After Showtime's The Loudest Voice, the new film Bombshell is the latest star-studded piece of pop culture to dramatize the fall of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who resigned in disgrace in 2016 after multiple sexual harassment allegations were made against him. The film sees a cast of famous faces playing some other very famous faces, with Charlize Theron playing former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and Nicole Kidman playing initial accuser and Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson. Margot Robbie completes the trifecta of platinum blondes, portraying associate producer Kayla Pospisil, but her character doesn't have the visibility or recognition of the latter two women. That makes sense, considering Kayla Pospisil isn't a real person, but rather a composite character based on not one but multiple very real people.
The case against Ailes snowballed shortly after Gretchen Carlson left Fox News in June 2016 after her contract expired and wasn't renewed. On July 6, she filed a harassment lawsuit against Ailes, alleging that he demanded a sexual relationship with her and that the network choosing not to renew her contract was clear retaliation for her refusal.
Coverage of the suit prompted over 20 women to come forward publicly and privately with similar accusations against Ailes, some claiming to have endured decades of "psychological torture", according to Huffington Post. Anchor Megyn Kelly was notably silent during this time, though after it was revealed she'd already reported harassment by Ailes ten years earlier, she vocally joined the fray.
In March 2019, Bombshell screenwriter Charles Randolph reportedly met former Fox News anchor Juliet Huddy to talk about her time working there as research for the film, according to THR. Not only was it painful for her to recount, it also broke the non-disclosure agreement she signed when she left Fox. Though they can cover any confidential legal relationship between two parties, when it comes to sexual harassment allegations, NDAs are often used to keep victims silent and out of court in exchange for a monetary sum. For many, the sheer cost of fighting a case and the risk of losing make signing an NDA a viable option — at least they'll get something, instead of being raked across coals by lawyers in court.
Bombshell director Jay Roach told IndieWire that he and Randolph spoke to about 20 women, many of whom broke their NDAs to do so. They wanted to tell their stories, but also protect them from legal ramifications. The solution was creating the composite character of Kayla Pospisil.
"We're not revealing the people we talk to. We're trying to protect them," Roach says. "We talked to some real people ... It was the weather lady who was still working at Fox when we started the movie and was undercover, almost like a whistleblower. But [Janice Dean] slipped the names to Megyn and Megyn did help get them to come forward."
Similarly, lead actress and Bombshell producer Charlize Theron told THR, "We have all taken an oath to protect our sources, but we tried to communicate as much as we could with everybody." Pospisil may not be a real person, but she's the visible face of many women whose stories are finally coming to light.