Clint Eastwood, still cranking out movies at the ripe old age of 89, has yet another fact-based feature on the way, Atlanta Olympics bombing drama Richard Jewell. The film’s first trailer introduces us to I, Tonya breakout Paul Walter Hauser’s title character, a security guard who, after saving countless lives by locating a pipe bomb in Atlanta’s Centennial Park and evacuating its would-be targets, was indicted in the headlines as the perpetrator.
Eastwood surrounds Hauser with a killer supporting cast, putting a pair of Oscar winners in Richard’s corner: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) takes a break from playing bad guys (and Bob Fosse) in the role of Richard’s attorney Watson Bryant, while Kathy Bates (Misery) plays Richard’s mother, Bobi Jewell. Across the ring are Jon Hamm (Baby Driver) as lead FBI investigator Tom Shaw and Olivia Wilde (Life Itself) as Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs—the trailer depicts these two as Richard’s foremost tormentors, representing the government and the media, the “authorities … lookin’ to eat [him] alive.”
The trailer opens on Hamm’s investigative team interrogating Richard, urging him to repeat the phrase, “There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have 30 minutes.” Meanwhile, Wilde sells her editor on Jewell as the bomber, arguing that he “fits the profile” as an aspiring law enforcement officer who dreams of being a hero. Richard soon finds himself being treated as public enemy number one: “His accusers are two of the most powerful forces in the world: the United States government and the media,” says Rockwell of his unfairly maligned client. “Saint or savage?” a newspaper headline screams, as Hamm and Wilde glibly insist that Jewell is no kind of hero, while Rockwell and Bates stand up for the poor guy. We close on a steadfast Richard, who, as prompted by Rockwell’s firebrand attorney, vows to fight back.
It all feels more than a little uncomfortable, given Eastwood’s politics: Jewell’s true story is fascinating and tragic indeed, an abject failure of law enforcement and journalism alike that ruined an innocent man’s life. But Eastwood’s Richard Jewell, billed as “a story of what happens when what is reported as fact obscures the truth,” is obvious ammunition for the anti-media crowd—in a time when journalists the world over are being killed simply for doing their jobs, and the U.S. president has branded the press as “the enemy of the people,” do we really need a big Hollywood movie that justifies such hostility?
Eastwood directs from Oscar nominee Billy Ray’s (Captain Phillips) screenplay, adapted from Marie Brenner’s 1997 article for Vanity Fair, “American Nightmare—The Ballad of Richard Jewell,” and he also produces via his Malpaso banner. His fellow producers include Tim Moore, Jessica Meier, Kevin Misher and Jennifer Davisson, as well as Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio, who were originally attached to star, with DiCaprio in the Rockwell role.
Richard Jewell opens on Dec. 13, just in time for awards season and the holidays both. Watch the trailer below and find the film’s full synopsis further down.
“There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have thirty minutes.” The world is first introduced to Richard Jewell as the security guard who reports finding the device at the 1996 Atlanta bombing—his report making him a hero whose swift actions save countless lives. But within days, the law enforcement wannabe becomes the FBI’s number one suspect, vilified by press and public alike, his life ripped apart. Reaching out to independent, anti-establishment attorney Watson Bryant, Jewell staunchly professes his innocence. But Bryant finds he is out of his depth as he fights the combined powers of the FBI, GBI and APD to clear his client’s name, while keeping Richard from trusting the very people trying to destroy him.