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“Richard Jewell,” 89-year-old Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, bombed at the box office opening weekend.
Earning just $5 million in ticket sales against a budget of $45 million, the film marked Eastwood’s worst wide opening for a film in 40 years, since 1980’s “Bronco Billy,” according to Yahoo Movies UK.
The centers on the “real-life” story of security guard Richard Jewell, who saved thousands of people from a bomb at the 1996 Olympics, but was later accused of planting it himself after the press falsely reported him to be a terrorist.
Editor’s Note: How ironic that a movie about a guy saving people from a bomb was a bomb at the box office.
What happened? Controversy.
The film faced backlash for allegedly suggesting journalist Kathy Scruggs offered to sleep with FBI agent Tom Shaw in order to obtain information about Jewell, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Scruggs, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, broke the initial story that Jewell was a suspect in the attack, and while they are never actually seen doing so, it is implied that they do sleep together it is implied in the film that Scruggs and Shaw slept together.
The controversy culminated in a threatened defamation lawsuit by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Kevin Riley, editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution told PEOPLE magazine there’s “no evidence” to support the implication.
“To persist in this idea that a female journalist only gets a big story this way is not only obviously completely untrue and insulting to all the women, frankly everybody in this profession but especially women, it’s just concerning,” he added. “I have trouble imagining why that storyline would need to be invented in order to get the powerful messages of what happened in this situation across.”
Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter argues that it was apathy, not controversy, that killed “Richard Jewell” at the box office.