A&E IndieFilms and Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions are teaming on Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes, a feature documentary directed by Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds helmer Alexis Bloom. The pic tells the story of the current moment in American life, told through the triumphs and precipitous downfall of the Fox News founder.
Ailes was a TV producer-turned-political consultant to Richard Nixon before launching Fox News with Rupert Murdoch, driving Republican politics for decades while turning the network into a cable juggernaut. He resigned in 2016 amid allegations of sexual harassment, the start of a rash of lawsuits and high-profile exits. Ailes died in May 2017 at age 77.
The accounts of Ailes’ female accusers comprise the heart of the movie, the filmmakers said. The documentary will air on A&E following a festival and theatrical run, with Cinetic Media handling sales.
“Better than anyone else, Roger Ailes understood the secret to entertainment — and also to a particular brand of politics — was to highlight conflict over dialogue, heat over light. He tapped into something primal in the audience,” said Bloom, who also produced Gibney’s 2013 Wikileaks docu We Steal Secrets. “Roger lived his life on intimate terms with fear — he was diagnosed with hemophilia when he was four, and was told he’d die when he was 12. I think with Fox News, he capitalized on this understanding of fear to build a channel that manipulated the fears of others. This story was compelling because the personal and the political wove together in a way that was both reinforcing, and profoundly distorting.”
Added Molly Thompson, SVP Feature Films at A+E Networks: Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes is a fascinating look at a man who was at times brilliant and at times divisive, but whose impact on American politics and media will be felt for generations to come. This film is highly relevant for the times we are living in and sheds light on how we got where we are today.”
This is the latest film and TV project to feature Ailes. Russell Crowe was recently tapped to play him in an upcoming limited series for Showtime, based on Gabriel Sherman’s book The Loudest Voice in the Room. Sherman co-wrote the initial episode with Spotlight writer Tom McCarthy, who is executive producing with Jason Blum.
Annapurna is working on a Fox News movie to be directed by Jay Roach penned by The Big Short screenwriter Charles Randolph that will center on the women at the center of the network’s sexual harassment scandal. Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie are aboard so far.
Divide and Conquer: The Roger Ailes Story will be presented by A&E IndieFilms and Impact Partners, and produced by Jigsaw Productions in association with Baird Films. Bloom and Will Cohen are producers, with Thompson, Elaine Frontain Bryant and Robert Sharenow executive producers for A&E IndieFilms and Gibney executive producer for Jigsaw. Stacey Offman is also executive producing with Dan Cogan, Jenny Raskin, Regina K. Scully, Geralyn White Dreyfous and Maiken Baird.