Clint Eastwood’s latest Oscar-tipped film is facing calls for a boycott over its controversial portrayal of a female journalist sleeping with an FBI agent to get information.
"Richard Jewell" tells the story of the eponymous, real-life security guard who found a bomb during the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, but was accused of planting it himself before eventually being exonerated.
Olivia Wilde, the actress, plays Kathy Scruggs, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution crime reporter who broke the news that Jewell was a suspect.
According to the film, directed by Eastwood, Scruggs obtained the information after having sex with an FBI agent, played by Jon Hamm.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution slammed Hollywood’s portrayal of Scruggs, denying that was how she got the story.
It demanded Warner Bros. the studio behind the film, add a disclaimer when it is released in the United States later this week.
Meanwhile, Wilde defended her portrayal of Scruggs, who died in 2001 at the age of 42.
The actress said Scruggs was being unfairly judged because men did the same thing.
Wilde said: "I have an immense amount of respect for Kathy Scruggs. I feel a certain responsibility to defend her legacy which has now been, I think unfairly, boiled down to one element of her personality, one inferred moment in the film.
"We don’t do that to men. We don’t do that to James Bond. We don’t say James Bond isn’t a real spy because he gets his information sometimes by sleeping with women as sources."
The actress added: "It’s sort of a misunderstanding of feminism to expect women to become pious and sexless."
However, Kevin Riley, editor-in-chief of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said there was "no evidence" that was how Scruggs did get her information.
He called the film "offensive and deeply troubling in the MeToo era."
But Warner Bros. stood by its depiction of Scruggs, saying the film was based on a "wide range of highly credible source material."
The studio said: "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.
"The AJC’s claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend against them."
Meanwhile, several media figures called for a boycott of the film due to its "sexist" portrayal of Scruggs.
Mark Joseph Stern, of Slate magazine, said it was promoting an "egregiously sexist, demeaning, insulting trope."
He added: "Please do not reward Clint Eastwood for deploying it."
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