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Clint Eastwood’s ‘Richard Jewell’ Positioned for Oscars With Fall Festival World Premiere

The true story of the Centennial Park bombing is hitting the circuit later than other contenders, but it's still locked up a buzzy world premiere at AFI FEST.

On the set of “Richard Jewell”

Claire Folger

The next step in Clint Eastwood’s late season crashing of the awards bubble: a buzzy world premiere at one of the last pre-Oscars fall film festivals. The American Film Institute (AFI) has announced that Eastwood’s fact-based drama “Richard Jewell” will celebrate its world premiere at AFI FEST this November in Los Angeles. The film, made in short order (as has become Eastwood’s signature), debuted its first trailer just last week, announcing its entry into an already-crowded awards season.

“Clint Eastwood is an American icon,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO in an official statement. “It is an honor for AFI to premiere this next chapter in his storied career — one that continues to enrich the nation’s cultural legacy with undeniable impact.” Eastwood himself will be on hand to introduce the new film, starring Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, and Olivia Wilde, which tells the story of the eponymous security guard whose life was upended by claims that he had planted a bomb in Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics.

Per the film’s official synopsis, “Based on true events, ‘Richard Jewell’ is a story of what happens when what is reported as fact obscures the truth. ‘There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have thirty minutes.’ The world is first introduced to Richard Jewell (Hauser) as the security guard who reports finding the device at the 1996 Atlanta bombing — his report making him a hero who swift actions save countless lives. But within days, the law enforcement wannabe becomes the FBI’s number one suspect, vilified by press and public alike, his life ripped apart. Reaching out to independent, anti-establishment attorney Watson Bryant (Rockwell), Jewell staunchly professes his innocence. But Bryant finds he is out of his depth as he fights the combined powers of the FBI, GBI and APD to clear his client’s name, while keeping Richard from trusting the very people trying to destroy him.”

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The script comes from Billy Ray, who’s already having a busy fall as the co-writer of studio tentpoles “Gemini Man” and “Terminator: Dark Fate.” Ray is best known as the writer-director of “Shattered Glass” and “Breach,” and he also wrote the script for Paul Greengrass’ “Captain Phillips.”

It’s a familiar enough berth for Eastwood, who previously debuted his “American Sniper” at the festival back in 2014. Despite a later start than other contenders, the film went on to be nominated for six Oscars (ultimately winning Best Sound Editing for Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman) and earning a massive $547 million take at the worldwide box office when it was released in theaters weeks later.

Warner Bros. will release “Richard Jewell” on December 13, and the AFI FEST gala celebrating it will take place on Wednesday, November 20 at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre.

The festival runs November 14 – 21 in Los Angeles, and will open with the world premiere of Melina Matsoukas’ “Queen & Slim” and close with the world premiere of George Nolfi’s “The Banker.”

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