Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” is being talked about, but not for the reasons it probably hoped.
Critics are divided on the film and while it has scored some awards nominations, much of the talk around it in recent weeks has been about one of its supporting characters – real-life Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) reporter Kathy Scruggs who is played by Olivia Wilde in the film.
Scruggs and fellow AJC reporter Ron Martz broke the story that the hero who found the explosives at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), may have actually planted the bomb.
Their report was published despite little corroborating evidence, and Jewell was eventually cleared but only after his name was dragged for weeks through the mud. Billy Ray’s script depicts Scruggs as flirting and making sexual advances to convince an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) to give her information on potential bombing suspects. Essentially trading sex for a story which is a major ethical violation.
Now the AJC has threatened to sue Warner Bros. Pictures if it does not clarify that the film is a work of fiction. The studio has vowed to defend itself in court noting there is already a disclaimer at the end of the picture. Wilde her self initially made this statement about her character:
“She was incredibly successful as a cop reporter. She had a very close relationship with the cops and the FBI helping to tell their story, and yes, by all accounts she had relationships with different people in that field. But what I resented was this character being boiled down to one inferred scene and I don’t hear anyone complaining about Jon Hamm’s character as being inferred that he also had a relationship with a reporter. It feels unfair that Kathy has been minimized in this way.”
Ahead of the film’s opening tomorrow, Wilde took to twitter (via Slate to clarify her initial statements:
“One of the things I love about directing is the ability to control the voice and message of the film. As an actor, it’s more complicated, and I want to share my perspective on my role in the film “Richard Jewell”.
I was asked to play the supporting role of Kathy Scruggs, who was, by all accounts, bold, smart, and fearlessly undeterred by the challenge of being a female reporter in the south in the 1990s. I cannot even contemplate the amount of sexism she may have faced in the way of duty.
As a child of journalists myself, I have deep respect for the essential work of all in their field, particularly today when the media is routinely attacked and discredited, and regional papers like the AJC are disappearing on a daily basis.
Contrary to a swath of recent headlines, I do not believe that Kathy ‘traded sex for tips’. Nothing in my research suggested she did so, and it was never my intention to suggest she had. That would be an appalling and misogynistic dismissal of the difficult work she did.
The perspective of the fictional dramatization of the story, as I understood it, was that Kathy, and the FBI agent who leaked false information to her, were in a pre-existing romantic relationship, not a transactional exchange of sex for information.
I cannot speak for the creative decisions made by the filmmakers, as I did not have a say in how the film was ultimately crafted, but it’s important to me that I share my personal take on the matter.
She unfortunately became a piece of the massive puzzle that was responsible for the brutal and unjust vilification of an innocent man, Richard Jewell, and that tragedy is what this film attempts to shed light on.
I realize my opinions about Kathy, based on my own independent research, may differ from others involved with the film, but it was important to me to my my own position clear.”
“Richard Jewell” opens in cinemas tomorrow.