Olivia Wilde does not believe that AJC journalist Kathy Scruggs ‘traded sex for tips’

Hollywood Film Awards

As we discussed earlier this week, the Atlanta Journal Constitution wants Clint Eastwood to apologize for using his film, Richard Jewell, to smear one of their (now deceased) reporters. Kathy Scruggs was an AJC crime reporter and she was the first journalist to report that the FBI considered Richard Jewell a suspect in the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing in 1996. Jewell was a security guard and he was the first person to see the pipe bomb, and his actions in clearing the park likely saved hundreds of lives. But the FBI suspected him of making the pipe bomb, and that’s what Clint Eastwood’s film is about. Olivia Wilde plays Kathy Scruggs, and apparently (I haven’t seen the film and I don’t plan to) the film shows her banging an FBI agent to get the info about the investigation into Jewell. There is literally no evidence that happened. There is ample evidence that Kathy Scruggs was a good reporter on the crime beat, and that she would have been exactly the kind of dogged reporter whom cops or FBI agents would leak to.

I would have been fine dumping this sexist trope entirely on Clint Eastwood (the director) and Billy Ray (the screenwriter). But Olivia Wilde repeatedly claimed that she did extensive research on Kathy Scruggs too, only Kathy’s friends and family say that Olivia never contacted them, and they’re pissed at her for playing this role. So, Olivia stepped up and she’s offered an explanation for what happened. From her Twitter:

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”. 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.

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.

Contrary to a swath of recent headlines, 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.

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.

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 [make] my own position clear.

[From Olivia Wilde’s Twitter]

Basically, Olivia is fine with throwing Clint and Billy Ray under the bus – that’s what “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” means. It means that she thought she was playing a woman who was romantically involved with an FBI agent and that’s how Scruggs got the information, but that the men in charge changed it so that everything looked transactional. Or something. Congrats, Olivia, you’re still going to get blamed for smearing a dead woman.

4th Annual Patron of the Artists Awards

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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38 Responses to “Olivia Wilde does not believe that AJC journalist Kathy Scruggs ‘traded sex for tips’”

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  1. Sierra says:

    Nope Olivia, a bit to late for this.

  2. Enn says:

    She can be as wordy as she wants to, but she played a professional journalist with a solid reputation and excellent investigative skills as an Erin Brokovich stereotype, except with actual sexual favors.

    No thanks, Olivia.

  3. KJ says:

    I’ve seen the film (for work). Olivia can say this was her interpretation — pre-existing romance — but that is in NO WAY what appears on the screen in any of their interactions. Beyond that, Olivia’s portrayal of Scruggs — and yes, the one written by Ray and directed by Eastwood — is shrill, cartoonish, over the top, and incredibly strange. It’s not just her scenes with Hamm, it’s every single scene she appears in, she basically a half-drunk, just-banged screaming shrew who hates journalism and only wants splashy headlines (there’s a whole part about how she doesn’t even write her own work). It’s a caricature and I’m so sad Olivia did it.

    • Darla says:

      Jesus. Well, thank you for the warning, I definitely will not be seeing this even on cable.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Sounds like what Clint Eastwood really did here was use this poor man’s misfortune to write a diatribe against the FBI and media. Like THAT isn’t exploitative as hell.

      • Cindy says:

        Eastwood’s alt-right values are always very transparent in all of his films. I always knew he was conservative and I could always tell by the stories he chose to tell, but now I just can’t bring myself to watch anything of him.

        Of course he’s all over this story about the FBI fucking up and conspiring with an awful female journalist to tarnish the reputation of a heroic white man. Of course he is.

        Just to be clear, I know the Jewell case, I know they fucked up. The FBI has done a lot of terrible shit, and unethical journalists are definitely not some kind of myth made up but the alt-right. But I don’t want to hear that story from Clint Eastwood, not now.

      • Christina says:

        That’s exactly what this is. Clint Eastwood’s attempt at fixing the empty chair scolding of Barack Obama at the Republican National Convention. He speaking to his people, showing them that he understands their hate of the media.

        Olivia Wilde read the script before she did the work. She’s trying to save face. It’s Clint Eastwood. What did she think he was trying to do? She’s not stupid. Sheesh…

    • @KJ What the hell makes them think they can get away with this shit? So frustrating.

  4. Jess says:

    I’m glad she’s at least throwing Clint under the bus now because he is so toxic, but this is a feeble attempt to clean up after her first defense didn’t gaslight everyone.

    • Cindy says:

      “I’m glad she’s at least throwing Clint under the bus now”

      I’m not, and I hate Eastwood. She read the script, took the job, got directed by Clint, delivered all of the lines and then got her check. It was not until the film was released and shit hit the fan that she chose to change her mind.

      So many actresses do this thing, they take a questionable role with a director of questionable reputation for the cash, awards and prestige; and then when they get slammed for it they turn their backs and start waving the feminist flag.

  5. Raina says:

    What does she mean by interpretation. Didn’t she literally ACT in the movie. She knew what she was saying and doing. She was aware of her role however it was edited etc..
    Buyers remorse doesn’t change facts.
    Eta I mean lost in translation not interpretation but apples and oranges.

  6. Veronica S. says:

    Regardless of what kind of person Kathy Scruggs really was, even ignoring the implicit sexism of utilizing prostitution in characterization, what it really reveals is how f*cking hack the writing is. You’ve got a driven, ambitious woman willing to do anything for a headline in a highly competitive business, and instead of going for complexity in examining how the media can be a powerful tool to harm or help a society, you go for caricature. Sleeping with the FBI? That’s the best you can do? Reduce her to a sexual object instead of something thought provoking? What is this – the first week of Creative Writing 101?

    (“Thank You For Smoking” is the ONLY film that ever used that trope well and only because it’s a blatantly subversive and cynical commentary on how much charming white men can get away with.)

  7. Lena says:

    I’d like to know what your job is KJ (jealous). I think actors are so desperate to work with Academy level directors (Clint, Woody et al) they perhaps don’t look at the script or subject matter of the film in quite the same way they would for a regular joe director. Following Olivia I think she is having big regrets having this on her resume. Although actors don’t have much say at all how a movie is put together she knew what the bar scene would imply. I read an article the Real Kathy Scruggs and she got her tips honestly by having contacts and sources all over law enforcement and they tipped her because they trusted her reporting on crime. Richard Jewell was an early suspect especially because just the year (I believe) earlier a law enforcement agent in LA planted a bomb then “found” it. So it turned out to be a false accusation but the newspaper was later vindicated because it was a true report at the time. Unfortunately Clint and Billy Ray play fast and loose with the facts with a dead person who can’t complain but she had friends who will speak up for her (plus her newspaper).

  8. T says:

    But…. Olivia’s explanation makes zero sense. Slate has an article written by someone who saw the film. Spoiler: There is literally a line where Kathy says, “Give me something I can print, Tom. I’ll treat you right” before engaging in sexual activity. Olivia had to realize that this very clearly is portraying Kathy as trading sex for tips.

    So disrespectful, and I won’t be seeing this film.

  9. Snowslow says:

    I am not excusing Olivia because I don’t know her and have no idea what she is like. I do have a soft spot for her as she seems to stand for diversity and good causes.
    But you may want to watch Actors and Actors and Actors roundtables. It is very clear that you don’t always know what the director will be doing in post, let alone in the development of the scenes, especially if you are a secondary character. Granted, this happens most in TV but it can also happen in film.
    She probably didn’t know if this was a fictionalisation or a historic rendering. Maybe Clint himself doesn’t know. Now, once she has seen the film, maybe she realises that what he changed was terrible and reveals his mysoginistic vision.
    However, and this is a big however, I always found Eastwood’s films bit of the white saviourist and ‘get-off-my-lawn’ kind so it is on her to have agreed to work with him. That said, he also worked with Jolie and she had nothing but praise for him…
    Edit: we should all go for Eastwood is what I mean because navigating this very grey line of HW people who are fine but aren’t seems very difficult to me, who also work with rich right wing people whose views I despise, is what I’m saying.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      Ehhh…no. Former actress here. You may not have control or foresight into editing but you know exactly what’s in the script. And the idea that she didn’t know of the film was a fictional or historic merely speaks to the lie she told about doing her research. That’s a BASIC question any actor would want to know. All that means is that she was lazy in her own prep. We all know what Clint Eastwood is. And yet Olivia CHOSE to work with him anyway. All of the responsibility for this doesn’t fall at her feet but as someone who claims to be a feminist and about equality the fact that she read that script knew who would be directing and STILL chose to do the film speaks volumes. Olivia is a lot like a lot of actresses who hold their noses to work with certain problematic people because they want it on their filmography. They think it gives them a prestige factor. It’s why actresses still work with Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino. And we need to stop giving them a pass for it.

      • Snowslow says:

        I don’t want to excuse her (I do believe you’re right, she did want to include CE in her CV) and I don’t want to minimise your experience but and because he is CE he may have given her a call, described the project (or his agent to her agent) and she immediately said yes only to be in too deep when she found out. Because being able to clearly accuse him like this shows me that she is willing to ditch him and malign him now. I mean, if I was CE and read her statement, I would be p**ssed.
        So, yeah, I still stand by what I said while agreeing with you that she should have know better when it comes to CE.

      • Queen Meghan's Hand says:

        Well said Valiantly Varnished.
        From what is being reported this isn’t an issue of ‘editing’ but dialogue. Eastwood performed a horribly racist act at the 2012 Republican National Convention (the empty chair) and his later films are reflecting his increasingly radicalized worldview: How dare anyone involved in the film be surprised at the inaccuracies? Her Twitter (of all places; might has well have been an iOS press release) explanation is a poor attempt to not look like a hypocrite. I’m not writing her off, I enjoyed Booksmart, and in the Drake Nice for What video, but this gets a huge eyeroll from me.

  10. perplexed says:

    The script might have changed as they went along.

    I’m not angry at her for taking the role. You don’t really know the consequences of this sort of thing until after the product comes out.

    If she took the role of a black or Asian woman, obviously that would not be excusable. But I can see an actress taking this role not realizing how the intended product could turn out. It’s possible no one would have a reaction to this fictional dramatization if they family hadn’t spoken out.

  11. a reader says:

    Agree or disagree with what she writes all you want…. however I am struck that ONCE AGAIN a woman is out here offering apologies for the work.

    Clint and Billy Ray or whatever his name is aren’t being held accountable. They haven’t said a word about this and you can nearly guarantee they will not address this. This won’t make a dent in their careers but I bet this is going to stick to Olivia like glue.

    It’s always the women apologizing. Always. And I’m sick of it.

    • T says:

      I agree Clint and Billy Ray should receive the majority of the blame here. BUT Olivia clearly lied about doing any sort of research and about not realizing the script allowed fictional portrayal of Kathy. And that’s not OK either.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      And sometimes we have to acknowledge and call women out when they are complicit.

      • a reader says:

        Look, I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t call out bad behavior when women engage in it. Not at all.

        Let’s not play whataboutism here with my comment. The woman apologized; the men continue to get away with this sh*t. That’s my point.

    • Original Jenns says:

      Eastwood is trash in my opinion, so he doesn’t need to apologize to me nor would I expect him to. He’s already done in my book, and his directing and script are what I expect of him. I do not expect Olivia Wilde to lie about research done on a character and muddle what she thought the character would be/what she was aiming for vs what was edited. I can’t be disappointed in Eastwood being a misogynistic a hole because that’s what he is and what he outputs. I am disappointed in Olivia, and I think calling her out may make changes in her future thoughts and actions. Shes still an ally learning. He’s busted.

    • goofpuff says:

      The men are trash. Everyone knows that. They don’t pretend to be anything different then the assholes they are. They’re not going about talking about diversity or women’s rights or portrayals in the media. However, if Olivia really doesn’t stand behind all she says she does, then yes, need to call her out. That goes for anyone who goes to see the trashy men’s movies as well. Put your money where your mouth is and practice what you preach.

  12. Edie says:

    I have disliked Eastwood for what he did to Sondra Locke. Horrible.

  13. CL says:

    I live in Kathy Scruggs’ hometown and know some of her family.

    Her family reached out to filmmakers before the film was shot, offering to meet with anyone to tell them about Kathy and answer any questions they had. Their offer was rejected.

    Now they get to see their late beloved relative smeared on screen.

  14. grumpyterrier says:

    Is the film fictional or a documentary?

  15. Lilah casting says:

    She seems like a very smart woman and has demonstrated talent as her reviews as a director for book smart shows, but her career isn’t where she wants it to be at the end of the day all actors probably want to be A list and she might have thought this was her chance to step higher on that scale but it back fire bigtime, aside from that unralated to the story but related to Olivia I was confused by her picture on this she looks too much like brie Larson on that top picture.

    • Jegede says:

      “her career isn’t where she wants it to be at the end of the day all actors probably want to be A list and she might have thought this was her chance to step higher on that scale but it back fire bigtime.”

      I can 100% see that.

      Wilde’s career was catering.

      Booksmart, re-energised her, then a multiple Oscar winner calls her………..🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️

  16. SM says:

    I am sorry, Olivia can hustle all she wants but no. Clint is an alt right bullshiter grandpa well past his prime. So no justification will make me want to see this mess. In addition, when will these actors learn? Working with someone just for their name is not beneficial anymore like it used to be. These actors close their eyes to bullshit stories, they close their eyes to all missconducts of the star they desperately want a piece of glory and/or success that allegedly comes with working with “a name” like Eastwood. Thankfully people are paying attention not only to the name but to actual stories and the action of a movie star with “a name”.

  17. ChamomileLawn says:

    I think the fact she felt strongly enough to listen to, own and address the criticism shows sensitivity and courage. If cancel culture is so harsh on newbie female directors like OW then women just have no hope! CE Tarantino etc get away with dubious choices for decades /more than half a century but she is being slaughtered here for her sincerity in apologising plus her explanation clearly demonstrates her regret over involvement with this.