Olivia Wilde has tweeted a string of responses to criticism of the character she plays in Clint Eastwood’s film “Richard Jewell,” which opens Friday. In the series of tweets, she admits that the journalist she plays, Kathy Scruggs, had a relationship with an FBI agent, but Wilde says she was not in control of the way the character was portrayed.
The film has been criticized for spreading the perception that the late reporter Scruggs exchanged sex for a tip about the suspect from an FBI agent investigating the 1996 Atlanta bombing. In the film, Scruggs pressures a federal agent (Jon Hamm) for information and, in the same conversation, suggests the two have sex. Hamm’s agent gives her a tip that security guard Richard Jewell a suspect in the bombing at the Summer Olympics, and it is implied that the pair sleep together directly after this exchange.
Together with reporter Ron Martz, Scruggs went on to break the story of Jewell being under suspicion. He was cleared 88 days later after having his life upended. The screenplay for Eastwood’s film was written by Billy Ray and based on the Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner.
“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,” Wilde wrote on Twitter.
She continued, “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.”