Olivia Wilde on ‘Richard Jewell’: ‘I Did Not Have a Say’ in Portrayal of Female Reporter

Film has faced boycott over depiction of Wilde’s character, Kathy Scruggs

Olivia Wilde Kathy Scruggs Richard Jewell
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Following a debate about how the late Kathy Scruggs is portrayed in Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell,” Olivia Wilde — who plays the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter — shared her perspective on the matter, saying she had “no say” in the creative decisions made.

“I cannot speak for the creative decisions made by the filmmakers,” the actress tweeted on Thursday. “I did not have a say in how the film was ultimately crafted.”

She added: “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. Contrary to a swath of recent headlines, I do not believe that Kathy ‘traded sex for tips.’ 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 Atlanta Journal-Constitution has challenged the portrayal of Scruggs, who was an AJC reporter during the 1996 Olympic Park bombing, given that the film shows Scruggs trading sex with an FBI agent in exchange for a tip on a story. The AJC, in a letter, threatened producers and filmmakers over the “malicious fabrications,” and called for a boycott.

“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 said. “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.”

The letter from the law offices of Lavely & Singer accused the filmmakers as acting “recklessly” and “engaging in constitutional malice” due to the film’s portrayal of Scruggs. The paper demanded that the filmmakers issue a public statement that acknowledges they took dramatic and artistic licenses with the story, and that a prominent disclaimer is added to the film.

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment regarding Wilde’s tweets, but previously issued a public statement acknowledging they took dramatic and artistic licenses with the story. The studio also said the film was based “on a wide range of highly credible source material.”

“Richard Jewell” is the story of a security guard at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta who was wrongfully accused of being a terrorist in connection with a bombing at Centennial Olympic Park. Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) had discovered a backpack filled with explosives and was initially deemed a hero for helping to evacuate attendees and alert law enforcement, but he was later considered a suspect before finally being cleared.

Eastwood directed the film from a screenplay by Billy Ray based on a magazine article by Brenner. “Richard Jewell” opens in theaters Dec. 13.

See Wilde’s tweets below.