'The Reader,' Scott Rudin and Hollywood schadenfreude
Once everyone finished grousing yesterday about how the elderly motion picture academy stiffed "The Dark Knight," the incredibly successful and well-reviewed Hollywood blockbuster that seems to only appeal to non-academy members--in other words, people under the age of 55--attention turned to a more pressing, schadenfreude-style area of concern: How was Scott Rudin handling the news that the two movies he produced, "Revolutionary Road" and "Doubt," failed to get best picture nods, while "The Reader," the one movie he removed his name from, ended up as a surprise best picture nominee?
As one studio chief I spoke to yesterday put it: "Wouldn't you love to have been a fly on the wall in Rudin's office when the nominations were announced? That must've been quite a scene." All I can say is, given Rudin's propensity for hurling objects when upset, I hope flies can duck. As you may recall, Rudin took his name off "The Reader" after a messy dispute with Harvey Weinstein, with Rudin claiming that Weinstein was rushing the film into release without giving filmmaker Stephen Daldry proper time to finish the picture. The academy's endorsement seems to offer plenty of support for Weinstein's contention that the picture was ready to go and--more important--was good enough to justify an Oscar campaign. (Dear Harvey: My apologies about all those disparaging references to "The Reader's" best picture chances. You were right. I was wrong. I guess that's why you have all those Oscars and I don't.)
As you may have noticed, when the academy announced "The Reader's" nomination, it had a big "TBD" sign next to the film, meaning that the academy hasn't settled the issue of which of the film's four listed producers are eligible to accept the Oscar if the film were to win. Upset over the scrum of producers who showed up on stage when "Shakespeare in Love" won for best picture a decade ago, the academy has a bizarre rule limiting a film to three producers, a rule that caused a furor when the academy arbitrarily disqualified two of the five "Little Miss Sunshine" producers when that film was up for best picture in 2007.
"The Reader's" producer credit issue is even more sensitive, since two of its four producers--filmmakers Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack--died last year before the film's release. The other two producers are Donna Gigliotti (one of the scrum of producers who won for "Shakespeare in Love" and a former USA Films production chief who made "Traffic" and "Gosford Park") and Redmond Morris, a veteran line producer and production manager who is a longtime Neil Jordan collaborator. After a lengthy vetting process, the Producers Guild recently recommended to the academy that all four producers share credit. But the academy isn't taking the PGA's advice, insisting that one of the four be excluded. Insiders say Morris will be the one to go, with Gigliotti and her late colleagues remaining the producers of record.
Interestingly, Morris didn't initially have a producer credit. But after Rudin took his name off the picture, Morris went to the Producers Guild and requested the credit, with Rudin's backing. Believing Morris had done ample work to merit the credit, the PGA approved him. By the time "The Reader" was released in December, his name was in the producer's credit box along with Gigliotti, Minghella and Pollack. As it stands, "The Reader" will end up as a true rarity--a film with three producers, all of whom have won Oscars.
Photo of Scott Rudin by Kevin Winter / Getty Images