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‘Spotlight’ company settles complaint over made-up dialogue

/ 10:42 AM March 17, 2016

BOSTON — The distributor of the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” has acknowledged that filmmakers fabricated dialogue that made it appear as if a Boston College spokesman downplayed the extent of the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal.

Jack Dunn, director of the news and public affairs office at the Jesuit university, said Wednesday he became physically ill when he saw the film the day it opened in Boston. He retained a lawyer to demand that the scene be removed, although no lawsuit was ever filed.

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The movie about The Boston Globe’s investigation into the abuse scandal won the Academy Award for best picture.

Open Road Films, which said it couldn’t remove a scene from a movie already in theaters, announced a settlement with Dunn on Tuesday that includes the public acknowledgement and donations to charities in Dunn’s name.

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“As is the case with most movies based on historical events, ‘Spotlight’ contains fictionalized dialogue that was attributed to Mr. Dunn for dramatic effect,” Open Road said. “We acknowledge that Mr. Dunn was not part of the archdiocesan cover-up.”

The company said the donations will go to Boston-area charities, including the Big Brother Association of Boston and Resilient Kids.

The four months since the movie was released have been “excruciatingly painful,” Dunn said.

“I felt vindicated by the public announcement and relieved to have been able to put this experience behind me,” he said.

READ: ‘Spotlight’ poses a provocative question

The scene in question was based on an interview with reporters that occurred at Boston College High School in 2002 after the all-boys Catholic school was informed that three former teachers had abused students during the 1970s. Dunn, an alumnus of the school, was at the time and still is on the school’s board of trustees.

At one point in the scene, Dunn, portrayed in the film by actor Gary Galone, says: “It’s a big school, Robby. You know that. And we are talking about seven alleged victims over, what, eight years?” The on-screen character later says: “This is ridiculous. You are reaching for a story here.”

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Dunn, who was a student at the school in the 1970s, said he knew victims of abuse.

“To be portrayed in a film as being in-the-know about the clergy abuse scandal and indifferent to the suffering of the victims was personally devastating,” he said.

Dunn said contrary to what the movie suggests, he has been an advocate for victims and even helped develop a plan to deal with the abuse crisis at the school.

READ: ‘Spotlight’: An ode to old-fashioned journalism

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TAGS: church, dialogue, Film, Journalism, movie, scandal, sex abuse, Spotlight
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