In a new interview with The New York Times, Theron, 44, admits it was weird telling her friends she was set to play the news anchor. Bombshell — which stars Theron as Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, and Margot Robbie as a fictional Fox News employee — tracks the fall of former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), after Kelly and Carlson accuse him of sexual harassment.
“It was definitely awkward,” Theron recalled of telling friends about her next role. “In a weird way, the judgment she gets from a lot of people, I felt on me a little bit. But up until four weeks into shooting, I was still grappling with who she was as a person, and it wasn’t until I really zeroed in on that year and a half of the story that I could actually defend her.”
The movie takes place during the time where allegations were being lobbied at Ailes, and Kelly was facing constant harassment from then-president candidate Donald Trump and his followers. The news anchor eventually left Fox News to host her own hour of the Today show, but it was short lived after Kelly faced backlash for controversial comments.
“There are things she has said that I’ve definitely had issues with, but it doesn’t invalidate how I feel about her struggle,” Theron said of Kelly. “Avoiding all of that stuff to get an emotional arc out of her character, I just didn’t want to be a part of that.”
She continued, “By the way, if this was a movie about me — and I hope nobody ever does one — it would be filled with flaws and mistakes, and I wouldn’t want somebody to take those things away. I really do believe that what she and those women went through was messed up, even though they work for a network that I highly have issues with.”
Theron has been open about her struggle to come to terms with playing Kelly, and gave more insight into her decision to go ahead with the role during a post-screening discussion in New York City in October.
“I admit fully that there were some things that bothered me that I had to work on… through getting to know her through research,” the Oscar winner said.
“You forget sometimes, all of us do this, we tend to live in this world where we think we know people. As an actor you have to have the ability to put all of that aside,” she continued. “What the story was was really just this year at Fox. We weren’t telling a biography. This isn’t the Megyn Kelly story. Once I got past that, this year of her life was incredibly interesting and felt to me like a story worth telling.”
In her 2016 memoir Settle for More, Kelly detailed the sexual harassment she said she endured while working for Ailes. He was accused of similar behavior by numerous women at Fox News, which he vehemently denied until his death in May 2017.
Bombshell is in theaters Dec. 13.