Open Road Films, the studio that distributed the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” issued a statement Tuesday acknowledging that dialogue attributed in the movie to Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn was fictional.
When “Spotlight” was released last fall, Dunn expressed outrage, saying that he was depicted as someone who downplayed the suffering of people who were sexually abused by priests. He enlisted a lawyer to contact Open Road and demand the removal of a scene in the movie in which his character discusses whether previous administrators at Boston College High School were aware of sexual abuse there.
At that time, Open Road refused and defended the portrayal of Dunn, saying the film merely shows him to be “a trained public-relations professional” and not someone who had conspired with the Catholic Church to cover up abuse.
On Tuesday, the studio softened its stance. “As is the case with most movies based on historical events, ‘Spotlight’ contains fictionalized dialogue that was attributed to Mr. Dunn for dramatic effect,” it said in a statement.
“We acknowledge that Mr. Dunn was not part of the Archdiocesan coverup. It is clear from his efforts on behalf of the victims at BC High that he and the filmmakers share a deep, mutual concern for victims of abuse,” the studio said.
David Rich, a Boston attorney representing Dunn, said his client is satisfied with the “clear and simple statement,” which he said is part of a broader private settlement that includes charitable donations to Resilient Kids, a Providence nonprofit that helps children, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay.
“This has only been about making sure the truth was known,” said Rich. “And this statement goes a far way to setting the facts straight.”
“Spotlight,” directed by Tom McCarthy, tells the story of the Boston Globe series exposing the priest sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
The film won the 2016 Oscar for best picture, and McCarthy and Josh Singer won an Oscar for best original screenplay.
Dunn, who is also a trustee at Boston College High School, is played in the film by Gary Galone.
The scene in question depicts a meeting at BC High involving Dunn, Globe Spotlight team journalists Walter “Robby” Robinson and Sacha Pfeiffer (played by Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams), the high school’s president, and a composite character. At the meeting, they discuss allegations of abuse at BC High.
“It’s a big school, Robby, you know that,” Dunn’s character says. “And we’re talking about seven alleged victims over, what, eight years?”
Dunn has said that not only did he not make that statement, but he presented a plan to the BC High board of trustees to deal with the allegations with transparency and compassion.
Dunn said he feels “vindicated” by the studio’s statement. “I recognize that ‘Spotlight’ is an important film that pays appropriate tribute to the power of investigative journalism, but mistakes were made in this film that should not have been made,” Dunn said.
“I feel exonerated, but it will not erase the devastating experience of being falsely portrayed in a film,” he said.
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