Inside 'Bombshell,' With The Film's Director And Two Former Fox News Stars

Dec 13, 2019

We talk about the Fox News harassment scandals, the movie “Bombshell” and the aftermath.

Guests

Jay Roach, director of the new movie “Bombshell,” about Roger Ailes’ downfall at Fox News and the women who spoke out against him.

Gretchen Carlson, former Fox News Channel anchor and author of “Be Fierce: Stop Harassment And Take Your Power Back.” Co-founder of Lift Our Voices, a new platform devoted to stopping companies from using nondisclosure agreements to cover up incidents of workplace harassment. (@GretchenCarlson)

Julie Roginsky, Democratic strategist and former Fox contributor. Co-founder of Lift Our Voices. (@julieroginsky)

From The Reading List

Vanity Fair: “Theron, Kidman, and Robbie Rise Above Bombshell” — “The new Jay Roach film, Bombshell (December 13), about the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News that brought down its fearsome chief Roger Ailes, strides into the room with a certain moral authority. The film concerns the culture of sexual misconduct that ran rampant under Ailes’s reign, and puts center stage the women who stood up to make that predation more widely known. In that way, Roach’s film feels worthy, like it has something of value to add to a crucial and heated discourse.

“Sure, many of us in the audience may not care for Megyn Kelly, nor Gretchen Carlson, nor even the composite character who dreams of being a Fox anchor and whose sad story is the third piece of Bombshell’s triptych. But what happens to them in the film, and happened in real life, was unquestionably wrong, and they were right and brave to stand up against it.

“The three actors at the center of the film communicate that urgency with palpable life. Nicole Kidman isn’t really doing a Gretchen Carlson impression, but she gets at Carlson’s contained, simmering fury quite acutely. (Though it would be nice if we saw more details of Carlson’s story, considering she was the first prominent Fox employee to publicly accuse Ailes.) Margot Robbie is effective as an aspirant named Kayla—heartbreaking when she’s horribly stuck in a room alone with Ailes (an appropriately slimy John Lithgow), and even more so when she has a breakdown-reckoning toward the end of the film. And Charlize Theron so nails the cadence and rhythms of Megyn Kelly that I sometimes forgot it wasn’t actually Kelly in the film. (Credit also goes, of course, to makeup artists Vivian Baker, Kazu Hiro, Richard Redlefsen, and their team.)”

Slate: “Bombshell Wants You to Pump Your Fist in Solidarity With the Women of [Checks Teleprompter] Fox News?” — “When Charlize Theron first appeared as the former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly in Bombshell, sitting in full prime-time makeup behind a news desk, it took me a moment to sort through the layers of reality and artifice. Was that Kelly herself, pert-nosed and flaxen-haired, differentiable from the general pack of symmetrical blond Fox commentatrixes mainly by her husky voice? Was Theron wearing facial prosthetics, or had her image been digitally altered by one of those new deepfake filters that can make Robert De Niro look 20 years younger and cause the ghost of Tom Cruise to appear on Bill Hader’s features when and only when the comedian imitates the action star?

“Later, when John Lithgow showed up as Roger Ailes, a similar set of questions arose. Were those jowls the result of artfully applied silicone or green-screen wizardry? How much weight, if any, did Lithgow put on for the part? (Post-screening research revealed that makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji, who won an Oscar for turning Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill for The Darkest Hour, was responsible for Bombshell’s many eerie physical transformations.)

“I’m sure the director, Jay Roach, would prefer that the audience spend less time in these metafictional thickets and engage directly with the film’s story, which chronicles Kelly’s last days at the network in the larger context of the unfolding sexual harassment scandal at Fox. But that’s the risk you run when you make a movie in a subgenre I’ve come to think of as Bad Moments From Recent History, Recreated in Uncanny Detail. Two notable early examples of the form were HBO movies with then–A-list movie stars: 2008’s Recount with Kevin Spacey as a key Democratic operative in the Bush v. Gore election, and 2012’s Game Change with Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin—both of them directed by Jay Roach. Last year, Adam McKay’s Vice gave us a more playful, if ultimately unsatisfying, variant on the Recent Bad Moments template. Christian Bale’s bizarrely complete physical transformation into Dick Cheney took the stunt-casting angle to the extreme, while the fractured, gag-laden script abandoned all pretense of hyperrealism and committed fully to absurdity.”

USA Today: “‘I want my voice back’: Gretchen Carlson calls for change on big ‘Bombshell’ day” — “It was a moment made for Hollywood. On Wednesday morning, mere hours after the Fox News drama ‘Bombshell’ topped the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations, Charlize Theron and Gretchen Carlson arrived at the same breakfast.

“‘Bombshell’ (in theaters nationwide Dec. 20) recounts how the women of Fox News ousted founder and CEO Roger Ailes, starring Theron as Megyn Kelly opposite Nicole Kidman, who plays Carlson.

“On stage at the annual Women in Entertainment breakfast gala thrown by The Hollywood Reporter, Carlson introduced herself succinctly in front of hundreds of powerful, predominantly female Hollywood figures.

“‘I’m Gretchen Carlson, the woman at the center of the Fox News sexual harassment scandal who took down Roger Ailes,’ she stated, as the room cheered. Carlson, who was there to present journalist Ronan Farrow with the equity in entertainment award, continued by noting she is still gagged by the non-disclosure agreement she signed when settling with Fox.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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