Based on the true story of the sexual harassment allegations that would ultimately bring down Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, director Jay Roach’s drama BOMBSHELL captures a crucial moment in American social history. Starring Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and Charlize Theron, the film focuses on the women who brought their stories forward for the world to see and chronicles those couple of weeks in July 2016 when the scandal hit hardest.
There’s a lot of real history involved in BOMBSHELL, and we’re going to provide the key pieces of information that paint the true story that the drama sets out to tell. We’ll also tell you more about the lead characters played by Kidman, Robbie and Theron in the film. For now, let’s start with the real-life history that inspired the film.
Early Allegations Set the Scene for Roger Ailes’ Part in Bombshell
As early as 2014, allegations of Roger Ailes' (played in the film by Academy Award®-nominee John Lithgow) impropriety with female employees were being reported in the public eye. While BOMBSHELL focuses on the major accusations that would eventually cause Ailes to leave the network, author Gabriel Sherman’s book "The Loudest Voice in the Room" reported stories that would represent the tip of the iceberg that director Jay Roach’s film covers.
The Scandal That Bombshell Takes Its Story From
BOMBSHELL’s central scandal began on July 6, 2016, when Fox News host Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) alleged that she was fired from the organization for rejecting unwanted advances by Roger Ailes. While it was easy enough for Ailes to fight the claims of one of Fox News’ most prolific personalities, it would only take one more to seal his fate.
July 19, 2016, saw fellow Fox News host Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) come forward with her story, through an interview with New York Magazine. At this point, Roger Ailes was confronted by his bosses, including Fox News’ founder, Rupert Murdoch. Ailes was then given a choice: resign or be fired by August 1.
Roger Ailes’ Resignation From Fox News
On July 21, 2016 — the final day of the 2016 Republican National Convention — after being with Fox News since its inception 20 years prior, Roger Ailes resigned from the organization amidst the allegations leveled against him. While he would advise the network in his retirement, he was no longer the chairman of the network he helped build. In a little under a year after his resignation, Ailes would pass away at the age of 77.
Gretchen Carlson — Nicole Kidman
The first Fox News employee to break the scandal that BOMBSHELL takes its story from, Gretchen Carlson started out at the network as a host for the linchpin show "Fox and Friends." First, Carlson was a weekend substitute host, but then became a permanent weekday host on the program in September 2006.
Carlson would stay in this position until 2013, when she would get her own daytime show, "The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson." Her tenure at the network would end in July 2016, with her lawsuit against Fox News revealing the allegations of sexual harassment supposedly linked to Roger Ailes’ decision to fire her. Gretchen Carlson would go on to write a book, "Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back," and be elected Miss America Chairwoman in 2018, a position Carlson resigned from this past June. She is played in the movie by Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman.
Megyn Kelly — Charlize Theron
Once a corporate defense attorney, Megyn Kelly transitioned into the world of news reporting through local affiliates, with a quick rise through the ranks of Fox News. Starting as a contributor with a strong legal background, she eventually became a prominent fixture in the cable news network. Eventually, Kelly would go on to host her own shows, "America Live" and "The Kelly File."
It was Megyn Kelly’s corroborating accusations of sexual harassment by Roger Ailes in 2016 that helped seal the former chairman of Fox News’ fate, and Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron portrays her in BOMBSHELL’s dramatized narrative of those events. Kelly eventually would find herself at NBC, where she would host both "Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly" and "Megyn Kelly Today" before being bought out of her contract and let go from the network. She is currently planning a return to network television, but no specific details are available at this time.
Kayla Pospisil — Margot Robbie
Academy Award-nominee Margot Robbie’s BOMBSHELL character, Kayla Pospisil (seen above with Kate McKinnon), is actually not a real person involved in the Fox News scandal that the film dives into. Rather, Kayla is a composite character that bundles together several people whose stories of Roger Ailes’ alleged misconduct help inform the film’s story.
The reason her character was ultimately created was to serve as a vessel for stories that were told by various Fox News employees who wanted to remain anonymous and/or did not want to be acknowledged as breaking their non-disclosure agreements. So while Kayla’s not real, the stories that shaped her role in writer Charles Randolph’s script are.
The true events recounted in BOMBSHELL came at a time that predates the Me Too movement as we know it, but they are an important precursor for what would follow not too far behind them. See BOMBSHELL for yourself in theatres, starting with a limited release on December 13.
As a part of the AMC Artisan Films series, BOMBSHELL will be available in select theatres upon its initial release, with a wider release rolling out on December 20. So, be sure to check your local showtimes before you head out to a theatre near you.