Richard Jewell (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
|Screenplay by||Billy Ray|
|Music by||Arturo Sandoval|
|Edited by||Joel Cox|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$44.3 million|
Richard Jewell is a 2019 American biographical drama film directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, and written by Billy Ray. It is based on the 1997 Vanity Fair article "American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell" by Marie Brenner, and the 2019 book The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen. The film depicts the July 27 Centennial Olympic Park bombing and its aftermath, as security guard Richard Jewell finds a bomb during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, and alerts authorities to evacuate, only to later be wrongly accused of having placed the device himself. The film stars Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell, alongside Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, and Olivia Wilde.
The film had its world premiere on November 20, 2019, at the AFI Fest, and was theatrically released in the United States on December 13, 2019, by Warner Bros. Pictures. It received positive reviews from critics, with praise for the performances (particularly Bates and Hauser) and Eastwood's direction. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the ten best films of the year. However, the film was criticized for its portrayal of a real-life reporter, Kathy Scruggs. The film grossed $44.3 million against its $45 million budget. For her performance, Bates won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress, and earned nominations at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.
In 1986, Richard Jewell works as an office supply clerk in a small public law firm, where he builds a rapport with attorney Watson Bryant. He leaves the firm to pursue a law enforcement career. At some point he's hired as a sheriff's deputy, but ends up discharged. In early 1996, he's working as a security guard at Piedmont College, but is fired after multiple complaints of acting beyond his jurisdiction. Jewell later moves in with his mother Bobi in Atlanta. In the summer of 1996, he works as a security guard at the Olympic Games, monitoring Centennial Park.
In the early morning of July 27, 1996, after chasing off drunken revelers during a Jack Mack and the Heart Attack concert, Jewell notices a suspicious package beneath a bench, which an explosives expert confirms contains a bomb. The security team, including police officers, FBI agent Tom Shaw, and Jewell's friend Dave Dutchess, are moving concert attendees away from the bomb when it detonates, and Jewell is initially heralded as a hero.
At Atlanta's FBI office, Shaw and his team determine that Jewell, as a white, male, "wanna-be" police officer, fits the common profile of perpetrators committing similar crimes, comparing him to others who sought glory and attention by rescuing people from a dangerous situation they caused themselves.
Shaw is approached by journalist Kathy Scruggs of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. In exchange for sex, Shaw reveals that Jewell is under FBI suspicion. The Constitution publishes Scruggs's story on the front page, disclosing the FBI's interest in Jewell as a possible suspect. Scruggs makes particular note of Jewell's physique, the fact he lives with his mother, and work history to reassure herself that he fits the FBI's profile. The story quickly becomes international news.
Jewell, initially unaware of his changing public perception, is lured to the FBI office. He initially cooperates but refuses to sign an acknowledgement he has been read his Miranda rights, and instead phones Watson Bryant for legal representation. Bryant, now running his own struggling law firm, agrees and makes Jewell aware he is a prime suspect.
Shaw and partner Sam Bennet visit the dean of Piedmont College, who reinforces their suspicion of Jewell. The FBI searches Jewell's home and seize property including true crime books and a cache of firearms. Jewell admits to Bryant that he has been evading income taxes for years and was once arrested for exceeding his authority. Bryant scolds Jewell for being too collegial with the police officers investigating him. Jewell admits his ingrained respect for authority makes it difficult for him not to be deferential, even when the authorities are trying to do him harm.
Jewell and Bryant confront Scruggs, demanding a retraction and apology, but she stands by her reporting. Still not completely convinced of Jewell's innocence, Bryant and his long-suffering secretary Nadya time the distance between the phone booth and bomb site, concluding it is impossible for someone to phone in the bomb threat and discover the bomb at the time it was found. Scruggs and Shaw have made the same conclusion, and the FBI changes their picture of the crime to include an accomplice. As their case weakens, the FBI try to link Dutchess to Jewell as a possible homosexual accomplice.
Bryant arranges a polygraph examination which Jewell passes, removing Bryant's doubt about his innocence. Bobi holds a press conference and pleas for the investigation to cease so she and her son may get on with their lives. Jewell and Bryant meet with Shaw and Bennet at the FBI office, and after some irrelevant questions, Jewell realizes they have no shred of evidence against him. When he asks pointedly if they are ready to charge him, their silence convinces him to leave, finally having lost his sense of awe for law enforcement officers.
Eighty-eight days after being named "a person of interest", Jewell is informed by formal letter that he is no longer under investigation.
In April 2005, Jewell, now a police officer in Luthersville, Georgia, is visited by Bryant who tells him that Eric Rudolph has confessed to the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.
An epilogue states that two years later, on August 29, 2007, Jewell passed away at the age of 44 of complications from diabetes and heart failure. It also mentions that Bryant and Nadya got married and had two sons, both of whom Bobi babysits to this day.
- Paul Walter Hauser as Richard Jewell
- Sam Rockwell as Watson Bryant
- Kathy Bates as Barbara "Bobi" Jewell
- Jon Hamm as FBI Agent Tom Shaw (composite character)
- Olivia Wilde as Kathy Scruggs
- Nina Arianda as Nadya
- Ian Gomez as FBI Agent Dan Bennet
- Wayne Duvall as polygraph examiner
- Dylan Kussman as FBI Special Agent Bruce Hughes
- Mike Pniewski as Brandon Hamm
- Eric Mendenhall as Eric Rudolph
The project was initially announced in February 2014, when Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill teamed to produce the film, with Hill set to play Jewell, and DiCaprio set to play the lawyer who helped Jewell navigate the media blitz that surrounded him. Paul Greengrass began negotiations to direct the film, with Billy Ray writing the screenplay. Other directors considered include Ezra Edelman and David O. Russell, before Clint Eastwood was officially attached in early 2019. DiCaprio and Hill did not star in the film, though they remained as producers.
In May 2019, Warner Bros. acquired the film rights from 20th Century Fox, which had been acquired by The Walt Disney Company earlier that year. In June, Sam Rockwell was cast as the lawyer, and Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell. Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm, and Ian Gomez were also cast. In July 2019, Nina Arianda joined the cast. Filming began on June 24, 2019, in Atlanta.
In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres during her talk show, Eastwood explained how he continued to work on the film despite a looming studio wildfire. Ellen described the November 10 blaze, known as the Barham brush fire, as a "really bad fire that came really close to the lot," adding that "air quality was so bad that everyone evacuated." Clint replied: "I was coming back down to do some work at a sound stage and I saw all this smoke going. And I'm getting closer and closer and its Warner Bros. and its smoke and I got almost up there and I thought, the whole studio's burning down, maybe I'll go in and see if I can retrieve something. So we went on the sound stage and started working and we forgot about it and...everybody said, 'The studio's been evacuated!' And I said, 'We're not evacuated, we're here working!'"
A trailer was released on October 3, 2019.
Richard Jewell grossed $22.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $21.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $44.3 million, against a production budget of $45 million. The film's performance was characterized as a box office flop by several media outlets.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Jumanji: The Next Level and Black Christmas, and was initially projected to gross around $10 million from 2,502 theaters in its opening weekend. However, after making $1.6 million on its first day, estimates were lowered to $5 million. The film ended up debuting at $4.7 million, one of the 50 worst wide openings ever. It was Eastwood's worst opening weekend since Bronco Billy in 1980, and the second-lowest opening of his career. It finished fourth at the box office, behind Jumanji: The Next Level, Frozen II, and Knives Out.
The film fell 45% to $2.6 million in its second weekend, finishing in seventh. In its third weekend the film made $3 million (and a total of $5.4 million over the five-day Christmas weekend), finishing tenth.
The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 76% based on 265 reviews, with an average rating of 6.79/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Richard Jewell simplifies the real-life events that inspired it—yet still proves that Clint Eastwood remains a skilled filmmaker of admirable economy." Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 68 out of 100 based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
The film came under fire for its portrayal of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs, who died of a prescription drug overdose in 2001. Criticism was directed at the film for depicting her as offering to engage in sex with an FBI agent in return for confidential information. The editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in an open letter that this depicted incident was "entirely false and malicious." Employees of the newspaper demanded the film have a prominent disclaimer that "some events were imagined for dramatic purposes and artistic license." The film was accused of perpetuating a sexist trope of women journalists exchanging sex for information.
Wilde, who plays Scruggs in the film, defended her role and stated that there was a sexist double standard, in that Jon Hamm's portrayal of the FBI agent was not held to the same scrutiny. Commentators noted that Wilde's character was based on a real person, whereas the FBI agent was an amalgamation of multiple individuals. They also noted that the purpose of the film was to expose and condemn the character assassination of Jewell. However, in the process, some insisted the film committed the same act to Scruggs. Multiple media outlets connected the film's poor box office performance to the controversy.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Academy Awards||February 9, 2020||Best Supporting Actress||Kathy Bates||Nominated|||
|American Film Institute||January 3, 2020||Top Ten Films of the Year||Richard Jewell||Won|||
|Detroit Film Critics Society||December 9, 2019||Best Supporting Actor||Sam Rockwell||Nominated|||
|Best Supporting Actress||Kathy Bates||Nominated|
|Best Breakthrough Performance||Paul Walter Hauser||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||January 5, 2020||Best Supporting Actress||Kathy Bates||Nominated|||
|National Board of Review Awards||December 3, 2019||Top 10 Films||Richard Jewell||Won|||
|Best Supporting Actress||Kathy Bates||Won|
|Best Breakthrough Performance||Paul Walter Hauser||Won|
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