Charlize Theron went to dark places to win an Oscar for portraying real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003’s Monster — but for the 44-year-old actress, playing controversial news personality Megyn Kelly in Bombshell was more of a struggle.
“This was harder,” Theron said while comparing the two experiences during a conversation following a screening of Bombshell on Sunday in New York City.
“She’s incredibly well known,” she continued. “I’ve never played anybody on that level. I’ve played real people that nobody knows about so there was less pressure when I did those.”
Theron, who also produced the Jay Roach-directed film, said she considered not playing Kelly when she was first approached with the material.
“Maybe there’s somebody out there who can do this better than you can,” she recalled thinking. “But I was just really scared too. I honestly knew her so superficially.”
Bombshell — which stars Theron as Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, and Margot Robbie as a Fox News worker — tells the story of the women who claim they were sexually harassed by former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, played by John Lithgow. Kelly and Carlson, both former employees of the network, claimed sexual harassment from Ailes during their careers.
In March, Theron said she had “empathy” for Kelly after playing her.
“I didn’t know how complicated her situation was,” Theron told Variety at the SXSW premiere of her movie Long Shot. “I think for a lot of people, they didn’t understand why she just didn’t speak up. She was in a complicated place, and as a human being, I have empathy for that. And I don’t think a lot of people truly understood that.”
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. Carlson and Kelly’s allegations, along with other women at the network, led to Ailes’ resignation from the company in July 2016.
Bombshell hits theaters December 20.