John Lithgow will play Roger Ailes, the Fox News chief who masterfully exploited the country’s political divisions to rise to the top of the cable news heap, in Annapurna’s upcoming drama about the sexual harassment scandal that ended his career.
The Tony and Emmy winner joins a cast of heavyweights that includes Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, and Charlize Theron. The currently untitled film focuses on Ailes’ downfall, zeroing in on a group of female employees who bucked the culture of sexism at the network to oust the news baron from power. Kidman will play Gretchen Carlson, the Fox News anchor who sued Ailes for harassment in July 2016, and Charlize Theron will portray Megyn Kelly, a star at the network whose decision to go public with her own story of abuse was seen as a key turning point. Robbie’s character is said to be a fictional Fox News associate producer. Ailes was fired from Fox News within weeks of Carlson’s suit and after several more women came forward with similar allegations of sexual misconduct. He died roughly a year later at the age of 77. The film is written by Academy-Award winner Charles Randolph (“The Big Short”) and is directed by Jay Roach (“Trumbo”).
This isn’t the only Ailes-related project that’s scheduled to debut soon. Russell Crowe will play the Fox News founder in Showtime’s adaptation of Gabriel Sherman’s book “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” The limited series will be more focused on Ailes’ career and life story, whereas the Annapurna film is centered on the whistle-blowers. It will be told from the point-of-view of these women, not Ailes. Both projects will arrive as issues of workplace safety and harassment are front-and-center in the entertainment industry. After all, it’s easy to draw a line from Ailes to the toppling of other alleged abusers such as Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, and Russell Simmons.
Lithgow’s credits include Oscar-nominated turns in “Terms of Endearment” and “The World According to Garp,” along with villainous roles in the likes of “Cliffhanger” and “Raising Cain.” He will next appear in the Mindy Kaling comedy “Late Night” and “Pet Sematary,” an adaptation of the Stephen King novel.
Lithgow recently scored an Emmy for his work as Winston Churchill in Netflix’s “The Crown,” and previously picked up the same honor for “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “Dexter.” On stage, Lithgow won Tonys for “Sweet Smell of Success” and “The Changing Room.” Last winter, he appeared on Broadway in the one-man show “John Lithgow: Stories by Heart.”
Annapurna, which previously backed the likes of “Detroit” and “The Phantom Thread,” is producing the film along with Theron, Beth Kono, and AJ Dix of Denver and Delilah. Roach, Randolph and and Margaret Riley of Lighthouse Media and Management are also producing.
Lithgow is repped by UTA, Anonymous Content and attorney Walter Teller.