Scott Rudin Accuser Believes He Was Targeted After Coming Forward: ‘There Is a Cost to Speaking the Truth’
Last month, producer Andrew Coles spoke out against Scott Rudin, bringing to light disturbing allegations of workplace abuse.
Once a development executive for Scott Rudin Productions, Coles, who is now a producer on projects like “Queen & Slim,” went on the record in the bombshell report that led to Rudin’s downfall, following decades of bullying and workplace harassment, which has been regarded as one of Hollywood’s long-running open secrets.
After he accused Rudin of workplace abuse, Coles says he believes he was targeted in a possible effort to scare him into silence.
Cole agreed to go on the record for the Hollywood Reporter’s Rudin report on April 5, which he says was set to be published two days later on April 7 — but by April 6, Cole says, news of the article leaked and word of the story started getting around town.
“On April 6, someone called the mental health crisis line of the LAPD and they phoned in a false murder suicide threat and targeted my home and office in West Hollywood,” Coles revealed on Thursday, speaking on a virtual panel for Anita Hill’s Hollywood Commission. “A SWAT team was sent to my home and office. My housemate was taken out of the house at shotgun point. There was a helicopter circling overhead. There were barricades in front of my street.”
Coles emphasized that he had no idea if Rudin or anyone connected to him was involved in the false report, but he felt the timing was suspicious — and, as larger-than-life as the scene may appear, vicious efforts to silence journalists and sources is nothing new, as seen through Harvey Weinstein, who hired an army of spies, including former Mossad officers and private investigators, to follow survivors he had sexually abused and the reporters who had been speaking to the victims.
“I do not know if it was connected to my participation in this article,” Coles said of the SWAT team showing up to his house, the day before the Rudin article was published. “I do not know what the intention of whoever sent that SWAT team to my house — whether it was to intimidate, to dissuade me from further speaking, to have a chilling effect on anyone else who might speak. I don’t know who’s interested in upholding the status quo of how broken this industry is.”
“What I can tell you,” Coles continued, “is I do not regret what I did and if speaking the truth makes me unable to work in this industry, it is not an industry that I want to work in. And I think that is the question that everyone has to ask themselves.
Even as Rudin has been forced to step back from film and theater project because of the outcry, Coles said the systemic problem of bullying and toxic workplaces is nowhere near solved. He believes he may face repercussions for speaking out, and wonders what his career will look like now that he came forward.
“It’s hard to say whether this is a changed moment. Only time will tell,” Coles said. “There is a cost to speaking the truth, and it is not a cost that should be borne by those who are lowest on the totem pole. This is not a change that can come from the bottom up — but it must come from the top down.”
“What does our industry want to be?” he asked. “Who do we want to be going forward?”
Coles was part of the Hollywood Commission’s Thursday discussion about power, bullying and toxic workplaces in Hollywood. He appeared alongside panelists Steven Soderbergh; writer and founder of #PayUpHollywood, Liz Hsiao Lan Alper; producer Amy Baer; and moderator Lauren Rikleen, a workplace and leadership expert.
“Why are we punishing people that tell the truth?” Soderbergh asked. “And why are we rewarding people who lie or abuse?”
The discussion did not center around Rudin, but used the disgraced producer as an example of the long-held culture of abuse the entertainment industry has endured, enabled and, at best, turned a blind eye to over the years. The Hollywood Commission is working toward safer and more equitable workplaces across the biz, in regards to fighting against sexual harassment, racism, gender discrimination and bullying.
The organization’s most recent findings from an industry-wide survey detail the stark power difference between Hollywood executives and their assistants. For instance, the majority of assistants identified as female and of that female population, the reported rates of abuse were 2-3 times higher than the overall survey sample. The most common forms of abuse found were excessively harsh criticism, insults, humiliation or being yelled at.
“Harvey Weinstein and Scott Rudin may have been the most boldface examples of abuse of power in Hollywood, but they are not outliers,” Hill, who is chair of the Hollywood Commission, said in a statement.
“Now is the time for those within the industry to seize the moment, and begin the hard work to end bullying in the workplace,” Hill said in her opening comments when introducing the panel on Thursday.
Alper, who founded #PayUpHollywood with a hashtag in 2019 that shed light on low wages and poor working conditions for assistants, said mistreatment in the workplace is pushing away great talent, while also damaging major companies in Hollywood.
“The tough thing about bullying is that it’s not illegal. That seems to be the line that companies draw,” Alper pointed out, noting that Hollywood has framed itself as a business that expects its own to put up with bad behavior, pointing to films like “The Devil Wears Prada” and characters like Ari Gold in “Entourage.”
The mantra of the biz, Alper says, is essentially, “If you cannot tolerate the abuse, something is wrong with you; not with your abuser.”
She urged networks, production companies, film studios and talent agencies to take a hard look at themselves to remedy their culture. “Is this one that we can fix?” Alper posed. “Or is this one that we just need to blow up and start building from the bottom up and be brave enough to build that accountability?”
Oscar-winning director Soderbergh spoke at length on the panel about the business benefits of simply being nice.
“I think the biggest argument that we can make as a community is to dispel the myth that being an A-hole is a path to some sort of success,” Soderbergh said. “I think this is demonstrably untrue, and I think if I could get in the way-back-machine and ask Harvey [Weinstein], ‘Why did you behave this way?’ He would go, ‘Well I had to, in order to get where I am.’ And my response would be, ‘You’re half of what you could have been if you weren’t this way.’ That’s the message we need to create — which is that treating people well is really good business.”
Soderbergh said the abusive and powerful individuals in Hollywood operate as open secrets. “We all know who the bad actors are,” he said. “And we all know that there are people who except toxic jobs — it’s like hazard pay. We need to figure out a way to address this in a fluid fashion.”
The #MeToo movement has inspired Soderbergh, he says, in regards to seeing the industry band together to stand for an important cause to promote positive change. But Alper pointed out that assistants feel largely unseen in the fight to end sexual harassment in the workplace. “With all of the changes happening in Hollywood, the support staff are often left out of those changes and are left unprotected,” she said.
Producer and executive Baer echoed the sentiment of assistants being treated poorly, urging leaders to fix the cyclical toxicity from the top down. “Employers know that young employees are desperate to come into the industry, so they will tolerate bad behavior,” she said.
Baer also noted that producers, like Rudin, are largely left alone to wield their power, as they are not actual employees of major corporations, but rather being paid millions of dollars — to make millions of dollars for the companies — under rich deals where they are untouchable.
“Producers are at arm’s length, so there isn’t an internal accountability because that person isn’t an employee of the studio or network,” Baer explained.
All of the panelists agreed that there are no training mechanisms set within the industry, so future leaders learn from those above them — and when those above them are abusive, it’s a recipe for disaster.
“I fear that we are doomed to cyclically repeat the cycles of the past without radical intervention and intentional change and training,” Coles said. “I don’t believe that this is a problem that will solve itself…if we hold ourselves forward as cultural leaders, if we hold ourselves forward as trendsetters…we have to turn that inwards. We have to look at ourselves and not only look at what we’re creating, but how we’re creating it.”
Bluntly delivering a sobering assessment, Coles said, “The future of our industry is at stake.”
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