The cast of Clint Eastwood‘s “Richard Jewell” is speaking out about the recent controversy surrounding the film’s portrayal of Kathy Scruggs, a journalist involved in the coverage of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing.
A true story, “Jewell” has faced backlash from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), the paper that Scruggs worked for, who found the portrayal as one that “veers from reality.” Specifically, the paper cited Scruggs’ character — played by Olivia Wilde — trading sex for news tips particularly “defamatory.”
The paper sent a letter to Warner Bros., Eastwood and the film’s screenwriter, Billy Ray, demanding a disclaimer be attached to the film.
“It’s my understanding that the people making these accusations haven’t seen the film yet,” Hamm, 48, told the outlet, also saying that the film pulls details from a book on the event. “I kind of feel like the irony in that is sort of ridiculous. Kathy is portrayed by Olivia in this film as she was, which is an incredibly nuanced individual. To reduce her to this one thing is not fair.”
“I think that there were certainly suggestions of impropriety with her character, but there are also some suggestions of impropriety with the character that I play, and that’s part of the tragedy of this story,” he said.
Paul Walter Hauser, who plays the titular character, also spoke with the outlet about the backlash.
“I think the feeling is that [this movie] sort of came out of nowhere,” Hauser, 33, said. “This project has been around for about 5 years. It was a very famous screenplay. It had Leo (Leonardo DeCaprio) attached to it at some point.”
Hauser said the AJC’s accusations were a “last-minute decision” and that they “could have done their digging.”
Olivia Wilde attends the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences’ 11th Annual Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on October 27, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Director and Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood shared his thoughts, as well, saying that his depiction could have been the truth.
“There’s only so much research you can do. You can’t live inside the people because they no longer exist,” said Eastwood, 89. “We know as much as anybody knows. Kathy Scruggs was a very interesting personality, and she did find the answer to it, so how she did it, nobody will ever really know. It could have certainly happened this way.”
In a statement to Fox News on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. said that “the film is based on a wide range of highly credible source material.”
“There is no disputing that Richard Jewell was an innocent man whose reputation and life were shredded by a miscarriage of justice,” the statement said. “It is unfortunate and the ultimate irony that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, having been a part of the rush to judgment of Richard Jewell, is now trying to malign our filmmakers and cast. ‘Richard Jewell’ focuses on the real victim, seeks to tell his story, confirm his innocence and restore his name. The [AJC’s] claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend against them.”
(L-R) Kathy Bates, Paul Walter Hauser, Clint Eastwood, Barbara “Bobi” Jewell, Sam Rockwell, Jon Hamm, Nadya Bryant and G. Watson Bryant Jr. attend the “Richard Jewell” Atlanta Screening at Rialto Center of the Arts on December 10, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.(Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage)
Additionally, the spokesperson said that a disclaimer will be visible at the end of the film, as is standard for fact-based stories, reading: “The film is based on actual historical events. Dialogue and certain events and characters contained in the film were created for the purposes of dramatization.”
The film — out on Friday — depicts the search for the identity of the culprit behind the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing, including how the reporter, Kathy Scruggs, helped uncover the truth.