EXCLUSIVE: We are in the thick of the awards season, a time of year when at least one film produced by Scott Rudin is usually in the conversation. Last year, he was producer of two Best Picture nominees, The Social Network and True Grit. This year, he’s got three in the mix. There’s Moneyball, the 9/11-themed Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. All this happened in a year when Rudin closed his Hollywood office and formally moved his producing deal to Sony Pictures (where he produced The Social Network and joined producers Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt in reconfiguring Moneyball). None of that impeded his output and when Rudin took time out for Deadline and what will likely be his only Oscar season Q&A, he pulled himself away from new films he’s making with the Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach. That is a lot of activity for any producer — and Rudin separately generates as many Broadway shows as he does films — but it’s a pace the New York-based producer is comfortable handling.
AWARDSLINE: Much was written about The New Yorker reviewer David Denby breaking an embargo that New York film critic voters agreed to abide by when they saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for the purposes of voting for their annual awards. Now, he wrote a positive review…
RUDIN: That wasn’t the issue.
AWARDSLINE: Why did it trouble you so much?
RUDIN: Because you want reviews timed to the release of the movie when they can sell tickets. Having reviews break earlier…I mean, our campaign is calibrated very carefully around closing the campaign with the release of the film. You want reviews to cume the week the movie’s opening and not a month before when they do you absolutely no good. What also concerned me was if he broke the embargo there was a decent chance other people would. It turned out that other people felt such scorn for him that nobody else did, which was kind of remarkable.
AWARDSLINE: Was it more about giving your word and not keeping it?
RUDIN: Keep your word or don’t come to the movie. It’s totally fine to say I’m not going to honor a review embargo, but you have to give me and the studio the right to say, don’t come see it. You don’t put in writing a commitment not to review until a certain date and then review it anyway because you don’t want to write about other movies that you don’t think are serious enough for you. It’s incredibly disingenuous.
AWARDSLINE: All this happened because the New York film critics moved up their deadline two weeks to be first. How valid are these lists when a late entry like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close aren’t even considered?
RUDIN: I can only answer in relation to my stuff. I mean, in the case of the New York critics, they set a deadline that was literally a day ahead of when we would be able to screen Dragon Tattoo. We were perfectly fine not screening for them, but they came to us and said they wanted to move the date by a day to include us. Because we had won it last year on Social Network, we felt we kind of owed it to them. It seemed churlish not to let them see the movie if they moved the date. We didn’t ask them to move the date; they came to us. And then I got a bunch of nasty emails from John Anderson saying, why didn’t you ask us to move the date on Extremely Loud? The whole thing seemed so ridiculous. They were all trying to get ahead of each other. Honestly, I don’t think it has hurt Extremely Loud one iota not to have been seen by the couple of groups that didn’t see it. In the end, it’s all opinion anyway. It’s great when you win those things but not great enough that you wouldn’t finish a movie well. Those critics awards come and go every year, but the finished movie is your work. I would love to have finished Extremely Loud two weeks earlier and screened it for everybody. It just wasn’t done. And the same was true with Dragon Tattoo. These were big ambitious movies that were on very very tight finishing schedules and we just couldn’t do it.
AWARDSLINE: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo deal seemed to take forever. It was obviously complicated by the fact that Stieg Larsson had passed away. What was the biggest challenge for you in pulling the rights together on the series?
RUDIN: The big issue on it was that the book was still growing in popularity, so it was hard to figure out, honestly, what a fair deal was. We’d start to make it a deal, you’d turn around and the book has sold 5 million more copies and suddenly it’s worth more. It just took a long time.
AWARDSLINE: How long?
RUDIN: Almost a year and a half. When we started to negotiate we didn’t know there were Swedish movies. Nobody told us, I had no idea. Honestly, we started out buying movie rights and it turned out we were buying remake rights. We got way down the road before anybody said, “Oh, by the way, these were made.”
AWARDSLINE: Did that make you think twice?
RUDIN: No. I think the first one especially was good and entertaining. But Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton and I felt like Lisbeth is such an astonishing character, she could go as long as you wanted her to go. So, making it a big superstar director version of it always felt like a great idea and that a Swedish language version wasn’t going to hurt it all. In fact, would probably help it. (more…)