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Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Peter Knegt
December 23, 2013 2:47 PM
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Scott Rudin On the Coens, Managing Oscar Expectations and Why Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg May Be the Best Comedy Directors of 2013

Scott Rudin

Scott Rudin just had a very good year, though there's nothing unusual about that.

Over the past decade, Rudin has produced or executive produced a rather astonishing amount of major Oscar contenders -- "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "The Social Network," "True Grit," "Moneyball,"  "Doubt," "Notes on a Scandal," "Closer," "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," "The Queen," "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country For Old Men," and should be adding a few more films to that list come January. 

Rudin's 2013 slate was made up of three very different films that each won over a very fair share of folks: Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha," Paul Greengrass's "Captain Phillips" and Joel & Ethan Coen's "Inside Llewyn Davis," the latter two looking quite set for a handful of Oscar nods (and there's definitely a lot of "Frances Ha" fans that wish that was a likely case for it as well).

As his year winded down, Rudin reflected with Indiewire about its highlights, both for him as a producer and as a film lover.

So congratulations on 2013. I say with total honesty that "Inside Llewyn Davis" is my favorite film of the year. I just totally fell in love with it.

Oh, that's so great. To be honest, mine too.

I guess an obvious place to start the genesis of both the project and your role in it. It's your third with the Coens, after "No Country For Old Men" and "True Grit."

I didn't know they had any interest in the subject. But I saw a tiny piece about something vaguely related to it in the New Yorker and I called them and said 'is this possibly the beginning of a basis for something?' And they said, 'Well, actually we've been thinking about doing something inspired by [1960s folk singer Dave] Van Ronk for a long time." From there we started talking about it and it just gradually became the next movie. It was honestly no more premeditated than that, except that they'd been thinking about it for 20 years.

Among the many things that impressed me with what resulted from this is that this movie looks and feels like a movie that could have cost 3 or 4 times its budget.

It's stunningly beautiful, I think.

Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan in "Inside Llewyn Davis"

How, as a producer, do you make a film that looks like it could have cost $80 million for just $20 million?

I really can't take the credit for that. It's all them. I mean, remember they are the day-to-day producers that run the movie and they are incredibly shrewd about how they prep. They don't shoot anything more than they need and they don't shoot anything less than they need. There's never a reshoot. There's never an additional unit. They just shoot exactly what the script is. Everybody who works with them knows there's no need to prep anything beyond what they say they're going to want. What makes movies expensive -- in addition to many other things, but primarily on a smaller movie -- is the overpreparation of elements you don't actually ever see or need. They are unbelievably efficient and they're extremely conscious of the risk-reward relationship. They don't want the movie to cost more than it needs to. They want the freedom to make a movie the way they want to make it, and they know that the quid pro quo of that is the cost.

Compared to making "No Country" with them nearly a decade ago, how has your relationship with them evolved or changed?

Years ago when I was at Fox, I was the executive on "Raising Arizona." That's probably almost 25 years ago. So I've known them for a really long time and we've been friends for a really long time. But I would say that we kind of know very clearly what we each do now. They don't ever ask for things they don't need. There's no small talk. It's just a very, very streamlined process.

Well, that sounds like the dream for a producer.

They're remarkably easy to produce for because they are so articulate about what they want to do. They know exactly what they want, and you know what your job is in relation to helping them achieve it. I mean, it has remarkable clarity and requires zero interpretation. It's entirely direct and forthright. And they're also generous and very appreciative of what is done for them. We also notably had great partners at Canal and CBS on this movie. Joel and Ethan feel like this has been, I would say in a way, the best and also the boldest way we've put a movie together. But also it's been very pleasurable because it's had the most enthusiasm from involved from everyone involved of all the movies we've done together. And I think they feel that even when compared to the films they've done on their own.

It's really nice to hear about that kind of gratitude coming from this process.

I think [Joel and Ethan are] exactly the guys they always wanted to be in terms of their work.  They made sacrifices along the way — some of them, I think, very considerable -- to preserve the ability to make movies the way they want to. That's the line they just won't cross.

The choice to go with CBS Films as a distributor definitely surprised a few folks. But it sure sounds like that's all working out so far.

It's been fantastic. I think Terry [Press, co-president of CBS Films] just had a massive amount of enthusiasm for the film and, even before she saw it, for the music as well. And not just the music in the movie but of the period. She knew a ton about it and chased the movie very aggressively. And it felt like she and Wolfgang Hammer and Les Moonves were at the beginning of something that could be really exciting. And for a movie like this, where what we really want is enthusiasm and marketing know-how, it was just a very clear, easy choice. We didn't need the things that they didn't have. We needed exactly what they do. And I've worked with Terry on many movies. I mean, Terry was head of publicity on "Sister Act," which I made over 20 years ago. So we've known each other a very long time and she worked on "Social Network" and "Dragon Tattoo" and a lot of other movies we'd done.  I felt very comfortable that we'd fit together easily and sell it really well.

3 Comments

  • Robert Litman | December 23, 2013 9:27 PMReply

    When I worked at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood (1980-2005), Scott Rudin was for several years in offices on the lot and even then considered one of the major producers in the industry. He was also known as a "screamer" and there were several times that I was the one he was screaming at, though I never took it personally. Despite that experience I admired him as a brilliant filmmaker, short of temper, yes, but also extremely generous (a virtue he probably would deny having to this day). On more than one occasion (that I know of), he stepped up to the plate and helped several people in financial need. He left Paramount (I think very frustrated by the hierarchy there that he had to deal with) and moved to NYC permanently and achieved great success with plays on Broadway (and off) and even greater success in film.
    Frankly I am in awe of the man. A brilliant filmmaker...and a real mensh.

  • RP | December 23, 2013 2:55 PMReply

    Doubt was not a Best Picture nominee.

  • Johnny T. | December 23, 2013 2:51 PMReply

    Rudin seems like a really great guy!