Olivia Wilde speaks out about her portrayal of journalist Kathy Scruggs in 'Richard Jewell'

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Olivia Wilde is sharing her thoughts on the controversy surrounding her character in "Richard Jewell."

The film tells the true story of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996 and the efforts to uncover the culprit — events that real-life journalist Kathy Scruggs, played by Wilde, participated in.

In November, the newspaper that Scruggs worked for, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), said that the film contains inaccuracies in its portrayal of Scruggs, namely when suggesting she traded sex for news tips. The paper would later send a letter to Warner Bros., director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Billy Ray demanding that a disclaimer be attached to the film.

Several cast members have voiced their support for the film, including Wilde, 35, who took to Twitter on Thursday to clarify her previous statements.

"One of the things I love about directing is the ability to control the voice and message of the film," said Wilde, who recently made her feature directorial debut with the film "Booksmart."

"As an actor, it’s more complicated, and I want to share my perspective on my role in the film 'Richard Jewell,'" she continued. "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," Wilde said.

The actress went on to explain that as the child of journalists herself, she has a "deep respect for the essential work of all in their field," especially considering the fact that local papers like the AJC are facing challenges.

"Contrary to a swath of recent headlines, I do not believe that Kathy 'traded sex for tips,'" Wilde said. "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."

Wilde continued: "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."

"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," she said. "Kathy Scruggs was a modern, independent woman whose personal life should not detract from her accomplishments."


‘Jewell’ tells the true story of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996 and the efforts to uncover the culprit, events that real-life journalist Kathy Scruggs (played by Wilde) participated in.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Wilde previously spoke to Deadline, saying that "by all accounts, [Kathy] had relationships with different people in [law enforcement]." She also expressed disdain for the focus being on the female character, when the FBI agent who provided the news tips was receiving no scrutiny.

At the movie's premiere on Tuesday night, Jon Hamm, who played the FBI agent, echoed such ideas.

“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.

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)

Wilde concluded her string of Twitter posts on Thursday by saying that Scruggs "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 [make] my own position clear."

After AJC editor Kevin G. Riley sent his letter to the film's production team, he told Variety on Monday: "I think this letter makes it clear how seriously we take the misrepresentation of our reporters’ actions and of the actions of the newspaper during that time. We have been clear about how disturbed we are in the film’s use of a Hollywood trope about reporters… and how it misrepresents how seriously journalists concern themselves with reporting accurately and ethically."

Following the film's debut at the AFI Film festival in November, the paper published a piece titled "The Ballad of Kathy Scruggs," which featured testimonies about the movie's falsehood from people who knew Scruggs personally.

In November, the newspaper that Scruggs worked for, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), said that the film contains inaccuracies in its portrayal of Scruggs, namely, suggesting she traded sex for news tips.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

In the article, friends called Scruggs "the real deal," and said that the film's portrayal was "complete horses–t" and "just not true."

In a statement to Fox News on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. said: "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."

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."

Earlier this week, the film received a Golden Globe nomination for Kathy Bates' portrayal of Bobbi Jewell, the mother of the titular character, who was wrongly accused of committing the bombing.

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