Clint Eastwood suffers worst opening in four decades as controversial 'Richard Jewell' flops

Ben Arnold
Richard Jewell (Warner Bros)

Clint Eastwood's controversial new movie Richard Jewell has suffered a battering at the box office, making just $5m (£3.75m) on its opening weekend from 2,502 screens.

It is the veteran director's worst opening weekend performance since his movie Bronco Billy in 1980.

The film cost $45m to make, meaning it could end up costing Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way, Eastwood’s own production company Malposo Productions and Warner Bros millions in losses if it doesn't pick up the pace in the coming weeks.

The story centres on the amazing real-life story of security guard Richard Jewell (played by Paul Walter Hauser), who found a pipe bomb at a stadium during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 but soon became the FBI's prime suspect.

Read more: Anger brews over ‘sexist’ Richard Jewell

He was later cleared of any wrongdoing, but his life was turned upside down in the media scrum that followed.

Olivia Wilde as Kathy Scraggs in Richard Jewell. (Warner Bros)

Eastwood’s depiction of his story has come under fire for suggesting that the reporter who broke the story of the FBI investigation traded sex for information.

Olivia Wilde plays Kathy Scruggs, a real-life reporter who died in 2001, who sleeps with Jon Hamm's agent Tom Shaw in the movie.

Read more: Olivia Wilde defends Richard Jewell character

The editor of the newspaper she worked for, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, has slammed the filmmakers since details of the scene emerged, saying that there's no evidence to suggest this ever happened and calling the allegation “entirely false and malicious”.

Other colleagues have also come to the late reporter's defence.

Wilde has attempted to defend her position, arguing at the weekend that she would never knowingly disparage journalism, as both of her parents and several members of her extended family worked in the profession.

She tweeted: “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.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Richard Jewell will be released in UK cinemas on 31 January, 2020.