LOS ANGELES, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Security guard Richard Jewell discovered a bomb at Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Eric Rudolph finally pleaded guilty, along with three others, in 2005 to the bombing, but the FBI's first suspect was Jewell.
The stars of Richard Jewell hope the movie, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Paul Walter Hauser, finally brings justice to the Jewell, who died in 2007.
"This film highlights someone who wasn't given a fair shake and was prejudged by their appearance and by some of their quirks and some of their mistakes," Hauser told UPI. "The hope is that we can all give each other some grace and give each other some opportunities because you don't want to judge a book by its cover."
Kathy Bates plays Jewell's mother, Bobi Jewell, who is still alive and met with Bates before she filmed the movie.
"What was most sad, I think, is that his vigilance saved hundreds of people [but] people thought he was weird," Bates said. "They turned that vigilance into a weapon against him. I think that was the greatest tragedy for her."
The film depicts Richard Jewell going out of his way for better or worse. As a supply clerk for the U.S. Small Business Administration in 1986, he notices J. Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) likes Snickers, so Jewell stocks Bryant's desk with extra Snickers. Bryant eventually becomes his lawyer.
As a campus security guard, Jewell went too far, entering students' rooms to search for drugs or alcohol and pulling over suspected drunk drivers. Those who heard from the Jewell family learned even his missteps came from a good place.
"The only thing he ever wanted to do was help people," Bates said. "Even when he was a little kid at the church, he used to run around and make sure everybody had their programs. He was 9 years old."
Hauser learned that in his later career as a police officer, Jewell still went above and beyond the call of duty.
"He had teddy bears that he kept in his glove compartment in his cop car," Hauser said. "If a child was involved in a traffic accident or something even worse, he was always ready to try to distract and aid the child who was on the scene of the crime."
In the film's portrayal of the bombing, when Richard Jewell discovers an unattended backpack, he follows protocol for a suspicious package. In this case, his instincts were correct, and bomb squad experts discover the explosive. Hauser said some of the extras in the scene were survivors of the Centennial Park bombing that killed one person and injured 111 others.
"They're coming up to me saying, 'I was there the night it happened. I was far enough away, but we just heard a boom and then all this police tape went up, and we found out a bomb went off.'" Hauser said. "It was very emotional and the tension was real and it was palpable."
The FBI considered Jewell a suspect under the theory that he planted the bomb so he could be the hero to discover it. Agents first brought Jewell to the FBI office for an interview and told him they wanted him to appear in a training video for them.
Jewell caught on that this so-called training video might really be an interrogation and called Bryant. Hauser watched the actual videotape of this scenario.
"They sent me private footage of the exact moment where they told him, 'We're going to read you your Miranda rights,'" Hauser said. "You can see in his face, the nausea is just palpable. He knows that he's been duped. They think he's dim-witted, but he wasn't. My performance is pretty darn close to the same sort of discomfort he displays in the actual video."
Bobi Jewell shared personal stories with Bates about how trying the 88-day investigation was for her family. Those stories did not make it into the film, but helped Bates get a sense of Bobi.
"She was very active in her church," Bates said. "They wouldn't let her friend in the apartment. They only allowed the door to be open maybe about 6 inches, enough for Bobi to get her hand out. They clasped pinkies and prayed together."
Bates said Bobi also corrected some details in the script. She told Bates that she never called Jewell Richie sweetie or honey, so Bates took any such lines out of the scenes. Bates made a judgment call, too.
"There's a line where she says, 'You're a good cop going after the bad guys, ain't ya.'" Bates said. "I thought, hmm, I don't think she'd say ain't. I think she would be correct grammatically. [Bobi] flagged that, too."
Even after the FBI dropped its investigation of Jewell in 1996, law officials did not catch Rudolph until 2003. Bates learned that Jewell was happy at the end of his life.
"He was married, and they came in and found him slumped up against the armoire in their bedroom," Bates said. "He had a smile on his face. He died from a massive heart attack."
Centennial Park has announced it will honor Jewell with a plaque in 2020.
Richard Jewell opens Friday.