Bombshell was originally titled Lucite Desk, a reference to a type of furniture that symbolized Fox News chief Roger Ailes objectification of his female hosts.
A lucite desk is clear, which allowed Fox News viewers to stare at the legs of on-air personalities as they delivered their brand of news and commentary. Lucite served another purpose, as well, set decorator Ellen Brill said at a recent AFI Fest panel for Bombshell.
“The working title of the film was Lucite Desk,” she said. “Doing the research, there were these kind of lucite boxes that they put the girls’ feet up on under the desks, to get their knees up higher. There was a lot of creepy stuff doing on.”
Bombshell, directed by Jay Roach, features John Lithgow as Ailes, and details how he sexually harassed Fox News staff including Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), and a composite character named Kayla (Margot Robbie).
The real Ailes died in 2017, but he made no secret of his desire for viewers to gawk at the women of Fox News. Gabriel Sherman’s book The Loudest Voice in the Room includes an anecdote about Ailes once calling the control booth to complain, “Move that damn laptop, I can’t see her legs!”
Brill said the moviemakers enlisted a Fox News mole who remembered details about the Fox News offices at the time Bombshell takes place. Bombshell screenwriter Charles Randolph said on the recent MovieMaker Interview podcast that they even looked at photos on foot fetish websites—not to see Fox News women’s feet, but to see the offices in the background.
And, of course, Brill and others could pick up details from actually watching old video of the network. But she didn’t always listen to the commentary.
“There’s a lot you can find on Fox News—without the sound,” she joked.
You can listen to our latest MovieMaker Interviews podcast, featuring Margot Robbie and Charles Randolph, below:
And right here.
Here are some highlights of the podcast, with timestamps:
1:30: Interview begins.
1:56: “In this instance, I signed on to the message of the film before falling in love with the character. And then I went back and started thinking, ‘Okay, who is Kayla, how do I play her? I don’t understand her at all. And I didn’t have a lot to go off as far as personal experience. … But. That was just a research thing.”
5:20: On accents: “Honestly, it’s so integral to my process at this point, I don’t even know how I could act in an Australian accent.”
6:30: A slight digression about Mary, Queen of Scots.
8:15: Margot Robbie’s past jobs at Subway, cleaning houses, and working in a surf store.
10:00: “I could have been arrested for assault but instead they gave me the part.”
11:30: How producing and acting go well together, and some advice from Tina Fey.
14:34: Could Charles Randolph have written Bombshell when Roger Ailes was still alive?
20:00: The only way that Bombshell resembles Marriage Story.
22:30: “Kayla is our emotional center. Kayla is the person we most identify with. And at the same time she’s the most unlike so many of the moviegoers who will go to see this film. So for me she’s always been the character who’s emotional journey is the truest to my own personal journey, having come from that world.”
32:00: Charles Randolph’s upcoming film with Robert De Niro… and about Gawker.
Bombshell, directed by Jay Roach, is in theaters Friday.