone deserves a safe workplace whether they are a union member or not,” said a statement from the union’s president, Kate Shindle, and executive director, Mary McColl.

Actors Equity, joined by SAG-AFTRA and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802, had issued a statement on Monday saying that “No worker should be subjected to bullying or harassment” but not mentioning Rudin by name.

Rudin, 62, has for years been a dominant figure in the American entertainment industry. He is among the handful of people known as EGOTs by virtue of winning Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards, and he was able to combine a keen eye for casting with relationships in the film and theater industries to put together many starry projects in both industries.

Although for a time he worked as a studio executive in Hollywood, in recent years many of his highest profile projects have been onstage. Recently, he has been active as a producer of NY PopsUp, a series of performances funded by the state in an effort to remind people of the value of performing arts and to employ some artists during the pandemic.

Rudin had a sizable slate of projects in the works, and his move appears intended to allow those projects to proceed without the distraction of protests about his behavior.

The most anticipated of those projects was a revival of “The Music Man,” starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, that was scheduled to begin previews Dec. 20 and open Feb. 10.

But he also had three shows running before the coronavirus pandemic shut down Broadway that were candidates to reopen once full-capacity commercial theater rebounds in New York: “The Book of Mormon”; “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a hit stage adaptation of the Harper Lee novel; and “West Side Story,” an adventurous revival of the beloved classic.

“My passionate hope and expectation is that Broadway will reopen successfully very soon, and that the many talented artists associated with it will once again begin to thrive and share their artistry with the world,” Rudin said in the statement. “I do not want any controversy associated with me to interrupt Broadway’s well deserved return, or specifically, the return of the 1,500 people working on these shows.”

Cara Buckley contributed reporting.