Warner Bros. Battles Atlanta Newspaper Over ‘Richard Jewell’ Legal Threat

Tension between Warner Bros. and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution over “Richard Jewell” has escalated after the newspaper sent a legal threat to the studio on Tuesday urging Warner Bros. to add a disclaimer to the Clint Eastwood-directed drama that notes the film takes dramatic liberties with the true story at its center. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution hinted at legal action should Warner Bros. not comply with its demand. The newspaper has been highly critical of “Richard Jewell,” most strongly over its depiction of reporter Kathy Scruggs. Olivia Wilde stars as Scruggs in the film, which includes one scene in which it’s implied Wilde trades sex for news scoops.

Scruggs’ portrayal in “Richard Jewell” was condemned last month by Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor in chief Kevin Riley, who said in a statement to IndieWire “there is no evidence that this ever happened” and called the film’s suggestion that Scruggs traded sex for news tips “offensive and deeply troubling in the #MeToo era.”

Warner Bros. responded to the newspaper’s December 9 legal threat by firmly standing by Eastwood’s movie. In real life, Scruggs was one of the reporters who named Richard Jewell as a suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic bombing. Scruggs was innocent, but the newspaper’s report helped put Jewell’s life under scrutiny for an extended period of time. Warner Bros. suggested that by threatening legal action over “Richard Jewell” the newspaper is attempting to divert attention away from its questionable reporting at the time.

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“The film is based on a wide range of highly credible source material,” Warner Bros.’ statement reads (via Variety). “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.”

Olivia Wilde has also defended the film and its portrayal of her character. Speaking to reporters at the Gotham Awards earlier this month, Wilde said, “I think it’s a shame that she has been reduced to one inferred moment in the film. It’s a basic misunderstanding of feminism as pious sexlessness. It happens a lot to women; we’re expected to be one-dimensional if we are to be considered feminists. There’s a complexity to Kathy, as there is to all of us, and I really admired her.”

Warner Bros. is opening “Richard Jewell” in theaters nationwide December 13.

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