When we first meet Megyn Kelly in the new film Bombshell, she is primetime pristine — patent black lashes, voluminous hair, a tight smile. This is in large part thanks to the work of esteemed makeup artist Vivian Baker and prosthetics master Kazu Hiro who managed to perform a number of astonishing transformation to Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, and John Lithgow to better tell this story based on true events. Not only did their work allow audiences to lose themselves in these characters, but it also exemplified the oppressive beauty standards wielded over the anchors during their time at the network.
In 2016, before the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Fox news was rattled when more than 20 women came forward with stories of alleged sexual assault at the hands of news mogul Roger Ailes. Among them were Fox news sweethearts, Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, who lead the Bombshell narrative. For Baker and Hiro, emulating real people posed a unique challenge because unlike bringing a historical figure to life on screen, the central cast of characters are easily recognizable by modern audiences. Knowing that there is a ton of easily accessible material viewers can compare the finished products to meant that there had to be careful consideration into how the characters would look on screen.
In Bombshell, the anchors abide by a very strict notions of femininity when presenting onscreen to Fox viewers. For Baker, this allowed her to spotlight the "fingerprint" Ailes had on those who worked for him at Fox. “He had strong ideas about what women should look like," Baker says. "Often that meant legs, a lot of makeup, a lot of shadow, a lot of lashes and of course, glossy lips.”
Baker relished in the opportunity to transform Charlize Theron, who was reportedly unrecognizable to her costars, into Megyn Kelly. The makeup team lined the trailers with photos of Kelly and made sure that there was never a hair out of place, something both the team and Theron felt was a must. “It infected everyone in the trailer when Charlize would come in with this energy of like ‘I’m going to hit every beat, I’m going to embody her.”
The technical side of transforming a well-known person into a completely different famous person is far more than just changing the shape of her nose (though they managed to do that believably too). Hiro, whose work you might recognize from Darkest Hour or Mindhunter, starts his intricate process by taking a cast of the actors face, and from there designs ways he can alter their appearance using silicone prosthetics. For Theron’s transformation, that meant crafting Kelly’s signature features: the upticked nose, heavy eyelids, square jaw, and sharp chin.
Roger Ailes also proved to be a different type of challenge according to Hiro. Ailes took up a lot of space, both with his body and his threatening demeanor. To portray that, Hiro was tasked with completely changing John Lithgow’s proportions, adding a "bigger nose, bull-doggy pouchy cheeks, and a heavy neck," he says.
Not all characters, however, had a real life counterpart. Kayla (Margot Robbie) is a composite character created for the film in order to tell many stories of women who allegedly experienced harassment at the hands of Ailes. Robbie's character goes on a journey throughout the film, starting out on Gretchen Carlson's team, and eventually shifting to Bill O'Reilly's team, where she becomes hungry to be put on air and eventually finds herself in Ailes' office being asked to lift up her skirt.
When we first meet Kayla, she is pretty, minimally made-up, and has an onslaught of ideas about how to connect to conservative millennials. As the film progresses we watch her transformation to “anchor barbie” with a full face of makeup, sky-high heels and big hair to match. “It is then she has joined the league of women who have been in Roger's camp and we see that dramatic change in her,” says Baker.
As we saw time and time again in this story, the only way to get ahead at Fox, was to play by Roger's rules. This meant shorter skirts, it meant looking past years of alleged sexual harassment and it meant makeup. It is for this reason artists like Baker and Hiro were so instrumental in creating the world of Fox visually, down to the last set of fake lashes.