Bombshell tells the story of how Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), along with other women in the newsroom, brought sexual harassment charges against then-chairman Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). Margot Robbie plays a composite character named Kayla, and the film dramatizes a scene in which Ailes calls her into his office and asks her to lift her skirt.
“John and I were equally as disturbed by that scene,” Robbie said during Lionsgate’s The Contenders Los Angeles panel today. “It was obviously an incredibly safe place on a set. I’m very grateful that I got to do that scene with John. [Director] Jay [Roach] was in the room with us every step of the way and our crew was incredible, but the content of that scene is incredibly disturbing.”
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To convey Ailes’ methodical pattern recounted by the many accusers, screenwriter Charles Randolph and Roach let the harassment scene run long.
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“I think it was important, the way Charles scripted it, to be in that room as long as you are,” Robbie said. “That’s what made it so disturbing. There’s no escape. You’re in that room as long as Kayla is.”
Lithgow agreed, adding that what makes it so disturbing is how much happens without Ailes saying anything.
“It’s almost entirely stage directions,” Lithgow said. “We acted out exactly what Charles wrote. There are about 12 syllables that pass in the course of about three minutes and yet your heart just starts pounding. It’s so disturbing.”
Roach elaborated on the scene.
“How they were manipulated, the darkness of Roger’s approach, the psychological manipulation of how he would move women and take advantage of them past the line they thought they would never cross, just a little bit and take them further the next time,” the filmmaker said. “Just that dark intensity of that character. I felt for [the women].”
Carlson is still under an NDA, so she could not speak with Kidman about playing her. The Oscar-winning actress said she watched Carlson on air and tried to capture her essence underneath the on-air persona.
“It’s a fighter,” Kidman said. “It’s like, ‘I’m not going down without a fight.’ It’s a very confident woman that underneath — this woman who was very vulnerable and alone and frightened but fiercely, fiercely determined to do what was right. I wanted to be able to make sure that she was seen as the catalyst and the godmother of this particular movement because that’s really the ground she breaks in this.”
Theron, who also produced Bombshell, is hoping the real women portrayed in the film get to see it.
“We’ve sent invitations to each and every person who’s part of the story, but we do not know if they’ve taken us up on that,” Theron said.
Also today, writer-director Rian Johnson and producer Ram Bergman presented Knives Out. Daniel Craig stars as Benoit Blanc, a Southern detective investigating the death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford and Jaeden Martell play Thrombey’s family members and suspects.
“Very much drawing from the Agatha Christie movies I was watching as a kid with my family, with Peter Ustinov as Poirot,” Johnson said. “They had an all-star cast and just had a cheeky, self-aware tone, but they were still a good mystery,” Johnson said. “They weren’t a parody.”
Johnson added that once Craig signed on, the rest of the cast followed. They just had to schedule the film before the James Bond actor had to film No Time to Die.
“Daniel Craig came first,” Johnson said. “He was the first piece of the puzzle. He’s the reason the movie got made. Once Daniel’s on board, that started the snowball. Michael Shannon signed up next. Those guys are actor bait and drew more people [like] Chris Evans. Once Daniel was on board we were off to the races.”
Bombshell opens in limited release on December 13 and nationwide on December 20. Knives Out will be unsheathed November 27.
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