"People have a hard time accepting sexuality."


In the wake of the editing fiasco involving Booksmart, Olivia Wilde is defending another of her projects. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Wilde explained that her character, Kathy Scruggs, inClint Eastwood's new movie, Richard Jewell, wouldn't have her motivations questioned if she was a man. Scruggs is based on a real person, though she has passed away. In the film, Scruggs is shown offering sex to an FBI agent to get more information involving the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, something that Kevin Riley, the editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where Scruggs worked, denies ever happened.

"I think people have a hard time accepting sexuality in female characters without allowing it to entirely define that character," Wilde said. "We don't do that to men, we don't do that to James Bond — we don't say James Bond isn't a real spy because he gets his information sometimes by sleeping with women as sources."

Olivia Wilde Called Out Another Double Standard in Her New Movie, Richard Jewell
Credit: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

The scene isn't explicit or controversial in any other way. It's the mere suggestion of Scruggs sleeping with an agent that has critics up in arms. "While they are never actually seen doing so, it is implied that they do sleep together," THR notes.

Wilde explains that the criticism is baseless, but adds that having a woman being the one using her sexuality is still something viewers aren't accustomed to. She says that she has great respect for Scruggs and would never do anything to tarnish her legacy. Scruggs was the reporter that broke the story identifying Richard Jewell as a suspect in the bombing.

"This is very specific to female characters, we've seen it over and over again, and I think that Kathy Scruggs is an incredibly dynamic, nuanced, dogged, intrepid reporter," she continued. "By no means was I intending to suggest that as a female reporter, she needed to use her sexuality. I come from a long line of journalists — my mom's been a journalist for 35 years — there's no way I would want to suggest that."

Riley says that Wilde's portrayal of Scruggs is harmful to her reputation. People reports that she was seen as "a really great reporter who was just tireless in terms of developing her sources." He insists that the story shown in the movie is false: "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."

Wilde stands by her statements, saying that one situation shouldn't define a character, whether it's a man or a woman. Nuance, she says, should be taken into consideration, as well.

"I do think it's interesting that when audiences recognize sexuality within a character, they immediately, when it's a woman, allow it to define her, and I think we should stop doing that and allow for nuance," she added. "It's sort of a misunderstanding of feminism to expect women to become pious and sexless."