One of the most high-profile battles of the Me Too movement took place in the Fox newsroom back in 2016, fought in part by conservative women who don’t subscribe to the word “feminism.” With Bombshell, director Jay Roach and Oscar-winning screenwriter Charles Randolph sought to re-create the toxic workplace helmed by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who was accused by several former employees of sexual harassment. The film depicts versions of recognizable faces (Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, and, briefly, Geraldo Rivera), but also fictional composites, as is the case with Golden Globe–nominated Margot Robbie’s character, Kayla Pospisil, the heart of this story inspired by at least 20 people with connections to the real events.
To keep track of the many lives that were changed by the events depicted in Bombshell, here’s a guide to the heroes and monsters in Roach’s take on the world of Fox News.
Megyn Kelly (Played by Charlize Theron)
Megyn Kelly (played by Charlize Theron with some uncanny facial prosthetic work) wrote about the unwanted sexual advances of Ailes in a memoir titled Settle for More, which was released in November of 2016. In the book, she writes that the former Fox News CEO “made sexual comments to me, offers of professional advancement in exchange for sexual favors,” and, after unsuccessfully attempting to kiss her on the lips, asked, threateningly, “When is your contract up?” Kelly also claims that when she declined to publicly support him after Carlson’s allegations were made public, Ailes “engineered hit pieces about me online.” She left Fox in January 2017 for a run on NBC, where she kicked off her show Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly with a one-on-one Vladimir Putin interview. (Kelly’s time on NBC came to an end when she made on-air comments about blackface on her morning show, Megyn Kelly Today, which led to NBC canceling the show three days later.) Shortly after Bombshell came out, Kelly posted on Instagram that she “had nothing to do with the film,” and would have made some edits if she could.
Gretchen Carlson (Played by Nicole Kidman)
The best-selling author of Be Fierce and Getting Real began co-hosting Fox & Friends in 2005 and continued doing so until 2013, when she announced her resignation from Fox News. Carlson’s contract with the company officially ended in 2016, and soon after, she filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit against Ailes. In 2017, she helped introduce the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act,” which, according to GretchenCarlson.com, “voids forced arbitration agreements that prevent sexual harassment survivors from getting their day in court.”
On the day of Bombshell’s release, in which Nicole Kidman plays a version of the former Fox employee, Carlson penned an op-ed for the New York Times titled “Fox News, I Want My Voice Back,” where she talks about the NDA (which she is seen signing at the end of Bombshell) that still restricts her from talking about what happened with Ailes. Along with Julie Roginsky (played in the movie by Ahna O’Reilly), she went on to create an organization called Lift Our Voices, which aims to stop companies from using NDAs in cases of workplace harassment and discrimination.
Roger Ailes (Played by John Lithgow)
The year before he died, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (played by John Lithgow in Bombshell) saw more than 20 women accuse him publicly and privately of acts of sexual harassment. After Ailes left Fox in 2016 (receiving a payment of $40 million and retaining an advisory position meant to last until 2018), it was reported that Ailes used Fox money to “hire consultants, political operatives, and private detectives who reported only to him,” to mount “black room” campaigns against his so-called enemies, including those who accused him of sexual harassment.
Kayla Pospisil (Played by Margot Robbie)
Margot Robbie’s ambitious news junkie and Evangelical millennial Kayla Pospisil is not based on one particular person, but rather the experiences of the many people screenwriter Randolph interviewed throughout the course of his research. “Kayla is an amalgamation of many women’s stories,” says Robbie, “and some of the specifics you see in scenes with her are taken from real-life interactions those women experienced.” The actress also says that, during character development, she mapped out Kayla entire career into her 60s.
Jess Carr (Played by Kate McKinnon)
In Bombshell, Kayla develops a relationship with a closeted gay and liberal woman named Jess Carr, played by Kate McKinnon. Like Pospisil, Carr is also a fictionalized addition to the Fox newsroom. According to McKinnon, she reflects firsthand accounts from women who claimed they couldn’t be out in the Fox News environment.
Beth Ailes (Played by Connie Britton)
Ailes’s wife Beth (played by Connie Britton) met Roger when she was a programming executive at CNBC in 1996. The two were married in 1998 (with Rudy Giuliani presiding over the wedding), and then Roger made Beth the publisher of two local newspapers he purchased just for her, the Putnam County News and Recorder and the Putnam County Courier. Beth Ailes stayed married to Roger throughout the tumultuous events of 2016, all the way up to his death a year later. She has since been quiet about addressing the accusations against her late husband, and has made it clear that she’s not involved with any Roger Ailes–based projects, but you can see what she’s up to these days on her blog, ElizabethAiles.com.
Megyn Kelly’s Staff
The three people with whom Kelly works closest in Bombshell are fictionalized characters, meant to provide a sounding board as she decides whether or not to speak out against Ailes. These characters include Kelly’s researcher Julia Clarke (Brigette Lundy-Paine), the wisecracking assistant Lily Balin (Liv Hewson), and Rob Delaney as executive producer Gil Norman.
Jeanine Pirro (Played by Alanna Ubach)
Former Westchester County district attorney and current Fox News host Jeanine Pirro (played by Alanna Ubach) is characterized in Bombshell as “the founding member of Team Roger” who calls the allegations against Ailes “absurd,” and balks at Carlson’s narrative in general: “This guy is doing eight million things a day. You really think that he’s chasing her around?” In real life, she did indeed defend the CEO, relaying the aforementioned quote to the Wrap. Before her time as a host of the Fox News show Justice With Judge Jeanine, she served as Westchester’s district attorney, launched a failed run for Senate in 2006 against Hillary Clinton, and became the GOP’s candidate for attorney general of New York (losing to Governor Andrew Cuomo). Pirro had a show on the CW starting in 2008 that earned her a daytime Emmy Award, but made a home for herself at Fox News in 2011 with a show that still runs to this day. Most recently, she was suspended by Fox News for saying that the hijab worn by Representative Ilhan Omar indicates that she adheres to Sharia law, “which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution.”
Rudi Bakhtiar (Played by Nazanin Boniadi)
Roach’s film offers a brief, disturbing flashback to a moment around Thanksgiving 2006, when Fox News correspondent Rudi Baktitar (played by Nazanin Boniadi) was reportedly sexually harassed by Fox News D.C. Bureau Chief Brian Wilson. In 2007, Wilson publicly denied the charges and was promoted by Fox. Meanwhile, Bakhtiar was prohibited from talking about the allegations publicly. In 2016, however, Bakhtiar told Gabriel Sherman that she also faced sexual harassment from Ailes back in 2005. After leaving Fox, she worked in public relations at the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, and is now a producer at Reuters.
Doug Brunt (Played by Mark Duplass)
Kelly’s supportive husband, Doug Brunt, is played by Mark Duplass in Bombshell. Brunt is the former CEO of an internet security company called Authentium, Inc. He has since written three books, including Ghosts of Manhattan, a New York Times bestseller. Brunt has three children with Kelly.
In Bombshell, one of Kelly’s biggest breakthroughs in her efforts to convince more women to come forward occurs when she meets a woman referred to in the film as “Janice in weather,” who is actually Fox & Friends meteorologist Janice Dean (not shown in the movie). In her book Mostly Sunny, Dean writes about covertly convincing women to share their stories of harassment at the hands of Ailes by sharing her own experience.
Juliet Huddy (Played by Jennifer Morrison)
Kelly’s desire to speak up is further enflamed by a conversation with TV anchor Juliet Huddy (Jennifer Morrison), who tells Kelly about being harassed by Bill O’Reilly. Huddy departed Fox News in 2016, and reached a settlement in 2017 with 21st Century Fox regarding her allegations against O’Reilly. (She also accused current CEO of Fox Television Stations Jack Abernethy of harassment, which Bombshell alludes to when Huddy mentions a “Jack.”) Huddy currently co-hosts a radio show for WABC in New York.
Alisyn Camerota (Played by Tricia Helfer)
One of the stranger scenes in Bombshell sees Megyn Kelly on a rooftop, calling someone a few skyscrapers away, who’s also on a roof. It’s Roach’s slightly comical way of introducing CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota (Tricia Helfer), who is known as a “Fox Whisperer,” given the time she previously spent at Murdoch’s network. On the day of Bombshell’s release, she published a piece in Vanity Fair detailing some horrific interactions with the “fear-inducing wizard” Ailes and his “mind control.” Camerota says that she spoke to Roach and Randolph about these experiences briefly during their scripting process.
Susan Estrich (Played by Allison Janney)
Ailes receives some legal guidance in the film from Allison Janney’s Susan Estrich, a multi-hyphenate who wasn’t just his personal attorney, but a law professor and frequent Fox News analyst. Estrich’s involvement with Ailes was scandalous, given that she was known as a liberal feminist and helped promote a wider understanding of “acquaintance rape” with her 1987 book, Real Rape. Speaking to the Washington Post in a piece titled “What Is Feminist Hero Susan Estrich Doing Representing Roger Ailes?”, Estrich defended her actions by saying, “The man described by the media is simply not the man I know.”
Dianne Brandi (Played by Amy Landecker)
Played in the film by Amy Landecker, Dianne Brandi was one of Ailes’s chief lieutenants and the executive vice-president of legal and business affairs at Fox News. She was listed in numerous lawsuits that alleged she failed to report inappropriate conduct when informed about it. Brandi denied the allegations, but took voluntary leave from Fox in October 2017, before returning in March 2018.
The Murdochs (Played by the Lawsons)
A key dynamic in the story of Ailes’s eventual downfall is the power exerted over him by the Murdoch family, namely Rupert (co-executive chairman of 21st Century Fox at the time) and his sons, Lachlan (Ben Lawson) and James (Josh Lawson). But lest Malcolm McDowell’s performance as Rupert Murdoch make the guy seem slightly likable, the billionaire downplayed the allegations against Ailes as “isolated incidents.” “It’s all nonsense,” he told Sky News (which he owned until last year), describing the scandal as “a problem with our chief executive, sort of over the year.”
Rudy Giuliani (Played by Richard Kind)
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (played by Richard Kind) is shown in Bombshell offering his legal assistance to Roger Ailes. The two had a history of supporting each other. According to a 2007 piece in the New York Times, Giuliani and Ailes met attending dinner parties in the 1980s; Ailes went on to manage Giuliani’s first (and unsuccessful) campaign for mayor of New York. According to that same New York Times piece, Giuliani personally intervened (now as mayor) when Time Warner refused in 1996 to carry Ailes’s new station. Giuliani provided legal counsel to Ailes when accusations of sexual harassment surfaced. Randolph recently told USA Today that his version of Giuliani is a stand-in for “three different lawyers,” including Marc Mukasey, who told Vanity Fair in 2016 that “Rudy and I have provided personal, private legal counsel to Roger, whom we’ve known for years.”
O’Reilly doesn’t appear much in the film, but his presence is a key part of the imposed silence that the women in Bombshell fight against. Regarding accusations going back to 2002 that included verbal abuse and lewd comments, O’Reilly settled with five women (including ex-producer Andrea Mackris, who is mentioned by Kate McKinnon’s character Jess) for a combined total of $13 million . As part of the settlement, Mackris had to agree to turn over all evidence related to the harassment, and deny the accusations if they ever went public. Months later, O’Reilly settled another separate case with Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl for $32 million, out of his own pocket, after she accused him of a “nonconsensual sexual relationship.”