To play former superstar anchor Megyn Kelly in the film “Bombshell,” Jay Roach’s docudrama about the way several Fox News employees fought back against harassment from Fox News founder Roger Ailes, Charlize Theron reviewed countless hours of footage, studied Kelly’s memoir and modulated her voice and mannerisms accordingly. But she never spoke with Kelly directly.
Just this month, Kelly finally saw the film and recorded her response, parts of which Theron says “felt very sincere and touched me deeply.” Theron, who won the lead actress Oscar in 2004 for her fierce performance in “Monster,” was nominated for her work in “Bombshell.”
A few days after the nominations announcement, Theron, who is also a producer on the film, met at a Hollywood office to discuss Fox News, why she doesn’t do Method acting, and “the biggest misogynist” who casts a shadow over “Bombshell.”
“Bombshell” is a docudrama, and clearly it was important to the filmmakers that you look like Megyn Kelly, adopting her voice and her mannerisms. Were you affected by the physicality of it when you were playing the part?
The work that I had done with the dialect and just watching her mannerisms, how she pulls her face or how she holds herself, and the way she sounds, actually really informed me on how she was revealing herself emotionally.
That took a very long time to decipher because she comes across as somebody who just always has a wall up. But when you look at her, there are moments where you can really tell she’s off-script and she’s really feeling something passionately. The way she speaks just completely changes.
Was that something you discovered from watching hours and hours of footage of her?
Yeah. You just start to see this repetitive voice that pops out and then you kind of go back and you can see that there’s a similarity in the emotion; it’s a little bit like building a puzzle. But I’m not Method. My capacity is, you know, maybe two, three hours a day if that. And then I’m trying to keep the movie going and doing other things.
Because you’re also the producer.
I haven’t really acted in anything that I didn’t produce in the last 10 years. It’s good for me, because I’m OCD and can get kind of stuck in my head on things. And then I start overthinking things, and when I look at my work, I become mechanical. So there is an aspect of being forced out of it. That’s really good for me.
I can’t do the Method thing. I did it once, for “Devil’s Advocate,” and I was just exhausted. It was really hard to go to those deep, dark places because I was so tired. It was good for me to figure this out, and I am much better now at understanding and living and breathing in the moment with the character.
“Bombshell” is definitely an ensemble movie, and the three women’s experiences are interrelated. Is it solidarity or something more complicated?
I think it’s way more complicated. It’s so interesting that we love those complexities in men. This idea that men can be competitive with each other, could not like each other and feel this need to kind of one-up each other and still achieve something great.
And yet with women, we get really uncomfortable when that happens. Like we want to believe that women will just always do the right thing. And this was such a clear case of witnessing something where, yes, something great happened, but it didn’t come easy. It wasn’t three women who bonded together as best friends and took the lead together. And women don’t have to. We can be supportive of each other without having to be each other’s best friends.
What was the allure of Roger Ailes, and why did Megyn respect him?
These people don’t just jump out of the dark and do this. It’s a seduction. It’s something that you see quite succinctly with predators. You see it with Harvey Weinstein — that charming quality, this kind of paternal [thing]: “I can guide you. I can be your mentor. I believe in you. I’m going to invest in you. I, with all my experience, will take you under my wing and move you up that line.”
That’s a seduction, especially to a woman who has the ambition that a lot of these women have. We can’t judge them for that — and we do, so easily.
What is your relationship with Fox News? Do you think it should exist?
Whenever there’s a story that breaks in the news, I surf. I want to see (a) if they’re even talking about it and (b) how they’re talking about it. So I would always watch Fox that way. Observing people saying things that you so don’t believe, and saying them in full conviction, is just fascinating.
I feel like that’s a different answer than should it exist.
Well, it’s never going to go away. Do I think that they’ve done incredible damage in what they spread and put out there? 100%. If somebody tells me they only get their news from Fox, I’m dumbfounded.
Donald Trump seems like he does, and he’s sort of a scene partner of yours at the beginning of “Bombshell.”
Megyn is literally in the middle of the Ailes story, and at the same time she’s facing off with this presidential candidate, who at the end feels like a metaphor. Roger is [on his way] out ... you win a little. But then [Trump], he’s the biggest misogynist. He feels so incredibly entitled to behave a certain way towards women. [So] we were bringing in this new candidate, now our president, who was condoning through his own actions what was just condemned at Fox.
Some people take real issue with the fact that we are even celebrating the women who did this at Fox, because a lot of those women were fine with the status quo over there. So why should we care? But to me, I have to say I’d feel the opposite. I feel like for women who believe all of that to do what they did, it just tells you how pervasive this is and how when it happens, it’s undeniable. And even women who might’ve believed those things ... they had to do something.
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