One of several films opening in theaters this weekend is “Richard Jewell,” from director Clint Eastwood. While the film has been getting pretty solid reviews (including our own), the film about the 1996 Olympics Bombing in Atlanta has found itself in the middle of a shitstorm, courtesy of one scene in the movie involving Olivia Wilde’s character, real-life journalist Kathy Scruggs.
In an attempt at brevity, I’m going to try to sum up this situation involving “Richard Jewell” as quickly as possible. For longer accounts, feel free to read our previous articles about the situation.
Basically, the film focuses on the wrongful accusations lobbed at security officer Richard Jewell during the 1996 bombing aftermath, where the FBI and media (specifically the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) painted him as a possible terror suspect. Eventually, he was found to be innocent and doing something heroic, but the stigma of being accused followed him for years after. The controversy recently involves how Eastwood’s film insinuates that Kathy Scruggs (AJC reporter played by Wilde) traded sexual favors with an FBI Agent (Jon Hamm) for the inside scoop about Jewell. This has been vehemently denied by the AJC and folks related to Scruggs (she, sadly, has passed away). But still, the controversy lives on.
Speaking to Deadline, “Richard Jewell” screenwriter Billy Ray offered his take on the situation, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he puts the blame solely on the lap of the newspaper.
“This movie is about a hero whose life was completely destroyed by myths created by the FBI and the media, specifically the AJC,” the writer said. “The AJC hung Richard Jewell, in public.”
He added, “They editorialized wildly and printed assumptions as facts. They compared him to noted mass murderer Wayne Williams. And this was after he had saved hundreds of lives. Now a movie comes along 23 years later, a perfect chance for the AJC to atone for what they did to Richard and to admit to their misdeeds. And what do they decide to do? They launch a distraction campaign. They deflect and distort. They focus solely on one single minute in a movie that’s 129 minutes long, opting to challenge one assertion in the movie rather than accepting their own role in destroying the life of a good man. The movie isn’t about Kathy Scruggs; it’s about the heroism and hounding of Richard Jewell, and what rushed reporting can do to an innocent man. And by the way, I will stand by every word and assertion in the script.”
With Wilde backtracking on earlier comments and distancing herself from the situation and the AJC threatening legal action, it doesn’t appear that the “Richard Jewell” controversy is ending anytime soon.
“Richard Jewell” is in theaters now.