On Screen and Off, Producer Scott Rudin Adapts Scott Rudin knows a thing or two about making great films. His name is attached to two of the five movies competing for this year's Best Picture Oscar: He's the executive producer of There Will Be Blood and the producer of No Country for Old Men.

On Screen and Off, Producer Scott Rudin Adapts

On Screen and Off, Producer Scott Rudin Adapts

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Scott Rudin took top honors at the 19th annual Producers Guild Awards for his work on No Country for Old Men. Kevin Winter/Getty Images hide caption

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Scott Rudin took top honors at the 19th annual Producers Guild Awards for his work on No Country for Old Men.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Tommy Lee Jones is the determined sheriff in No Country for Old Men. Miramax Films hide caption

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Miramax Films

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Scott Rudin remembers rescuing the 'Clueless' script from the slush pile.

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Some books make excellent films and some books don't. The difference, says producer Scott Rudin, often lies in who you get to make the films.

Rudin knows a thing or two about making great films: He is the executive producer of There Will Be Blood and the producer of No Country for Old Men, two of the five movies competing for this year's Best Picture Oscar.

"The best adaptations are the ones that really excavate the material," Rudin tells Robert Siegel. "The movies that work are the ones in which somebody very smart figured out how to take all the thematic material, all the character material, all the filigree, all the beautiful writing and put it into a story. If you don't put it into a story, you end up with something that feels like a hybrid, and those, basically, don't work."

At age 49, Rudin's ability to get movies made is hardly in doubt. He has produced or executive produced a wide range of films, including The Queen, The Truman Show, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Sister Act and The Firm, and he is known in Hollywood as one of the best readers of scripts, a brilliant dealmaker and an obsessive workaholic.

"There's an enormous pleasure to be had in the sponsorship of this kind of film-making," Rudin says. "They're spiky, bold movies... No Country deals with enormous issues about how we live right now. If you have the ability and the wherewithal to create work that's basically in a discussion with the culture we're in, how could you not want to do that?"

In this interview, Robert Seigel also talks with Rudin about his legendary temper — "Everybody grows up," Rudin says — about his decision to skip college, and about his early start working with legendary Broadway producer Robert Whitehead.

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'There Will Be Blood'

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, a film based on Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil. Francois Duhamel/Paramount Vantage hide caption

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Francois Duhamel/Paramount Vantage
  • Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 158 min

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'I Will Bless the Well'

'There Will Be Blood' Trailer

To music that sounds like a hive of angry bees, Daniel Day-Lewis falls down an oil well he's digging and breaks his foot — his left foot — in the opening moments of Paul Thomas Anderson's oil epic. Based on Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil, about a clash of capitalism and religion at the turn of the last century, this sometimes magnificent, decidedly strange film is a portrait of a terrible, rapacious man.

The American Dream, or perhaps simple greed, has turned him into a sociopath, though there are moments when he seems briefly empathetic — adopting the infant son of a fellow well-digger who's killed in an accident, or opening up his life to a stranger who shows up claiming to be a brother he never knew he had.

These flashes of humanity don't turn out well, however, and the character's as hard to like as he is hardbitten. A young preacher played obsessively by Paul (Little Miss Sunshine) Dano is no easier to warm up to. And few other performers make much impression. But the imagery — an oil boom town is built before your eyes, then nearly burns down in a Western landscape that seems a character in its own right — is undeniably powerful.

Anderson, an indie director with a streak of intriguing art-film hits to his credit (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love) proves to have a real eye for epic filmmaking, though with a screenplay that sometimes goes for half an hour without a word being spoken, an extreme, violent ending, and a running time that stretches to 158 minutes, that film ends up seeming a blunter instrument than it might.

'No Country for Old Men'

When things look grim: Josh Brolin eyes trouble in No Country for Old Men. Richard Foreman/Miramax Films hide caption

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Richard Foreman/Miramax Films

When things look grim: Josh Brolin eyes trouble in No Country for Old Men.

Richard Foreman/Miramax Films
  • Directors: Ethan Coen
                      Joel Coen
  • Genre: Crime Drama/Thriller
  • Running Time: 122 minutes

Clip: 'Phone Call'

Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel about American violence — a drug deal gone bad, a traffic stop gone wrong, carnage so far gone it's off the charts — has been turned into the sharpest Coen Bros. film in years.

It's basically a genre exercise, one harrowingly extended chase sequence in which psychopath Javier Bardem trails hunter Josh Brolin, who's found $2 million in the Texas desert near a pile of bodies. Leavened with humor — Tommy Lee Jones cracks wise from the sidelines as a laconic sheriff as things turn ever grimmer — the unpredictable narrative has shocks 'round every plot twist, many of them provided by a reliably eerie Bardem with his slaughterhouse air-gun and Buster Brown haircut.

Still, for a film that traffics in implacable malice, this movie remains remarkably grounded in the everyday. Writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen use silences (a hotel-hallway sequence will have audiences afraid to breathe) as well as the promise of excruciating violence to ratchet up the tension.

But they also know the value of understatement, at one point dramatizing mayhem with a breathtaking economy simply by having a character check his boots as he steps through a doorway. By that point in this sanguinary film, blood has pooled so often that you know exactly what he's checking for. (Recommended)