Clint Eastwood's 'Richard Jewell' under fire for portrayal of newspaper, female reporter

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is demanding filmmakers address the film's portrayal of the newspaper and a reporter

A Georgia newspaper named in Clint Eastwood's upcoming movie, “Richard Jewell," has demanded filmmakers include a disclaimer about the dramatized portrayal of the news outlet and one of its female reporters.

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The film, in theaters Dec. 13, tells the story of Richard Jewell, a security guard who was initially suspected of being involved in the 1996 Olympic Park bomb attack in Atlanta, which killed two people and injured more than a hundred others.

Jewell, who reportedly came across the pipe bomb inside a backpack in a nearby park, was named a suspect and subsequently become the subject of widespread media scrutiny before he was cleared of suspicious months later.

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But Eastwood’s film reportedly portrays Kathy Scruggs, who was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as engaging in sexual activity with an FBI agent to obtain information about the case, according to the letter and newspaper officials. Scruggs, who reportedly died in 2001, is played by Olivia Wilde.

Olivia Wilde appears in "Richard Jewell." (Warner Bros)

“We take very seriously the blatant misrepresentation of our reporter, who can’t defend herself,” Kevin Riley, editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, told FOX Business on Tuesday. “For Clint Eastwood to simply make up this appalling detail in a film ‘based on true story’ is cheap storytelling that perpetuates a Hollywood trope.”

The more than six-page demand letter was sent on to Eastwood and other film industry officials, including those from Warner Bros. Monday, calling on filmmakers to address the “untruthful, defamatory, and damaging” details about Scruggs and the AJC.

“Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately issue a statement publicly acknowledging that some events were imagined for dramatic purposes,” the demand states, “and artistic license and dramatization were used in the film’s portrayal of events and characters[.] We further demand that you add a prominent disclaimer to the film to that effect.”

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL DEMAND LETTER

On Thursday, Wilde tweeted a clarification about her understanding of Scruggs' story and the way the film portrays it.

Wilde had responded to Deadline on Tuesday, describing the criticism as “unfair that Kathy has been minimized in this way.”

“[Scruggs] 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,” the actress and filmmaker told Deadline. “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."

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Despite Wilde's statement that she "did an extraordinary amount of research about Kathy Scruggs," Scruggs' brother, Lewis Scruggs, told FOX Business he never heard from the star.

"Never. Nor any of the other people she loved and to whom she was closest."

- Lewis Scruggs, brother of Kathy Scruggs, when asked if actress Olivia Wilde had contacted him 

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Spokespersons for Wilde and Eastwood did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment. Meanwhile, a Warner Bros representative said a disclaimer is already placed at the end of the movie.

“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 memo reads.

Kathy Bates, who stars as Bobi Jewell, Sam Rockwell, in the role of Jewell's attorney, and Paul Walter Hauser, who plays Richard Jewell, in "Richard Jewell." (Warner Bros)

Paul McGuire, a spokesperson for Warner Bros., said in a statement to FOX Business the film is based on “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. 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.”

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On Tuesday, actress Kathy Bates was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of Richard Jewell's mother, Bobi Jewell, in the film.

Fox News reporter Julia Musto contributed to this report.

The story was updated to include comments Olivia Wilde made Thursday.