Entertainment Movies Richard Jewell gives Clint Eastwood his worst movie opening in four decades amid backlash
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Richard Jewell gives Clint Eastwood his worst movie opening in four decades amid backlash

Paul Walter Hauser Sam Rockwell Clint Eastwood
Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell and Clint Eastwood on the Richard Jewell set. Photo: Warner Bros
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Amid backlash over its ‘sex for a story’ depiction of a female reporter, Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell has tanked in its US debut and is the veteran star and director’s worst opening since 1980’s Billy Bronco.

The Warner Bros film about a security guard wrongly suspected of playing a part in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing scored decent reviews and an audience approval score of 96 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.

But on its debut weekend, it took a dismal $7.2 million from 2502 theatres.

It was about half what analysts had predicted, and means Richard Jewell performed worse than Eastwood’s other inaugural flops, 1997’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and 1999’s True Crime.

Eastwood, 89, won Oscars as a director and producer on Best Picture winners Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven. In 2014, his American Sniper was the top-grossing film in the US, and took more than $725 million worldwide.

Richard Jewell “started out with so much promise in terms of awards season buzz,” Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, told Variety.

“You’ve got a really high-profile filmmaker with a movie that had a lot of acclaim.”

It’s been estimated the film could eventually recoup around $43 million of the $65 million it cost to make.

While Kathy Bates scored Golden Globe and SAG Awards nominations for her role as the titular character’s mother, other stars of the underperforming film including Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell and Jon Hamm have so far been overlooked in awards races.

Just as startling as Eastwood’s film’s poor showing is that star Olivia Wilde broke ranks after Richard Jewell sparked condemnation for suggesting the late reporter she plays swapped sex for information.

Wilde plays Kathy Scruggs, who worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time when the Games’ bombing sparked a media frenzy. She died in 2001 at age 42.

Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde won breakthrough director for Booksmart at November’s Hollywood Film Awards. Photo: Instagram

“The film Richard Jewell promotes the trope that women sleep their way to the top. It’s sexist, insulting – and nonsensical,” said the UK Guardian.

In a Twitter thread, Wilde said she did not believe Scruggs “traded sex for tips”, and did not mean to suggest that was the case.

But she “did not have a say in how the film was ultimately crafted”, she said.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press, the film strongly implies Scruggs landed the scoop about Jewell’s status as a suspect in the Olympic Park bombing in exchange for sleeping with an FBI agent (Hamm).

Scruggs’ old newspaper has threatened to sue Eastwood and Warner Bros, saying the paper and its staff were “portrayed in a false and defamatory manner”.

On Twitter, Wilde said a director could “control the voice and message of the film”, but for an actor “it’s more complicated”.

She said while her opinions about Scruggs, “based on my own independent research” may be different to “others” involved with the film, “it was important to me to my my [sic] own position clear”.

Scruggs was “by all accounts, bold, smart, and fearlessly undeterred by the challenge of being a female reporter in the south in the 1990s”, Wilde tweeted.

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