Olivia Wilde has found herself having to defend her portrayal of journalist Kathy Scruggs in the Clint Eastwood film Richard Jewell. The film is about the man who discovered the bomb at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and the firestorm that engulfed his life in the weeks after. Wilde’s seen in the film offering to trade sex for the name of the suspect in the bombing, yet reports have called that chain of events into question. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Olivia Wilde at The Gotham Awards:
“I have an immense amount of respect for Kathy Scruggs,” Wilde told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet of the Gotham Awards on Monday. “She’s no longer with us, she died very young, and 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.
I think people have a hard time accepting sexuality in female characters without allowing it to entirely define that character,” Wilde added. “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. This is very specific to female characters, we’ve seen it over and over again, and I think that Kathy Scruggs is an incredibly dynamic, nuanced, dogged, intrepid reporter. By no means was I intending to suggest that as a female reporter, she needed to use her sexuality. I come from a long line of journalists — my mom’s been a journalist for 35 years — there’s no way I would want to suggest that.
I do think it’s interesting that when audiences recognize sexuality within a character, they immediately, when it’s a woman, allow it to define her, and I think we should stop doing that and allow for nuance,” Wilde said. “It’s sort of a misunderstanding of feminism to expect women to become pious and sexless.”
Kathy Scruggs passed away in 2001.
Richard Jewell opens in theaters on December 13th.