Clint Eastwood threatened with defamation over ‘Richard Jewell’

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Clint Eastwood and the studio bosses behind his new film have been named in a defamation lawsuit threat filed by the publishers of an Atlanta, Georgia newspaper.

The movie, Richard Jewell, focuses on the events surrounding the discovery of a bomb at the 1996 Olympics and the security guard who found it, who was initially hailed a hero until a media report suggested he may have planted the bomb. As a result, the security guard became one of the most persecuted people in America overnight.

Newspaper bosses at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are unhappy with the way their journalists, especially Kathy Scruggs, are portrayed in the film. Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde, broke the story that suggested Jewell may have planted the explosive.

“It is highly ironic that a film purporting to tell a tragic story of how the reputation of an FBI suspect was grievously tarnished appears bent on a path to severely tarnish the reputation of the AJC, a newspaper with a respected 150-year-old publishing legacy,” a letter from attorney Marty Singer to Warner Bros. executives and Eastwood on behalf of the publication reads.

“The Richard Jewell film falsely portrays the AJC and its personnel as extraordinarily reckless, using unprofessional and highly inappropriate reporting methods, and engaging in constitutional malice by recklessly disregarding information inconsistent with its planned reporting.

“This, too, is the height of irony, since all those involved in the film’s creation and dissemination and its false portrayal of the AJC are the ones who have acted recklessly and are engaging in constitutional malice.”

In the letter, first obtained by Deadline, Singer adds: “Since the film will be released internationally, my clients do not need to satisfy constitutional malice criteria for a successful defamation lawsuit in various jurisdictions including, but not limited to, the U.K., France, and Australia. My clients will simply need to establish that statements in the film are false and that it is defamatory by harming my client’s reputation, one of the finest newspapers in the world.”

As a result, the lawyer is demanding that studio executives “immediately issue a statement publicly acknowledging that some events were imagined for dramatic purposes and artistic license and dramatization were used in the film’s portrayal of events and characters”.

“We further demand that you add a prominent disclaimer to the film to that effect,” he adds.

The movie hits Canadian cinemas next Friday.

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