It really warms my heart to see two outstanding screen works which deal with a modern movement. The Morning Show (starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon) and Bombshell (starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie) both explore the fall of powerful men in television amid sexual assault allegations. In both stories, it is the work of the women who fight to set the playing field right.
Bombshell tells the true story of three prominent women working at American television network Fox News and the pre-#MeToo toppling of the company’s former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, who stepped down from the right-wing network in 2016 after more than 20 women – including Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly – accused him of sexual harassment (claims he and Fox News denied). While Theron plays news anchor Kelly (with some incredible prosthetics) and Kidman plays Carlson, Robbie plays a composite character named Kayla working at the station. During Lionsgate’s The Contenders Los Angeles panel on Friday, the Australian actor detailed what it was like to film the scene where Kayla is called into Ailes’ office in which he attempts to lift her skirt.
“John [Lithgow who plays Ailes] and I were equally as disturbed by that scene,” Robbie said. “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.”
The scene is very long in length. It is this way on purpose so the audience can feel how long the moment actually felt for Kayla. Lithgow also has minimal dialogue, highlighting how much is actually happening without Ailes actually saying much at all.
“I think it was important, the way [screenwriter] Charles [Randolph] 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.”
“It’s almost entirely stage directions,” Lithgow added. “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.”
For Theron, the role of Kelly was particularly challenging given the anchor and network’s republican stance. “This was not a person who was easy for me to wrap my arms around,” she admitted. “From afar it looks like we have nothing in common – obviously, I’m a liberal and a lot of these women have said things that have been deeply upsetting to me. But at the same time, as a woman, understanding what each of them went through and understanding what Megyn was facing, especially in those two weeks where she didn’t step forward and she didn’t support Gretchen [Carlson, played by Kidman], that’s when I emotionally tapped into her because I started to see similarities between us, dare I say that.”