Charlize Theron still gets angry with herself for not dealing with the ‘a**hole’ film director who sexually harassed her at her first audition more than 25 years ago
Charlize Theron still gets angry with herself for not dealing with the ‘a**hole’ film director who sexually harassed her at her first audition more than 25 years ago.
‘I didn’t deal with it, and that’s what’s so frustrating. You’re just furious with yourself. Why didn’t I just say “No”?’ she said, her voice rising.
‘I speak my mind,’ the 44-year-old Oscar-winner added. ‘How could I be frozen? You blame yourself, and you hate yourself.’
What has prompted the South African-born model-turned-superstar-actress to erupt with such fury?
Well, we were discussing her scorching new film Bombshell, which opens in the UK on January 17, and in which she’s incandescent as former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.
The movie is about how no-nonsense Kelly and other women at the network helped to topple the regime of Roger Ailes, the channel’s chieftain, after accusing him of sexually abusing two generations of women.
Nicole Kidman also stars as Gretchen Carlson, a Fox commentator who was first to expose Ailes’s woeful coercive misbehaviour.
Margot Robbie plays Kayla Pospisil, a fictional character written into the picture to represent younger female victims who felt too junior to complain about their boss.
Theron called Bombshell an ‘origin story’ because it focuses on incidents that occurred before the sordid accusations made against one-time film kingpin Harvey Weinstein. ‘It was pre-#MeToo and Time’s Up,’ Theron noted.
She said that before the Ailes bomb was detonated at Fox ‘there was no conversation about this stuff’.
The movie is about how no-nonsense Kelly and other women at the network helped to topple the regime of Roger Ailes, the channel’s chieftain, after accusing him of sexually abusing two generations of women. Theron is pictured as Megyn Kelly, with Kidman and Robbie
But once the film was in production, with director Jay Roach and screenwriter Charles Randolph, there seemed to be a development every day. Megyn Kelly was let go from NBC — her follow-up job after she quit Fox — during filming.
Kelly, who had trained as a lawyer, was a fixture at Fox News because of her clear-cut questioning.
She went after Donald Trump at a presidential primary debate, needling him by asking about his treatment of women. He retaliated by attacking her viciously in the Press and on Twitter. Nonetheless, her stock soared.
Kelly liked Ailes’s bawdy behaviour, but she also disapproved of the way he turned his sexual gaze on younger, less senior women unable to fight back.
At one point, Pospisil is ordered by Ailes (John Lithgow, who was Churchill in The Crown) to hitch up her dress and expose her underwear. It’s a devastating moment; Robbie’s hands trembling as she slowly does as he says.
Hearing my reaction to that scene, Theron said director Roach was similarly shocked when he read it in the screenplay — and when he filmed it.
The point is, she said, to ‘get men . . . to understand what Kayla goes through’, and to demonstrate that sexual abuse doesn’t have to be physical.
There are women, she continued, who ‘go through this day after day, week after week, month after month. It can go on for years. And “nothing has happened”, because the man didn’t touch her.’
Theron said Ailes also pitted women against each other. His secretary buzzed the young, unsuspecting women into his office. ‘It was a well-oiled machine in a toxic workplace.’
In the movie, she asks Robbie’s character if she’s being harassed by Ailes. Pospisil asks how she knew, and she responds: ‘We tend to find each other.’
The younger woman rounds on the anchorwoman and demands to know why she didn’t do something about it. ‘Well, I wanted to be on TV,’ Kelly responds candidly.
‘Women don’t always do the right thing,’ Theron said. ‘We don’t always handle it the way we should. There’s limited access to opportunities; and those opportunities are only given to the ones who are “good soldiers”.’
In the movie, she asks Robbie’s character if she’s being harassed by Ailes. Pospisil asks how she knew, and she responds: ‘We tend to find each other.’ The younger woman rounds on the anchorwoman and demands to know why she didn’t do something about it
She told me she was initially uncomfortable about portraying Kelly because she doesn’t share the newscaster’s Right-leaning politics.
‘But bad things happen to people we might not necessarily be in line with,’ she said.
I’ve watched Kelly over the years, and I like her toughness — Theron captures that. It’s an astute performance that has garnered awards season attention.
On January 5, at the Golden Globe Awards, she’ll be up against frontrunner Renee Zellweger, for her moving portrayal of Judy Garland; Cynthia Erivo’s heroic Harriet Tubman; Scarlett Johansson — sublime in Marriage Story; and Saoirse Ronan’s fine Jo March in Little Women.
It’s just as important to Theron, though, that as producer of Bombshell, she and her collaborators were able to have a film which had three major roles for women.
And despite the weighty subject matter, she said she had ‘a blast’ working with ‘Nic’ and Margot, describing the trio as ‘southern hemisphere girls . . . two Aussies and a South African, getting stuff done’.