Olivia Wilde has defended her portrayal of late journalist Kathy Scruggs in Clint Eastwood’s new movie Richard Jewell, saying she doesn’t believe the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter traded sex for tips but she had no creative say in the film.
The AJC accused Eastwood of ‘recklessly’ depicting Scruggs in the movie out Friday, claiming in a legal letter that the motion picture falsely depicts her as trying to sleep with an FBI agent, played by John Hamm, for information.
Scruggs family has insisted she had solid sources and called out Wilde, who claimed to have done ‘an extraordinary amount of research’ before accepting the role.
But the family claim she never phoned any of them.
On Thursday, Wilde, 35, said she cannot speak for the creative decisions made by the filmmakers but insists that after doing her own research, any suggestion of sex for tips would be an ‘appalling and misogynistic dismissal of the difficult work’ Scruggs did.
Olivia Wilde has defended herself after criticism of how she portrayed late journalist Kathy Scruggs in new movie Richard Jewell
The AJC alleged filmmaker Clint Eastwood (right) had defamed them by suggesting reporter Kathy Scruggs (left) traded sex for tips
On Thursday, Wilde said she doesn’t believe Kathy ‘traded sex for tips’ and it was never her intention to suggest she had
The film tells the story of the real life security guard, Richard Jewell, played by Paul Walter Hauser, who was wrongfully treated as a suspect after finding a bag of explosives planted by Eric Robert Rudolph at the 1996 Olympics and saving thousands of people’s lives.
Scruggs – who died in 2001 – was the reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who was the first to publish that the FBI was treating Jewell as a suspect and not a hero.
It is suggested in the film that she tried to sleep with an FBI agent in exchange for information about the bombing.
A legal letter from the AJC argues 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.
Jewell died in 2007.
The letter 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.
Richard Jewell as a security guard who saved lives at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta by discovering and then reporting a backpack containing pipe bombs. He was wrongly treated like a suspect for a brief period by the FBI and details of the investigation were leaked to the media – namely Scruggs. After he was cleared, he sued multiple media outlets. Jewell died in 2007. He is shown with his mother Barbara in October 1996
The movie suggests that Scruggs sleeps with FBI agent Tom Shaw, played by Jon Hamm, to get the information. Wilde said it would be an ‘appalling and misogynistic dismissal of the difficult work ‘ Scruggs did to suggest she slept with agents for tips
Wilde added that she wanted to make her own position clear on Thursday amid a backlash
Wilde appeared to agree on Thursday as she tweeted that the perspective of the fictional dramatization of the story, as she understood it, was that Scruggs and the FBI agent ‘were in a pre-existing romantic relationship, not a transactional exchange of sex for information’.
Olivia Wilde defends portrayal of Kathy Scruggs in Richard Jewell on Twitter
‘I cannot speak for the creative decisions made by the filmmakers, as I did not have a say in how the film was ultimately crafted, but it’s important to me that I share my personal take on the matter.
‘One of the things I love about directing is the ability to control the voice and message of the film. As an actor, it’s more complicated, and I want to share my perspective on my role in the film “Richard Jewell.”
‘I was asked to play the supporting role of Kathy Scruggs, who was, by all accounts, bold, smart, and fearlessly undeterred by the challenge of being a female reporter in the south in the 1990s. I cannot even contemplate the amount of sexism she may have faced in the way of duty.
‘As a child of journalists myself, I have deep respect for the essential work of all in their field, particularly today when the media is routinely attacked and discredited, and regional papers like the AJC are disappearing on a daily basis.
‘Nothing in my research suggested she did so, and it was never my intention to suggest she had. That would be an appalling and misogynistic dismissal of the difficult work she did.
‘The perspective of the fictional dramatization of the story, as I understood it, was that Kathy, and the FBI agent who leaked false information to her, were in a pre-existing romantic relationship, not a transactional exchange of sex for information.
‘My previous comments about female sexuality were lost in translation, so let me be clear: I do not believe sex-positivity and professionalism are mutually exclusive. Kathy Scruggs was a modern, independent woman whose personal life should not detract from her accomplishments.
‘She unfortunately became a piece of the massive puzzle that was responsible for the brutal and unjust vilification of an innocent man, Richard Jewell, and that tragedy is what this film attempts to shed light on.
‘I realize my opinions about Kathy, based on my own independent research, may differ from others involved with the film, but it was important to me to my my own position clear.’
‘I cannot speak for the creative decisions made by the filmmakers,’ she added about the Eastwood-helmed flick. ‘I did not have a say in how the film was ultimately crafted, but it’s important to me that I share my personal take on the matter.’
This week the AJC took offense to the characterization and said it suggests she slept with agents to get information from them.
The legal letter claims that the film falsely portrays the AJC’s reporters and Kathy Scruggs in particular, as unethical, unprofessional and reckless.
Wilde – who made her directorial debut earlier this year with coming-of-age comedy Booksmart, a movie that celebrates mindful sexpositivity – added that the lack of control she had in Richard Jewell makes things ‘complicated’.
‘One of the things I love about directing is the ability to control the voice and message of the film,’ Wilde wrote in a separate tweet. ‘As an actor, it’s more complicated, and I want to share my perspective on my role in the film “Richard Jewell”.
‘I was asked to play the supporting role of Kathy Scruggs, who was, by all accounts, bold, smart, and fearlessly undeterred by the challenge of being a female reporter in the south in the 1990s.
‘I cannot even contemplate the amount of sexism she may have faced in the way of duty.’
It was after Kevin Riley, the Editor-in-Chief of the AJC, said this week that it was ‘deeply troubling’ to suggest that she got the information by trading sex for it ‘in the #MeToo era’.
Wilde has championed the #MeToo movement.
In October 2017 she was quick to call out the ‘victim blaming’ of women who spoke about the horrors they’d experienced with Harvey Weinstein.
The movement inspired her to hire all-female writers on her directorial debut. Four out of five producers were female.
During a chat with Deadline, she called out the way the Richard Jewell movie alludes to Scruggs’ relationship with Hamm’s character being unprofessional.
Wilde had also insisted it is sexist not to apply the same outrage to the suggestion that John Hamm’s FBI agent character might have been sleeping with a reporter.
‘I think that we are still struggling with allowing for female characters who aren’t entirely quote-unquote likable,’ Wilde told Deadline. ‘If there’s anything slightly questionable about a female character, we often use that in relation to condemn that character or to condemn the project for allowing for a woman to be impure in a way.
‘It’s a misunderstanding of feminism to assume that all women have to be sexless. I resent the character being minimized to that point.’
Wilde tweeted that she’s a child of journalists as she explained her stance and respect for reporters. Producer Andrew Cockburn, daughter and actress Olivia Wilde and director Leslie Cockburn pose for a photograph at the American Casino screening after party at Pravda on April 26, 2009
But on Thursday she explained that she wasn’t trying to say she believed Scruggs did trade sex for tips.
‘My previous comments about female sexuality were lost in translation, so let me be clear: I do not believe sex-positivity and professionalism are mutually exclusive,’ Wilde posted on Twitter.
‘Kathy Scruggs was a modern, independent woman whose personal life should not detract from her accomplishments.’
Scruggs family have always insisted that she had solid sources within the local police department and in the FBI.
Wilde previously responded that ‘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’.
Thursday, Wilde added that she believes Scruggs too was a victim of the scandal that unjustly vilified an innocent man.
Jewell is played by Paul Walter Hauser in the movie that has been heavily criticized. Eastwood claimed the AJC is ‘probably looking for ways to rationalize their activity’
The attempted to explain the main message of the motion picture, saying about Scruggs’ involvement in the case, ‘that tragedy is what this film attempts to shed light on’.
Jewell 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.
Eastwood responded the AJC’s claims: ‘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.
‘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.’
Wilde – who was born Olivia Cockburn and claims she has a ‘journalistic streak’ because as the daughter of journalists Andrew and Leslie Cockburn – seemingly referenced that Eastwood may have a different idea.
She said: ‘I realize my opinions about Kathy, based on my own independent research, may differ from others involved with the film, but it was important to me to [make] my own position clear.’