Clint Eastwood’s forthcoming film “Richard Jewell” centers around the security guard at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta who was wrongly suspected of setting off a bomb. Richard Jewell spotted a suspicious backpack during a concert at Centennial Olympic Park and raised the alarm, helping to evacuate spectators. But as the area was being cleared, a nail bomb inside the backpack was triggered by a timer and exploded.
One woman was killed and more than 100 people injured. At first, Jewell was hailed a hero, but that all changed after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran with the front page headline “FBI Suspects 'Hero' Guard May Have Planted Bomb."
“From that point forward, Richard Jewell was a suspect and he was trying to clear his name,” former U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander told Inside Edition. “His name was in every newspaper, every television show."
Alexander and journalist Kevin Salwen are authors of "The Suspect" and were consultants on the new movie about Jewell. About three months after he was thrust into the spotlight with the Olympic Park bombing, Jewell was vindicated. The justice department said he was no longer a suspect in the case.
“For 88 days I lived a nightmare. For 88 days my mother lived a nightmare too. Mom thanks for standing by me and believing in me,” he told the press after his vindication.
The authors say the bomb accusation haunted him until he died in 2007 of heart failure. "The thing that Richard always wanted was to not be known as 'the former suspect,'" Salwen added.
Actor Paul Walter Hauser plays the lead and has an uncanny likeness to the real Jewell. The movie is sparking controversy by suggesting the newspaper reporter who broke the story that suggested the FBI was looking at Jewell as a suspect, played by Olivia Wilde, traded sex for information from an FBI agent, played by Jon Hamm.
The real-life reporter featured in the movie, Kathy Scruggs, died in 2001.
Inside Edition spoke to Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editor-In-Chief Kevin Riley about the controversy.
“It implies that the reporter got the story by trading sex for the tip and there is absolutely no evidence that that ever happened,” Riley said.
The domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph later confessed that he was behind the Atlanta blast. He is currently serving life in prison.
“He is truly a hero. Truly a hero. There is no doubt that he saved scores of lives,” Salwen said of Jewell.