In what has the potential to be a star-making turn, Paul Walter Hauser will star as Richard Jewell in Clint Eastwood’s feature telling of the security guard who went from hero to suspect at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Originally set up in 2014 at Fox, the project, titled The Ballad of Richard Jewell, has moved studios and is now at Eastwood’s longtime home, Warner Bros.
Jonah Hill was initially attached to play Jewell, with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to play his attorney. The two remain connected to the project as producers. Kevin Misher and Jennifer Davisson, DiCaprio’s partner at Appian Way, are also producing, as are Tim Moore and Jessica Meier.
Sam Rockwell is already in negotiations to portray Jewell's attorney.
Jewell was working as a security guard at the 1996 Summer Games when he discovered a backpack containing pipe bombs and subsequently sounded the alarm and helped to clear the area. However, the bomb did detonate, killing one person and injuring dozens of others.
Initially hailed as a hero, Jewell was soon the prime suspect, as the FBI searched his home twice. A media frenzy painted him as an overweight failed cop and mama's boy, and he became the punchline for late-night jokes.
After being raked over the coals by the media, Jewell was cleared, but the damage had been done. Lawsuits followed (against NBC and CNN, among several others), and the FBI and other government agencies were forced to make public apologies.
Jewell, who did work as a police officer and a sheriff's deputy, died in 2007 at the age of 44 due to health issues linked to his weight.
The film's script, penned by Billy Ray, is based on the Vanity Fair article "The Ballad of Richard Jewell" written by Marie Brenner.
Hauser played one of the racist lunkheads in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and next appears opposite Mindy Kaling in Late Night. He is also currently stealing scenes in YouTube’s streaming cult hit Cobra Kai. Hauser also had a standout role as Nancy Kerrigan's attacker in I, Tonya and recently wrapped Netflix's Da 5 Bloods, which reunited him with Lee. And on a career that's on a fast-moving roll right now, the actor just booked a gig on the true-crime movie Silk Road opposite Jason Clarke and Nick Robinson.
Hauser is repped by CAA, Artists First and Schreck Rose.