Clint Eastwood has defended his new film Richard Jewell after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution accused the director of recklessly and falsely depicting one of the newspaper's journalists trading sex for tips
Clint Eastwood has defended his new film Richard Jewell after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution accused the director of recklessly and falsely depicting one of the newspaper's journalists trading sex for tips.
The film tells the story of the real-life security guard who was wrongfully treated as a suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing after he found a bag of explosives and saved thousands of people's lives.
Among the characters is Kathy Scruggs, a journalist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who was the first to publish a story about the FBI treating Jewell as a suspect rather than a hero.
In the movie, Scruggs is played by Olivia Wilde and is portrayed as trying to sleep with an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) in exchange for information about the bombing.
The AJC has taken offense to the characterization of Scruggs, who died in 2001, and said it suggests she slept with agents to get information from them.
Eastwood addressed AJC's criticism of the film in a recent interview with the Associated Press, alongside the film's star, Paul Walter Hauser.
'I think the Atlanta Journal (sic) probably would be the one group that would be sort of complexed about that whole situation because they are the ones who printed the first thing of there being a crime caused by Richard Jewell,' Eastwood said.
'And so they're probably looking for ways to rationalize their activity. I don't know for sure. I haven't ever discussed it with anyone from there.'
Hauser added: 'Hollywood biopics are historically under scrutiny, whether it's the Dupont family in "Foxcatcher", whether it's the Catholic Church in "Spotlight". This is a very obvious thing that's happening with the AJC and we understand their plight.
'But we're telling our story. And I think I think we did a really good job.'
Eastwood's new film tells the story of the real-life security guard, Richard Jewell (left in 1996), who was wrongfully treated as a suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing after he found a bag of explosives and saved thousands of people's lives. Among the characters is Kathy Scruggs (right), a journalist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who was the first to publish a story about the FBI treating Jewel as a suspect rather than a hero. In the movie, Scruggs is portrayed as trying to sleep with an FBI agent in exchange for information about the bombing
Eastwood has been fighting to bring Jewell's story - which he calls 'a great American tragedy' - to the big screen for the past five years, after his first attempt at the project fell through.
The film takes aim at the media and federal investigators for what Eastwood sees as a rush to judgement after the 1996 bombing, in which one woman was killed.
'It's always tragic when people run off with half information and don't really have the truth set up in front of them,' Eastwood told AP.
'The press is sometimes in a hurry because there's so much competition to be the first to do something.'
The director said he hopes that his film will help change the public's perception of Jewell, who died at the age of 44 in 2007.
'The hope with this film, other than entertaining an audience -- we're still in the business of entertaining and telling a great story -- but the greater picture, of course, is the echo effect it will have on the public of clearing his name to all people,' Eastwood said.
'And I think that this is a victory lap for the Jewell family, as much as they can have without Richard here with them.'
Eastwood has been fighting to bring Jewell's story - which he calls 'a great American tragedy' - to the big screen for the past five years, after his first attempt at the project fell through. The 89-year-old director is seen with cast members (from left) Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Paul Walter Hauser and Sam Rockwell during a portrait session to promote the film on December 5
Eastwood has said he hopes that his film will help change the public's perception of Jewell, who died at the age of 44 in 2007. The director is seen with Jewell's mother Barbara at the 2019 AFI Fest on November 20 in Los Angeles
Jewell was working as a security guard at Centennial Olympic Park when he discovered a backpack containing a pipe bomb that had been planted by terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph on the night of July 27, 1996.
Because Jewell found it and alerted police, the event's security were able to evacuate crowds from the park and save lives.
Initially, he was lauded for his heroic actions but a series of media reports emerged later naming him as one of the FBI's suspects, even when the bureau had not formally named him as one.
He was eventually cleared and then sued some of the media outlets, including the AJC but also NBC and CNN, for defamation.
All of the outlets apart from the AJC settled their lawsuits.
It fought Jewell's complaint to the State Supreme Court. Even after Jewell's death in 2007, his family continued their fight against the newspaper.
Ultimately, a judge sided with the newspaper and ruled that even though the information about Jewell turned out not to be true, it did not defame him in reporting it.
Jewell is played by Paul Walter Hauser in the movie, which will be released on Friday
The AJC launched a new legal battle over the case this week ahead of the release of Eastwood's new movie.
In a legal letter sent to the director, screenwriter Billy Ray, Warner Bros and others, lawyers for the AJC and its parent company, Cox Enterprises, demanded a disclaimer be put on the film to clarify that artistic license was used in the portrayal of events and characters.
'The film falsely portrays the AJC's reporters and Kathy Scruggs in particular, as unethical, unprofessional and reckless,' the letter read.
'Ms. Scruggs was an experienced reporter whose methodology was professional and appropriate, in contrast to how she is portrayed in the film.
'Despite the true facts, the film depicts her use of inappropriate and unprofessional reporting methods that included getting story tips from an FBI source in exchange for sexual favors.
'The AJC's reporter is reduced to a sex-trading object in the film.'
The letter goes on to argue against Eastwood's portrayal of the newspaper as being unfair or defamatory towards Jewell, and says it was among the first publications to point out why the FBI was flawed in ever considering him a suspect.
It also alleges that Eastwood and his team met with one of the newspaper's editors for research for the film but claims they ignored the information they received because it did not fit their narrative.
Eastwood's movie suggests that Scruggs (Olivia Wilde - left in the film) sleeps with FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm - right in the film) to get the information about the bombing
Scruggs' family and friends are outraged by the movie.
They have also called out Olivia Wilde - who claimed to have done 'an extraordinary amount of research' before accepting the role - claiming she never phoned any of them.
They insist that Scruggs had solid sources within the local police department and in the FBI.
Kevin Riley, the Editor-in-Chief of the AJC, said it was 'deeply troubling' to suggest that she got the information by trading sex for it.
'If the film portrays this, it’s offensive and deeply troubling in the #MeToo era,' he said.
Wilde insisted that she had spoken to friends of Scruggs before taking the role and that it is sexist not to apply the same outrage to the suggestion that Ham's character might have been sleeping with a reporter.
'I did an extraordinary amount of research about Kathy Scruggs, everything that I could get my hands on I devoured, I spoke to her colleagues, her friends, I spoke to the authors of the recent book about the event, Suspect, I spoke to Billy Ray, I spoke to [Vanity Fair reporter] Marie Brenner, I spoke to everybody I could to get a sense of who this woman was.
'And then what I discovered was that she was an incredibly intrepid, dogged reporter, a woman in 1996 who rose in the ranks of a newspaper.
'It’s not a very easy thing to do,' she fumed.
Scruggs' brother said he had not been contacted.
'I am Kathy Scruggs' brother and only remaining member of our immediate family.
'I find it interesting that during Ms. Wilde's extensive research of Kathy, she did not bother to contact me or any of Kathy’s very close friends,' he said.