Jay Roach on How ‘Bombshell’ Production Crew Re-Created Roger Ailes-Era Fox News

Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd Jay Roach Bombshell
Courtesy of Hilary B Gayle

Bombshell” is a fast-moving exploration of the oppressive atmosphere at Fox News in 2016, when Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and eventually, Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) brought down Roger Ailes. Considering more than 200 scenes were shot over 38 days, the film has an impressive runtime of 1:45. Director Jay Roach credits the work of his behind-the-camera colleagues for much of the speed and quality.

Barry Ackroyd, cinematographer

We shot almost every scene with two opposing cameras, sometimes three. Many DPs don’t like to shoot this way: They don’t want to light for multiple directions. Barry knows how to make it look great without ever compromising the lighting, and that’s tough. The actors are always on; they’re never off camera. Barry never wants a shot list. He doesn’t want to know where the actors will be; he wants to find and discover the moment. With the elevator scene, he found the timing among the three women [Kidman, Theron and Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil] — he discovered those moments. He’s in the dance with them.

Mark Ricker, production designer

We transformed downtown L.A. into New York. We took over multiple floors of the abandoned L.A. Times building, which doubled for News Corp. Mark did a ton of research. Fox News wouldn’t let us scout their offices. We had spies who would slip us inside-research photos. Set dresser Ellen Brill was invaluable.

I needed [360-degree] capabilities, to go down hallways and through doors. I needed background actors all the time; the frame is alive when you let background make noise. I told them, “Don’t mime.” Mark gave them a world where every cubicle, every key-
board, every detail was so real that the background people’s action felt that. It’s kind of a cinema vérité design.

His production design is very expressive — to reinforce the sense and the tension of the environment. That’s a huge deal to make it 360 and to get that feel.

Jon Poll, editor

There were 230 scenes and over 100 speaking parts. To get it down to 1 hour 45, that’s a major feat. We usually have a high shooting ratio. It’s about giving actors a lot of opportunities — to protect their performances and give the editor a chance to make choices so the story can expand and contract as it evolves. I wanted to keep things moving, so when you have moments like the three women in the elevator, or the scene of Kayla having her interview with Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), it gave a contrast, so that you could take your time.

Jon’s work ethic is so intense, and he has taste. He has a director’s instincts.

Kazu Hiro, Hiro Yada, Anne Morgan, Vivian Baker, Bill Corso,  hair and makeup 

Charlize and I talked a lot. She wanted to do makeup and prosthetics. I said, “You don’t need to do anything.” She said, “I know, but I worked hard on the accent, and I don’t want that coming out of my face. I want to go full tilt with Kazu.” She told him, “Go all the way. Just try it.”

With heavy makeup jobs, you have four things to consider: money, time, comfort and performance. You don’t want prosthetics interfering with any of those. Charlize and Megyn Kelly don’t have the same bone structure, and Kazu is a sculptor.  

John was just the opposite. He didn’t want prosthetics, though I did. I said, “Let’s try it.” When he did, John said, “I can see my face! It’s comfortable! I had no idea.” 

Colleen Atwood, costumes

Colleen created a fantastic lightweight fat suit for John. That’s not a small thing. I’ve worked with fat suits in the past, and they are hot and heavy, and they can mess with posture and gait. 

The dresses were tailor-made and perfect, and they clearly distinguish those three women from each other: Gretchen with her brighter colors; Megyn had more of a glamour  designer look; and Kayla transformed into Anchor Barbie.

Colleen embraced my idea of the cult of Roger, where skirt lengths were checked to make sure they were short enough. That’s what those women were up against; they were forced to conform to his standards.