Bombshell, the much-anticipated film about the takedown of former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes is finally in theaters, and it’s unsurprisingly already generating a lot of Academy Awards buzz (it’s already racked up two Golden Globes and four SAG Award nominations). Ever since Bombshell’s first teaser dropped back in August, people have been waiting to see the biographical drama highlighting the sexual misconduct allegations against Ailes and the implosive fallout it caused the network — and the world. While the film is based on real events that happened in 2016, Margot Robbie's Bombshell character isn't real.
Bombshell stars Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, the anchor host who initially filed a lawsuit against Ailes, Charlize Theron as anchor host Megyn Kelly who eventually came forward about her own experiences with Ailes, and Robbie, as the fictional Kayla Pospisil, an associate producer at Fox. Even though Kayla isn't an actual person, her story is real — collectively speaking.
Who Is Kayla Pospisil?
Kayla is a young producer who’s self-described as an “evangelical millennial.” Everything from her golden cross necklace to her immaculate, blonde blowout is supposed to emulate the kind of woman Fox News is known for putting front and center. She’s beautiful, devout (to God and the Republican party), and a true Fox News loyalist. Except she doesn’t quite check off all the unspoken Fox News boxes: It’s revealed Kayla is sexually involved with another woman (played by Kate McKinnon) on The O’Reilly Factor staff.
Kayla ends up having a one-on-one with Ailes (John Lithgow) to discuss her career path at Fox. Kayla makes the case that she'd be great on camera, and the Fox CEO responds by suggesting she “prove” her determination. Throughout the film, Kayla must grapple with the fact that a man with a lot of power, a person who’s the driving force behind a corporation she idolizes, sexually assaulted her. Does she come forward with the truth? Does she support Gretchen and stand by the countless other victims?
Is Kayla Based On A Real Person?
Kayla isn’t based on a single person’s experience, but is actually based on many people’s experience working at Fox News under Ailes, though, Kayla’s image is maybe-possibly based on Tomi Lahren, a 27-year-old right-leaning influencer who produced viral videos criticizing liberal politics. Lahren eventually joined the Fox team and now has her own talk show. But her story aligns with numerous Fox News staffers who ended up sharing their experiences anonymously with the Bombshell filmmakers (all employees signed non-disclosure agreement which prohibited them to go on-record about anything negative concerning their time at the network). Their accounts (about 20 of them in total) gave the Bombshell writers many clues into what was going on at Fox News and how people (primarily women) were treated under Ailes' leadership.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, one of the people who agreed to be interviewed for the film is former Fox News anchor, Juliet Huddy. Huddy met with screenwriter Charles Randolph at the Royalton Hotel in New York City to share her story. Although she signed an NDA in 2016 when she left the network, Huddy talked about her allegations against Bill O’Reilly, who she says sexually harassed her. (O'Reilly denied the claims and the case was settled out of court). Huddy stated, “I lost my house. My television career combusted, and I couldn’t get a job over a year. So come after me. I don’t have anything.” So far, Fox News hasn’t come after any of the former staffers who were interviewed about their experience.
Basically, Kayla may not be a real person, but her story calcifies one of the main themes in Bombshell: That many women say Fox News was a toxic workplace for women under Ailes.