According to Deadline, Fox has purchased the rights to “The Ballad of Richard Jewell,” a 1997 Vanity Fair article about how Jewell went from hero to villain to redeemed. Jonah Hill will star as Richard Jewell, a security guard who discovered a backpack in the Olympics compound in Atlanta 1996. He was initially deemed a hero for reporting the suspicious backpack, and helping clear the crowd before it exploded. He was then vilified three days later as a potential suspect, and his life and reputation were drug through the mud for 24 hours.
Leonardo DiCaprio will play a lawyer Jewell knew casually, a Southern attorney who mostly dealt in real estate. He seemed over his head at the time, but ultimately guided Jewell through a rough period even after the FBI officially cleared Jewell’s name three months later.
Brenner, whose VF article was the original source material for the Michael Mann-directed tobacco whistle-blower tale The Insider, accompanied Jewell and his attorney just as it finally became clear he had nothing to do with placing the bomb.
This comes as both DiCaprio and Hill are up for Oscars for Best Picture nominee The Wolf Of Wall Street. It is particularly a strong role for Hill, who continues his remarkable transition from comic actor to serious roles that started with an Oscar-nominated turn in Moneyball and continues with the Rupert Goold-directed True Story, in which Hill plays Michael Finkel, a disgraced journalist who got the chance at redemption when a suspected killer (James Franco) took Finkel’s name, and would only talk to that journalist. That project is also at Fox, with New Regency.
This latest deal seems timely with the Sochi Winter Olympics about to begin, but this is more a cautionary tale about how a media rush to judgment, based on law enforcement leaks and rumors, can trample the rights of individuals before the facts are even in. Jewell’s move from hero to a potential bomber looking for attention happened in an alarmingly short span before, in his words, the FBI and journalists were on him “like piranha on a bleeding cow.” Based on the flimsiest evidence and the FBI’s zeal to corral a suspect, Jewell, a former sheriff’s deputy who earlier that year moved in with his mother to care for her during a health crisis, and took a security job because he thought it would be strong resume material as he tried to become a cop, was suddenly depicted as a 34-year-old loser who lived with his mother.
After the Atlanta Journal Constitution boldly wrote a front-page story that flatly said Jewell fit the profile of a lone bomber, 10,000 reporters decamped outside their small apartment, which the FBI tore apart looking for evidence, taking hair samples and fingerprints. Jewell’s mother was particularly traumatized, particularly when her favorite newsman, Tom Brokaw, came on NBC and reported the feds probably had enough to arrest and charge her son, but perhaps not enough to convict him yet. Jay Leno turned Jewell into a nightly running joke on The Tonight Show, ridiculing him for his weight and other matters. It was an ugly chapter for journalism, with bogus reporting that included the assertion on CNN that Jewell was seen before the explosion with a homemade bomb. Lawsuits were filed and settled with several news outlets. Jewell died in 2007 at age 44, and at least in his obits, he was called a hero. An anti-government militant later confessed to the crime.
Sounds interesting! Can’t wait to see it! Speaking of their bromance, did you see them together on SNL? Was hilarious!
Posted Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 at 8:08am
Filed under Jonah Hill
, Leonardo DiCaprio