Clint Eastwood‘s latest directorial effort has suffered at the box office amid controversy surrounding the depiction of one of its real-life subjects.
The 89-year-old Oscar winner’s film Richard Jewell opened in theaters last weekend to lackluster reception, earning just $5 million in its first opening weekend. The budget for the film was $45 million.
This is Eastwood’s worst wide opening for a film in 40 years, since his 1980 film Bronco Billy, according to Yahoo Movies UK.
The drama 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.
The real Jewell was never officially charged with a crime by the FBI and was later exonerated. Jewell died in August 2007 at the age of 44 from medical problems related to diabetes.
The film recently faced backlash for allegedly suggesting journalist Kathy Scruggs (Wilde) offered to sleep with an FBI agent Tom Shaw (Hamm) in order to obtain information about Jewell, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Scruggs broke the initial story that Jewell was a suspect in the attack.
“While they are never actually seen doing so, it is implied that they do sleep together,” THR reported.
Kevin Riley, editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution told PEOPLE there’s “no evidence” to support the implication.
“I didn’t know Kathy, but people who knew her talked about her as a really great reporter who was just tireless in terms of developing her sources and was really one of the newsroom’s big personalities,” Riley said.
“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.”
Although Riley recognized that Richard Jewell is not a documentary, he questioned the reasons behind Scruggs’ portrayal in the movie.
“I don’t work in Hollywood, we cover the film industry here, and I know it’s a complicated, challenging, demanding industry to cover and there’s always a million things going on. But if you look at the #MeToo stuff and everything that’s going on, you’d have to hope that things at least with the stories would go in a different direction,” Riley told PEOPLE, noting that Scruggs, who died in 2001 at 42 years of age, “has no way to defend herself.”
Wilde later went on to share on Twitter that “contrary to a swath of recent headlines,” it was not her goal to portray Scruggs in a negative light and that she was under the impression Scruggs and FBI agent Tom Shaw were involved a pre-existing romantic relationship.
“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 explained, adding that the scenes in question are from a dramatized perspective.
“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.”
Richard Jewell is now in theaters.