Olivia Wilde has defended the depiction of her journalist character in Clint Eastwood's new movie Richard Jewell following criticism over the suggestion she slept with a source.

The movie is based on the events of the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta, and focuses on the true story of security guard Jewell, played by Paul Walter Hauser, who saved thousands of lives during the incident, but is vilified by the press who falsely report that he was a terrorist.

Wilde portrays Kathy Scruggs, who was a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and in one scene, her character offers to sleep with FBI agent Tom Shaw, played by Jon Hamm, for information about the bombing. Kevin Riley, the current editor-in-chief of the publication, criticised the film for its portrayal of the late journalist, stating that the suggestion she traded sex for information was "offensive and deeply troubling in the #MeToo era."

Wilde defended the depiction of Scruggs in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Monday.

"I have an immense amount of respect for Kathy Scruggs... I feel a certain responsibility to defend her legacy - which has now been, I think unfairly, boiled down to one element of her personality, one inferred moment in the film," she said.

"I think people have a hard time accepting sexuality in female characters without allowing it to entirely define that character," the actress continued. "We don't do that to men, we don't do that to James Bond - we don't say James Bond isn't a real spy because he gets his information sometimes by sleeping with women as sources. This is very specific to female characters, we've seen it over and over again, and I think that Kathy Scruggs is an incredibly dynamic, nuanced, dogged, intrepid reporter. By no means was I intending to suggest that as a female reporter, she needed to use her sexuality."

Richard Jewell is released on 13 December.