“I call him the actor whisperer,” Kathy Bates said about Clint Eastwood, her director in Richard Jewell. The film is a dramatization of the true-to-life story of an American security guard who saved hundreds of lives from an exploding bomb at the 1996 Olympics. He was declared a hero but three days later, a newspaper reported that the FBI was treating him as a possible suspect.
For her portrayal of Bobi Jewell, the mother of the titular Richard Jewell (played by Paul Walter Hauser), Bates earned her eighth Golden Globe Awards nomination. She has won two Globes.
In 1991, she won the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama trophy for Misery. Then in 1997, she bagged the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television honors for The Late Shift.
“Clint has a wonderful quality in that he respects everybody's process,” the Memphis, Tennessee native said about the iconic actor-director in our interview. “We stick to the script but people are allowed to ad-lib and then when he has it all, he just prunes. I was just knocked out to see what he had done with it.”
She added, “Another thing that I loved is that from his days of doing westerns, people don't scream action. It's a really quiet set. Nobody's yelling.”
The actress, noted for her various screen roles over the years, sympathized with Bobi for the pain and anguish she felt as the mother of Richard, who found a suspicious backpack in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, alerted the authorities, helped other security and law enforcement staff evacuate the area as a bomb in the backpack detonated.
Bobi saw her son’s experience going from a hero who helped save thousands of lives to being vilified when the media focused on him as a suspect. Jewell was later vindicated but by that time, he and his mother suffered through a humiliating and depressing experience.
Bates said: “Everybody was pressured to get this (case) taken care of quickly and so for my character, for Bobi, his mother, to see her child who has always wanted to be a sheriff and be so proud of him that he accomplished this.”
“But in a matter of three days, there was a leak somewhere within the system to a reporter and Richard’s life was over. He was 33 and he died at 44 (of heart failure from complications of diabetes). Bobi, who I did get to meet, still believes to this day that they killed him.”
“I hope Bobi likes the film,” Bates said. “I know how deeply important this is to her. I did meet with her for a few hours.”
On how she approaches roles based on living characters like Bobi, Bates answered, “You can't play the real person. You just do the essence.” The Bobi Jewell part joins the long list of Bates’ memorable performances in theater, television, and film. After moving from Tennessee to New York, she gradually worked her way up in Broadway. Jumping into television and movies, Bates steadily racked up credits and picked up accolades along the way, including an Academy Award for Misery and two Emmy Awards for American Horror Story and Two and a Half Men.