“The film is based on a wide range of highly credible source material,” said the AT&T-owned studio today after being threatened with a defamation lawsuit by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s outside counsel.
“There is no disputing that Richard Jewell was an innocent man whose reputation and life were shredded by a miscarriage of justice,” Warner Bros added of the AT&T security guard at the center of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing and obviously the Billy Ray penned pic based in part on a Vanity Fair article. “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.”
Warner Bros adds, bluntly: “The AJC’s claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend against them.”
As to directly answer one of the main points that AJC Editor-in-Chief Kevin Riley has raised, the studio also goes on to add one more thing of the December 13 released movie. “The disclaimer at the end of the film is: The film is based on actual historical events. Dialogue and certain events and characters contained in the film were created for the purposes of dramatization.”
That disclaimer has always been at the end of the Paul Walter Hauser, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates and Jon Hamm starring film, a studio source confirmed to Deadline.
The strong blast from the studio behind the Eastwood helmed project follows a letter today from attorney Marty Singer on behalf of the Cox Enterprises-owned newspaper seeking a serious walking back of the film’s accuracy under the banner of public statement and on-screen slate “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,” to quote from the correspondence.
Ever since Richard Jewell premiered at the AFI Festival late last month, the AJC’s Riley has been insisting in public statements and past letters that the movie has pivotal facts incorrect. Specifically, Riley says that now-deceased reporter Kathy Scruggs never traded sex for tips in the widely covered story of Jewell. who was falsely pinned for months as the FBI’s prime suspect in the 1996 bombing at the Atlanta Olympics.
While not explicitly showing anything, there is a scene in the film in which Wilde’s Scruggs basically asks a FBI source where they are going to have sex after getting insider info on the bombing investigation by the Bureau.
In the letter from Singer earlier on Monday, Eastwood and WB are actually singled out for mixing fact and fiction.
“It is obvious that nobody associated with the film was actually interested in obtaining the accurate facts from my clients since you completely disregarded the information that was provided when my client’s representatives met with the film makers and the former AJC editor who was Ms. Scruggs’ boss provided relevant feedback about how the AJC broke the story and who Ms. Scruggs was as a person and as a reporter,” declares the well-known and pugilistic Tinseltown lawyer. “It is evident that the meeting was a mere pretext and that any information that deviated from or was inconsistent with the film’s planned thesis was ignored. Such conduct evidences purposeful avoidance of the truth, supporting a finding of constitutional malice.”
Of course, that disclaimer may render all that moot if this ever actually gets in front of a judge.
In case you are wondering, the now departed Jewell was totally cleared in late 1996 of all involvement in the bombing that killed two and injured over 100 people. A year later, several other similar bombings saw the FBI identify reproductive rights attacker, homophobe and cop killer Eric Rudolph as their top suspect. Caught in 2003, Rudolph admitted to the Olympics bombing and more in 2005 in exchange for escaping a likely visit to the death chair. Serving four life sentences, he currently sits in a Supermax in Colorado.