Olivia Wilde Defends Her Portrayal of Kathy Scruggs in ‘Richard Jewell’

Olivia Wilde has taken a break from directing great films like Booksmart to return to her acting roots. Most recently, Wilde starred in Richard Jewell which hit theatres today, December 13, 2019. In the film, Wilde portrays the role of Kathy Scruggs, a reporter who resided in Atlanta and had no small amount of influence on the case against Richard Jewell. Unfortunately, Wilde has received lots of backlash for her depiction of Scruggs.

Richard Jewell actress Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde | Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

As the film is based on real events, the paper company which Scruggs worked for (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) took offense to the storyline of Scruggs being exploited by the paper to trade sex for information from the FBI source who was investigating the case. They called the storyline, and Wilde’s portrayal of Scruggs. “extremely defamatory.” Now Wilde is defending herself against the backlash.

Olivia Wilde has more creative control as a director

Taking to her Twitter page, the 35-year-old shared her perspective on the controversy. She first outlined the difference in creative control of being an actor and being a director. “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,” Wilde began.

The Booksmart director then went on to speak about the woman behind the character that she was selected to play in 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,” she continued

A deep respect for journalism

The O.C. actress was candid about the deep admiration and appreciation that she had for reporting, cultivated by her childhood and upbringing. “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,” Wilde added.

Wilde then clarified that the movie adaptation of Richard Jewell was obviously dramatized for the sake of the film. However, she still discounted the claim that her character traded sexual favors for information. “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,” the actress tweeted.

Wilde defends her portrayal of Kathy Scruggs

Wilde also clarified comments that she made earlier in Variety, as some of them were misconstrued or taken out of context. “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,” the Her actress added.

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The movie is really about Richard Jewell and why people felt he was guilty

Finally, Wilde shared that Scruggs was only a part of the overarching story about Richard Jewell. “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 my own position clear,” the actress added. Only time will tell how the public receives the film and if they will accept Wilde’s clarifying statements.