Movies about real lives and real stories take liberties with the truth all the time, but the forthcoming docudrama Richard Jewell may have gone too far. The latest from Clint Eastwood, about the aftermath of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics bombing, has come under heat for its depiction of a real-life (and now deceased) female journalist, portrayed as willing to trade sex for news tips. Now, as per Variety, the paper she worked for, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is demanding Warner Bros. release a statement admitting it’s fake news.
Richard Jewell focuses on its eponymous hero — a lowly rent-a-cop, played by Paul Walter Hauser, who discovered the bomb and prevented a bigger disaster only to erroneously become one of the chief suspects. Among his chief antagonists are a composite FBI character played by Jon Hamm and the non-composite that is Kathy Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde. Previously AJC’s editor-in-chief Kevin Riley pointed out that there’s no evidence Scruggs slept with anyone in exchange for intel about Jewell as a suspect, as shown in Eastwood’s film.
Now the AJC is stepping up its game. The paper issued a letter addressed to Warner Bros., Eastwood, and screenwriter Billy Ray. “We hereby demand that you immediately issue a statement publicly acknowledging that some events were imagined for dramatic purposes and artistic license and dramatization were used in the film’s portrayal of events and characters,” the letter reads. “We further demand that you add a prominent disclaimer to the film to that effect.”
The AJC has reportedly also enlisted as their lawyer Martin Singer, a noted Hollywood attorney who has previously represented John Travolta and Brett Ratner, and who is famous for his, as Variety puts it, “pit bull tactics.”
Deadline is reporting that Warner Bros. has already responded to AJC‘s claims, defending the accuracy of the screenwriting (without directly citing the controversial Scruggs moment in question), and adding that there’s already a stock disclaimer that reads, “Dialogue and certain events and characters contained in the film were created for the purposes of dramatization.”
Scruggs has been defended by former colleagues, who called her “tough and hard-nosed,” saying she was so dogged in her reporting that she’d often beat police to crime scenes. She died in 2001, just shy of her 43rd birthday, having spent her last years suffering from Crohn’s disease and anxiety.