'I just wanted the victims to get some sort of relief now'

Interview with Clint Eastwood & Paul Walter Hauser
An American security guard named Richard Jewell heroically saves thousands of lives from an exploding bomb at the 1996 Olympics, but then he is unjustly vilified by journalists and the press who falsely report that he was a terrorist. Director Clint Eastwood and leading actor Paul Walter Hauser tell us about the production.
Why was it so important for the States to find the perfect scapegoat quickly?
C.E.: The dilemma was that if they didn't get somebody quick and solve the case, the whole Olympic programme would collapse and they'd lose millions of dollars with the preparation that's already been put in. It was very important that they catch somebody, so they just got somebody: they just grabbed Richard Jewell. The publicity that exonerated him later was not as much as the publicity that was accusing him earlier. The real guy showed up 6 years later and they got him, but even then that didn't get the media attention that the original story had. I just wanted the real people, the victims of it all to get some sort of relief now, that the truth is put out there. Richard wanted to be a 'peace officer' of sorts, and this is a good example of how it doesn't work sometimes, and then people can gang up against you for no particular reason. It shows how with just a small amount of information your life can turn into a nightmare and when the truth comes out nobody wants to face it: society doesn't want to own up to the fact that they bought in to a phoney story.

P.W.H.: Richard Jewell was a wannabe cop and he saw different moments and heights of success as a security guard, but he was never respected the way he wanted to be. When he saves the lives of hundreds of people at the Centennial Park bombing, it should be that moment of glory and that finality of finally having respect, but instead, in a dark twist of fate his name is smeared as a potential suspect.

How did you choose Paul Walter Hauser for the leading role?
C.E.: Paul is a terrific actor, but besides being a terrific actor he was just 'the guy' to play this, and maybe the only guy to play this, because he has a great resemblance, even his demeanour is similar. People when they see this will realize: when you first watch it you think it's happening then and there because he is so much like Richard Jewell. He was born for this part.

What were your expectations towards the cast?
C.E.: Fortunately all the other actors were great. Even the very smallest parts seem to be right on key. That's what you are always striving for. I think this story has strength: there are so many films to make nowadays and so many of them are fictional or science-fictional (smiles) but this is a way to tell a true story that has got suspence and somebody the audience can root for.

P.W.H.: The cast was incredible: we have Academy Award winner Sam Rockwell, Academy Award winner Kathy Bates, etc. Even in the smaller roles, the team really brought in the best of the best I think. And my antagonists on screen being Olivia Wilde and Jon Hamm... it doesn't get better than that you know. They were both so giving as actors, they were like a really good big brother and sister to me on the set.

Paul you met the mother of the real Richard Jewell, can you tell us about that moment?
P.W.H.: It was so intimidating. It was more intimidating than meeting Clint Eastwood. Because it's the mother of the man in question who is now deceased, it's heartbreaking, so she could have been way more wary of me and less inviting, but she was so game for the film, so honoured to be part of it. When she saw me she said 'You look just like Richard. You look like my son.' You know, after that I forgot The New York Times, I forgot The Hollywood Reporter, because that was the only validation I needed.

How difficult it was to capture his character?
P.W.H.: I wanted to capture his voice, his spirit, his sort of gentle-giantness and the fact that he was a bit of a boy scout: he believed in the system and believed that the system was good. So we start at this dramatic moment of a man who saves lives, and then he is challenged and put on the chopping board as a potential suspect. This film tries to be a redemption for this man who had his entire life altered by those tragic circumstances. I hope the audience will walk away from the theaters thinking how careful we all have to be when we judge somebody. Richard Jewell was painted with a very unfair brush stroke and because of that people have never acknowledged his humanity.

(6 pictures)

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