Credit: Claire Folger/Warner Bros.

At the Richard Jewell premiere Wednesday night at AFI Fest in Los Angeles, director Clint Eastwood joked that he wasn’t even aware of most of the actors he ended up casting when he first started trying to make the film five years ago. But he feels that initial effort didn’t come together “because I was waiting for this cast.”

In the midst of an already competitive Oscar race, some critics and prognosticators seem to agree with Eastwood’s praise of his cast, declaring the film’s leading duo, Paul Walter Hauser and Sam Rockwell, potential awards contenders.

Based on the true story of Richard Jewell — the security guard who was wrongly accused setting off a bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics — the film stars Hauser in the title role and Rockwell as his hardworking lawyer. Richard Jewell was originally conceived with Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio in mind (the pair are executive producers on the film).

Describing the work of Hauser (who previously appeared in I, Tonya), film critic Ashley Menzel tweeted that the actor “gives a nuanced and powerful performance that will turn heads.” Meanwhile, New York Times writer Kyle Buchanan joked “we’ll have to keep the Oscars’ Annual Sam Rockwell Slot open for Sam Rockwell.”

Many AFI attendees also praised Kathy Bates as Jewell’s mother, Bobi, with critic Robert Daniels saying the veteran actress stole the film.

On the other hand, some have taken issue with Olivia Wilde’s “problematic” role as reporter Kathy Scruggs.

Richard Jewell hits theaters on Dec. 13. Read more first reactions below.

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Richard Jewell (2019 Movie)
Paul Walter Hauser stars as the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing suspect Richard Jewell.
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