Charlize Theron’s transformation into former Fox News personality Megyn Kelly for “Bombshell” is uncanny.
The Oscar-winning actress chose not to meet the former Fox News host before playing her in the film, which is about sexual misconduct and toxic male culture at Fox under the auspices of founder Roger Ailes (played by John Lithgow).
“With Megyn, it was incredibly intimidating. She’s intimidating. ... I wanted to have as much room as I possibly could to find what I thought I needed to find [to play the role],” Theron said recently during a roundtable conversation for The Times’ Envelope section. “I think it’s too much pressure on her too — not just talking about myself — I felt bad to even put her in that position where she had to, like, sit across from me and [I] ask her questions.”
A variety of reasons hampered a sitdown between the women; however, meeting the people behind biopic characters isn’t the way Theron usually researches her roles anyway, the actress said.
Oftentimes, coming face to face with her subject isn’t even possible, she added. For example, serial killer Aileen Wuornos, whom she played in “Monster,” was executed the day Theron agreed to appear in Patty Jenkins’ 2003 film. (The role scored Theron an Oscar for best actress.)
With Kelly, Theron backgrounded in other ways.
“I’m incredibly empathetic and I’m sure this is hard for her, hard for all the women that are part of this story. But we’re deciding not to reveal all of our sources,” she said. "[Kelly] was fully aware of the film. Our filmmakers and producers and writers did a lot of that kind of researching. So a lot of that information was coming through them to me.”
Kelly has been a lightning rod of controversy for years. Though NBC News poached her from Fox in 2017, her departure from the broadcast network earlier this year after a turbulent two-year run came on the heels of comments she made about wearing blackface, as well as many attempts to rehabilitate her public image. It should be noted that the journalist has publicly approved of Theron’s casting in the film and counts herself among the actress’ fans.
Theron, who produced “Bombshell,” also had to clarify a jest she made in regards to portraying Kelly, explaining the difference between the challenges she faced playing the more recognizable Kelly compared to the lesser-known Wuornos.
“It was harder in the sense that Megyn is incredibly well known and Aileen really wasn’t. And I feel like Aileen was a discovery for people, like they would see that movie and then they would Google search her, see the Nick Broomfield documentaries,” Kelly said. “And so it was like a later discovery, which allows you a little bit of breathing room as an actor because your audience is gonna go in not necessarily knowing so much.
“With Megyn, I knew I had none of that because she’s just so known and her voice is so specific. And we all know that persona, how she carries herself,” she added. “That was harder in the sense that I felt that pressure of like, ‘Oh, I don’t feel like there’s any wiggle room here.’”
Watch the full conversation Theron had with The Times, which also features Awkwafina, Cynthia Erivo, Jennifer Lopez and Renée Zellweger, below.