Olivia Wilde Shares 'Her Personal Take' on Whether Her Richard Jewell Character Traded Sex for Tips
The film, which is based on a true story, is facing backlash for suggesting that Scruggs — who has since died — had sex with an FBI agent in order to obtain information about Richard Jewell being a suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.
“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,” Wilde, 35, wrote.
“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,” she continued.
“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.”
Wilde went on to share that “contrary to a swath of recent headlines,” it was not her goal to portray Scruggs in a negative light and that she was under the impression Scruggs and FBI agent Tom Shaw (played by Jon Hamm) were involved in a pre-existing romantic relationship.
“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,” Wilde explained, adding that the scenes in question are from a dramatized perspective.
“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.”
“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 continued.
“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,” Wilde concluded.
Kevin Riley, editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where Scruggs worked, recently told PEOPLE there’s “no evidence” to support the implication.
Furthermore, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution issued a statement, obtained by Variety, on Monday, demanding the studio behind Richard Jewell issue a statement explaining Scruggs’ role was dramatized.
“We hereby demand 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,” AJC wrote to Warner Bros., Eastwood and writer Billy Ray, according to Variety.
“We further demand that you add a prominent disclaimer to the film to that effect,” AJC added, according to Variety.
Hamm, 48, has also spoken out about the film, encouraging people to see the movie before judging.
“It’s my understanding that the people making these accusations haven’t seen the film yet,” Hamm told 11 Alive at the premiere of the movie. “I kind of feel like the irony in that is sort of ridiculous. Kathy is portrayed by Olivia in this film as she was, which is an incredibly nuanced individual. To reduce her to this one thing is not fair.”
“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 added.
Scruggs broke the initial story that Jewell — a security guard at Centennial Olympic Park, heralded as a hero for discovering the explosive and alerting police before it detonated — was a suspect in the attack, which killed one and injured over a hundred people.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Eastwood’s drama includes a scene where the fictionalized Scruggs offers to sleep with a federal agent Tom Shaw. After Shaw gives Jewell’s name to Scruggs, he then asks if they should go to a hotel or leave together, reports the outlet. “While they are never actually seen doing so, it is implied that they do sleep together,” states THR.
Richard Jewell is in theaters Friday.