The new Clint Eastwood movie “Richard Jewell,” which debuts Dec. 13, not only tells the story of the Atlanta Olympics bombing hero turned suspect, but also was filmed in the metro area. Local sets ranged from Brookhaven’s Oglethorpe University to Johnny’s Hideaway, a popular Buckhead nightclub where Eastwood reportedly shot an already notorious scene suggesting a reporter offered an FBI agent sex for the Jewell scoop.

Perhaps the biggest area set was Centennial Olympic Park downtown, where Eastwood recreated the 1996 bombing. Smaller scenes were shot in such places as Oglethorpe, where university spokesperson Renee Vary Keele says Hearst Hall and the academic quad served as locations.

Local jazz musician Joe Gransden is a personal friend of Eastwood, a fellow jazz aficionado. “When he comes in town for these movies, he lets me come down [to the set] for a day or two and hang out,” said Gransden.

This time, the set was Doraville’s Third Rail Studios, where the filmmakers recreated Jewell’s Buford Highway apartment. Gransden said he watched the filming of a couple of scenes starring Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell and Kathy Bates as his mother Bobi.

“Thanks to him, I got to meet Kathy Bates, say hello to her, and just watch the process,” said Gransden. Regarding Hauser’s portrayal of Jewell, Gransden said, “He’s brilliant. Looks just like him.”

Eastwood didn’t have much to say about the Atlanta shoot, said Gransden, with one exception: “He did talk about [one] scene, the bomb scene, how they had pretty much one shot at it.”

Local jazz musician Joe Gransden, rear right, joins Clint Eastwood, sitting in the director’s chair, during the filming of the 2018 movie “The Mule” in the Atlanta area. (Special)

Gransden has a growing interest in movies himself. He said he recently had a small role in the upcoming Aretha Franklin biography “Respect” as a trumpeter. “I have one line with Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker,” he said.

“His sets are so relaxing, so fantastic. It seems like there’s no stress for the actors, for anyone involved,” Gransden said of Eastwood’s directorial approach. “He’s kind and soft-spoken. Sometimes you can be around some of those superstars and you feel kind of nervous, [like] you’re going to get in their way or throw them off… Not on Clint’s sets, man. They just make you feel at home.”

Eastwood has made films in the Atlanta area for years, and Gransden sometimes plays host to him in return. Last year, Gransden brought him to the Sandy Springs jazz club Café 290, a visit that would have repeated this year if a “Richard Jewell” shoot hadn’t gone overtime.

Gransden, left, with Eastwood during a performance at Cafe 290 in Sandy Springs. (Special)

“When you get around him and you’re listening to music, jazz music… he really is fun to be around because he’s got wonderful stories about the 1950s and ’60s in L.A. and going to hear Chet Baker play, for instance, or Gerry Mulligan or Miles Davis…,” Gransden said. “And he knew all those guys, of course, so that’s always a thrill.”

Johnny’s Hideaway

At Johnny’s Hideaway on Roswell Road, “Richard Jewell” was the fourth major movie to use the retro Sinatra-and-Elvis nightclub as a filming location, after the Farrelly brothers’ “Hall Pass” (2011), the heist thriller “Den of Thieves” (2018) and Hugh Jackman’s “The Front Runner” (2018).

Owner Chris Dauria couldn’t yet say for certain whether his club is where Eastwood shot the scene that reportedly shows Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde, offering sex to an FBI agent portrayed by Jon Hamm. The AJC says Scruggs did no such thing in real life and has threatened the filmmakers with legal action unless they add a warning to that effect. “They wouldn’t tell us” what they filmed during the day-and-a-half shoot this spring, Dauria said. However, he confirmed the shoot involved those two actors, adding that Hamm later returned to the nightclub as a customer.

Dauria was out of town during the shoot, but said he was later told that when Eastwood arrived on the set, “All of sudden, you could hear an effing pin drop. This is Dirty Harry who is in the building and you better straighten up.”

Clint Eastwood poses with landlord Brad Glenn, far right, and family during the filming of “Richard Jewell” at Johnny’s Hideaway in Buckhead earlier this year. (Special)

Dauria said he wasn’t there for the filming in part because he found watching previous shoots to be “hideous” in their boredom level. Now he’s kicking himself for missing out on getting a chance to meet Eastwood and get a photo taken with him. His landlord, Brad Glenn, got that meeting and photo instead.

“My landlord is a celebrity geek” who follows rumors to meet stars at local restaurants, Dauria said. When Glenn showed up at Johnny’s Hideaway during the shoot, Dauria said, Eastwood approached him and asked about the club’s history, adding, “I came in here one night incognito.”

Dauria also struck out in his contractual request for a photo of Eastwood directing the scenes in the club to add to the gallery of celebrity photos on the wall. Instead, he said, he accepted an extra $1,000 from the filmmakers. “I have a surveillance picture from when he walked in the front door,” Dauria said of his sole photographic memento. “But it’s so blurry and nasty, you’d say [sarcastically], ‘Yeah, that’s Clint Eastwood.’”

Johnny’s Hideaway currently has no other film shoots booked, Dauria said, but it remains popular with some of the filmmakers and stars who have been there before. The Farrelly brothers always stop in when they’re in town, he said.

Update: This story has been updated with a photo from Brad Glenn at Johnny’s Hideaway.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.