New Clint Eastwood film accused of 'maliciously' portraying journalist

New Clint Eastwood film accused of 'maliciously' portraying journalist
By: WNG SKY Posted On: December 10, 2019 View: 28

New Clint Eastwood film accused of 'maliciously' portraying journalist

An upcoming film based on a real-life bomb attack has been accused of portraying a journalist in a "false and malicious" manner.

Richard Jewell, a movie directed by Clint Eastwood, focuses on the 1996 bombing at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jewell, a security guard, discovered the device before it detonated and helped evacuate people from the park.

Richard Jewell (C) his mother Barbara (L) and attorneys Watson Bryant (R) and Wayne Grant (far R) look on during a press conference 28 October in Atlanta, Ga. Jewell was cleared as a suspect in the July 27 bombing of Centennial Olympic Park
Image: Jewell and his mother Barbara pictured during a news conference after the attack in 1996

In the movie, Paul Walter Hauser plays Jewell, who was initially investigated as a suspect by the FBI.

The film's synopsis says that, despite never being charged, Jewell was "vilified by press and public alike" after initially being hailed a hero. Later, he was completely exonerated.

Warner Bros, the company distributing the film, says it "is a story of what happens when what is reported as fact obscures the truth".

But ahead of Richard Jewell's release in the US on Friday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper (AJC) says it has sent a legal letter to demand a public acknowledgement - and a disclaimer - that states some of the events dramatised in the film were "imagined for dramatic purposes".

More from Atlanta

In a report on its website, the newspaper says it "takes strong exception" to elements of the film - particularly the portrayal of the late reporter Kathy Scruggs, who is played by Olivia Wilde.

Richard Jewell director Clint Eastwood has defended the film against criticism from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Image: Director Clint Eastwood has defended the film against criticism from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

According to the AJC article, Scruggs is "depicted as someone who relies on illicit liaisons with sources to gain information".

The article adds: "The AJC's reporter is reduced to a sex-trading object in the film. Such a portrayal makes it appear that the AJC sexually exploited its staff and/or that it facilitated or condoned offering sexual gratification to sources in exchange for stories.

"That is entirely false and malicious, and it is extremely defamatory and damaging."

Richard Jewell. Pic: Warner Bros
Image: Jon Hamm plays the lead FBI investigator in the film. Pic: Warner Bros

The AJC had criticised the movie before sending the legal demand on Monday, with Eastwood and the film's stars defending themselves.

While promoting the film, Eastwood said the paper was "probably looking for ways to rationalise their activity. I don't know for sure".

The director added: "I think that I've just read a lot of material on Kathy Scruggs. I've read all the material I could find on her. And they all seem to corroborate the fact that she was somewhat on the wild side. And she's someone on the real wild side and she did, she did have interactions with police, law enforcement people in the Atlanta area."

Olivia Wilde attends the IFP's 29th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on December 02, 2019 in New York City
Image: Olivia Wilde, who plays journalist Kathy Scruggs, says she carried out 'an extraordinary amount of research'

Jon Hamm, who plays the lead FBI investigator in the film, said: "The film is not an indictment of the media, of anyone in particular. It's a story about how a man and his life were turned upside down by people who maybe cut some corners."

In an interview with Deadline, Wilde said she carried out "an extraordinary amount of research" on Scruggs.

"I spoke to her colleagues, her friends, I spoke to the authors of the recent book about the event, (The Suspect), I spoke to (screenwriter) 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," she said.

The AJC says its letter from law firm Lavely & Singer has been sent to Eastwood, screenwriter Billy Ray, Warner Bros and other parties.

Richard Jewell Attorney Lin Wood holds a copy of the Atlanta Journal during a press conference 28 October 1996. Wood said Jewell plans to file suit against several media sources for defamation of character
Image: Attorney Lin Wood holds a copy of the Atlanta Journal following the bombing

The AJC was first to reveal that the FBI considered Jewell a suspect following the bomb attack.

In the article published on its website on Monday, the newspaper says: "The AJC was among numerous entities sued after Jewell was cleared, and the only one that didn't settle. The litigation naming the AJC was dismissed in 2011, with the Court of Appeals concluding that the coverage was substantially true at the time of publication.

"The letter sent Monday notes the legal outcome and lists other objections, including the movie's depiction of the AJC's reporting practices.

"Far from acting recklessly, the AJC actually held that story for a day to develop additional independent corroboration of key facts prior to publication."

Photographers, television crews and reporters set up on July 31, 1996, in Atlanta, outside the apartment of Richard Jewell, a security officer who is being questioned in connection with the bombing at Olympic Centennial Park and is a prime suspect according to media reports. The FBI, in a search of Jewell's apartment, is reported to have taken several boxes. Jewell's attorney Watson Bryant said the search had turned up nothing
Image: Media crews outside Jewell's home on 31 July 1996 - four days after the attack

In summary, the article says that "the AJC acted responsibly and in accordance with appropriate journalistic standards".

Serial bomber Eric Robert Rudolph was sentenced to life without parole for the attack - which killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and injured more than 100 others - after pleading guilty in 2005.

Jewell died in 2007 at the age of 44, and Scruggs died in 2001 aged 42.

Sky News has contacted Warner Bros for comment.

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