Aaron Sorkin isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to disgraced Hollywood producer Scott Rudin.
The “West Wing” writer, whose hit adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is returning to Broadway, said Rudin “got what he deserves” following accusations about the producer’s history of bullying assistants and staffers.
Rudin had been a producer on Sorkin’s revival of the Harper Lee classic, which is set to come back to Broadway next week.
But in the aftermath of a bombshell report in April from The Hollywood Reporter, which chronicled allegations of a history of bullying, including claims that the “unhinged” producer once attacked an assistant, Rudin stepped away from the play and other projects, such as the “The Music Man,” starring Hugh Jackman.
“Had I known, there’s no chance I would’ve tolerated it, there’s no chance [director] 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,” Sorkin said. “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.”
Following exposé, which claimed that over the years, Rudin pushed assistants out of moving cars, hurled phones at them and fired staff for bring the wrong kind of muffin to him, the firebrand producer issued an apology for the “pain my behavior caused to individuals, directly and indirectly.”
Shortly after that, Rudin, who was behind Broadway shows like “The Book of Mormon,” the revival of “Hello Dolly!” and movies like “Clueless,” “No Country for Old Men” and “Lady Bird,” said he is stepping away from his current theater, film and streaming projects.
Sorkin told Vanity Fair that he had one Zoom call with Rudin after THR’s piece was published, during which it was made clear that Rudin would have no more involvement with “To Kill a Mockingbird” and would no longer be compensated as a producer on the show. Rudin does, however, still profit from the show as he holds a stake in it as an investor.
Although the investigative report recounts Rudin’s notorious behavior, Sorkin denied having knowledge. The two men worked together several times over the years, including on films like “The Social Network” and Sorkin’s HBO series “The Newsroom.”
Sorkin said “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.”
He added that he “took it personally” and noted that news of the alleged abuse “came as a big shock.”
“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,” Sorkin added.
Following the report, Broadway cast and crew members protested Rudin’s involvement in the theater community, and a spate of news articles questioned why this behavior was permitted and who likely knew.
Sorkin said he took umbrage with being lumped in as someone who knew and did nothing.
“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,” he said.
Sorkin continued: “But I just felt like to say something, to be quoted saying, ‘This is unacceptable. There have to be consequences,’ that kind of quote, it felt like protection insurance to me. And I just wasn’t comfortable with it.”
He noted that he has not spoken with Rudin since that Zoom call, but likened the situation to dealing with an “alcoholic or an addict.”
“Do I think there’s a comeback for him? I have no idea. I honestly have no idea. I don’t know what he’s doing now. But I’ll say this: I hope he gets better. I feel the way I would with an alcoholic or an addict. I hope he gets better,” Sorkin said.
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