On July 27, 1996, in the middle of the Atlanta Olympics, security guard Richard Jewell discovers a suspicious backpack, hidden under a bench, that is soon found to contain an incendiary device. With little time to spare, he helps evacuate the area, saving many lives and minimizing potential injuries. He is hailed a hero. But just three days later, the humble savior’s life unravels when he—and the world—learn he is the FBI’s prime suspect in the bombing.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, the suspense drama “Richard Jewell” centers around the events that forever made his name synonymous with that terrible act.
What might read as the makings of a suspense thriller are not the imaginings of a creative mind, but were, in fact, the life-shattering reality for the real Richard Jewell. Ironically, thanks to his selfless act, for 88 days, Jewell lived with an invasive FBI investigation, public scrutiny spurred by unrelenting press coverage, and the uncertainty that his name would ever be cleared, or his life ever be the same.
Eastwood was intrigued enough to dramatize for the big screen the tragic story of this trusting man whose life was turned upside down by both the media and the law enforcement community he idolized. “We often see stories about powerful people getting accused of something, but they have money, get the right attorney, and escape prosecution,” he says. “I was interested in Richard Jewell’s story because he was the common man, the average person. He was never prosecuted, but he was in every way persecuted. There was this rush to judgment to accuse him, and he didn’t have any power to escape it and was, for a long time, too naively idealistic to see he needed to save himself.
“That’s why I wanted to make this picture,” he continues, “to restore Richard’s honor. Because it’s the everyday guy—who wants to be a police officer, of all things, to devote himself to the betterment of mankind—who does this heroic thing and then pays a heavy price for it. He gets thrown to the wolves.”
Whether or not the public at large is aware of Richard Jewell’s innocence, most today still refer to him as the Atlanta bomber, despite his having been cleared. “People don’t put it together,” the director adds. “They don’t connect that the real bomber showed up six years later, that he confessed, and that they got him. I hope audiences learn that from this picture, but that they also learn that, as a society, we can do better. If that’s a lesson Richard can give us, I think that’s great. That’s a hero.”
Eastwood concludes, “This is a story that is both true, but also has suspense and somebody the audience can root for.”
“Richard Jewell” stars Oscar winners Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) as Watson Bryant and Kathy Bates (“Misery,” TV’s “American Horror Story”) as Richard’s mom, Bobi; Jon Hamm (“Baby Driver”) as the lead FBI investigator; Olivia Wilde (“Life Itself”) as Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs; and Paul Walter Hauser (“I, Tonya”) as Richard Jewell.
In Philippine cinemas January 15, “Richard Jewell” is distributed in the Philippines by Warner Bros. Pictures, a WarnerMedia Company.