It has become common to find Scott Rudin with multiple films in the Oscar hunt. This time, the producer has the Joel and Ethan Coen-directed Inside Llewyn Davis, financed independently and distributed by CBS Films, and the Paul Greengrass-directed Captain Phillips, funded by Rudin’s home studio Sony Pictures. The prolific producer manages these Oscar campaigns while he presided over a record-breaking limited stage run of the Mike Nichols-directed Betrayal with Daniel Craig; as The Book Of Mormon continues to be Broadway’s biggest bread winner; preps for next month’s Berlin premiere of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel; is in post on the Chris Rock-directed Finally Famous and Jon Stewart’s helming debut Rosewater, about a mock journalist who spent nine frightening months detained in Iran after filing a comic field report on Stewart’s The Daily Show. There are big pics percolating, from one with Paul Thomas Anderson to the adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs, a Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sequel, and the adaptation of Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra book that got a new draft from Eric Roth and has everyone excited including Angelina Jolie, who seems destined to play the Egyptian queen. Rudin, who once had his projects bankrolled by whatever major studio he called home, has responded to a changing market for the challenging adult films he favors by becoming increasingly nimble in finding money to empower the auteurs that work with him over and over. There is reason for optimism in this race: his last two Coen collaborations were the Best Picture Oscar winning No Country For Old Men and the Best Picture nominee True Grit; his last film with Hanks, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, was a Best Picture nominee. Rudin took time out to discuss Inside Llewyn Davis, Captain Phillips, and his continued evolution in a fast-changing business.
DEADLINE: Inside Llewyn Davis was probably the first Coen Brothers film made without a distributor in place. How did you benefit from doing it that way?
RUDIN: It gave us a huge advantage. It was not a particularly expensive movie, under $20 million, and we financed it completely out of Europe. StudioCanal was a fantastic partner and allowed the guys to go off and make the movie exactly the way they wanted to. They wrote a check, wished us luck, and loved it when we were done. To have a completed Coen Brothers movie, and own North America, was spectacular. We had four or five offers for it. We did a one night screening with a music component to it that people loved, and we took the CBS Films deal. That was a choice people were curious about when we made it because they didn’t have experience with this kind of movie. It worked out fantastically well.
DEADLINE: Is that because the usual suspects already had Oscar bait films?
RUDIN: A big part of the draw was Terry Press. We’ve worked together on a ton of movies; she was the head of publicity back when I did Sister Act at Disney. We go back 25 years. She worked on The Social Network and on Dragon Tattoo, and I knew she loved this kind of music and the Coens. As we fielded other offers, I frankly hoped it would end up there. We had a lot of input into how they distributed it and sold it. I liked working with Wolfgang Hammer and have always loved Les Moonves. He was running Fox Television while I was running feature production at Fox in the mid-1980s so we go back 30 years. They didn’t have another movie in this slot, and it felt they would do something bold and more aggressive with it. It felt like a perfect fit.
DEADLINE: You undersold that buyers screening. As I recall, there were wall to wall music stars milling with Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and every star in the constellation…
RUDIN: That became our selling screening. We had this idea to do a screening the night before Grammys because a ton of music people would be in town and we wanted to screen the movie for musicians. We sent invitations and the list came back so spectacularly that I said to Joel and Ethan, why don’t we just invite some buyers? It was such a great opportunity to screen the movie for an audience you could feel pretty confident would love it, because the movie was really about them. It was a great party full of people who really loved the movie and had a profound relationship to the subject. A lot of them had worked with the Coens or worked with me. We had 700 people in two screening rooms, followed by a concert with T Bone Burnett, The Punch Brothers played, so did Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac. It was pretty spectacular. Because there was this pure motive of, let’s screen the movie for musicians, and because no one had seen the film, it had a buzz in the room that existed because it was an authentic event.
DEADLINE: When did your offers come in?
RUDIN: The next day. (more…)