In the wake of the #MeToo movement, women across the globe are speaking out about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault, often at the hands of powerful men. On Monday, May 21, Deadline reported that Charlize Theron will play Megyn Kelly in a movie about Roger Ailes, the former Fox News' CEO who was accused to sexual harassment. The project couldn't have been developed at a more relevant time. Because, despite the fact that women like Kelly — a former anchor at Fox News — have reported incidents of sexual misconduct stretching back decades, people finally seem to be paying attention.
Over the past several months, the world has become soberly aware of just how prevalent (not to mention how grossly concealed) sexual misconduct can be, especially in the workplace.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, who originally reported out the news of Theron's casting Monday night, May 21, the upcoming project will supposedly "tell the tale of disgraced Fox News chairman Roger Ailes." The so-far untitled movie, which Theron is reportedly set to co-produce as well, is still in its early development stages. But if THR's description ends up holding any weight, that alone seems like a pretty promising start. As most modern-day media consumers would probably agree, reading about nightmarish, large-scale sexual misconduct allegations in the news is one thing; watching those narratives actually come to life onscreen is another. And, with an A-list Hollywood figure of Theron's status as its frontrunner, it sounds like the film certainly has the means to make something really powerful that, hopefully, lots of people will see.
More than a year prior to the onset of the #MeToo movement, Ailes was the CEO and chairman of Fox News.
In July 2016, former Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson initiated a lawsuit against Ailes for claims of sexual harassment — a lawsuit she later won with a settlement of $20 million. He denied the allegations, in a statement to CNN: "This is a retaliatory suit for the network's decision not to renew her contract."
Ailes resigned from his post in July 2016. Meanwhile, Kelly, who'd been with the network since 2004 and had arguably become its most recognizable name, reportedly told the lawsuit's investigators that she'd experienced Ailes' alleged sexual misconduct, too.
Kelly further detailed her own alleged experiences with Ailes in her memoir, Settle for More, which was released several months later, in November 2016. In it, the former Fox host (who left the network in early 2017 for her current spot on NBC News) explained that Ailes had allegedly behaved inappropriately with her more than 10 years earlier, when she was still in her first year at the network. According to a November 2016 report by People, one excerpt reads,
"I would be called into Roger's office, he would shut the door, and over the next hour or two, he would engage in a kind of cat-and-mouse game with me—veering between obviously inappropriate sexually charged comments (e.g., about the 'very sexy bras' I must have and how he'd like to see me in them) and legitimate professional advice."
Responding to Kelly's allegations, Ailes' attorney issued a statement to People fully denying the claims:
"I categorically deny the allegations Megyn Kelly makes about me. I worked tirelessly to promote and advance her career, as Megyn herself admitted to Charlie Rose. Watch that interview and then decide for yourself. My attorneys have restricted me from commenting further — so suffice it to say that no good deed goes unpunished."
During a November 2016 appearance on Dr. Phil prior to the memoir's release, Kelly revealed that Alies' alleged sexual misconduct began more than 10 years earlier, when she was a first-year reporter, according to People. She went on to explain the details, saying Ailes' alleged misconduct ranged from "grossly inappropriate comments" to more alleged specific remarks about her body. (In response to these allegations, Ailes' attorney told People in 2016: "Mr. Ailes denies her allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind.")
But it was one of Kelly's comments to Dr. Phil during that November 2016 interview that feels particularly relevant now, given the news of Theron's upcoming Ailes-centric film. "I want people to understand this was real," she told the talkshow host, "[Ailes] did do this, and I was far from the only one."
And, with the enormous opportunity for exposure that tends to accompany any real-life narrative brought to the big screen, hopefully Theron's upcoming film does its part to give this one (as well as all those women affected by it) the visibility it deserves.