Russell Crowe on Portraying Roger Ailes, Fox News Being a "Money-Making Machine"

"A lot of things that you learn about Roger you have to take with a grain of salt because he was a very theatrical man," the actor said of the late Fox News founder, whom he portrays in the upcoming Showtime series 'The Loudest Voice.'
Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

Russell Crowe made a stop at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Thursday night, where he talked about becoming unrecognizable for Showtime’s upcoming series The Loudest Voice.

In Showtime's The Loudest Voice, the rise and fall of Roger Ailes are chronicled, with Crowe taking on the leading role of the late Fox News founder.  

After Colbert was quick to praise the actor for his "brilliant performance" as Ailes, Crowe detailed the tedious process he had to endure to transform into the controversial figure. 

"When we first started, the prosthetic process was 6 hours, but over time we got it down," the actor explained, later explaining that the quickest he was able to transform into character was two hours and 17 minutes.  

To take on the role of Ailes, Crowe had to wear two bald caps, a full neck piece and heavy prosthetic, which ultimately caused the actor to grow uncomfortably heated. 

"When you sweat, sooner or later as water has its will and way, it just starts to spurt out of you," he admitted. "You’ll be sitting and having a conversation and you can see in the eyes of the person you're talking to that something dramatic just happened." 

Colbert and Crowe then began discussing who Ailes truly was, despite being known as an abusive news pioneer. 

Crowe explained that the true identity of Ailes isn’t as known as people think. "We kind of tend to see him only in the context of Fox News," Crowe said, further describing Ailes as someone who loved the theatre, piano and show tunes. According to Crowe, Ailes also tried to be a Broadway producer. 

"A lot of things that you learn about Roger you have to take with a grain of salt because he was a very theatrical man." 

As for his intent on making sure everything looked good on camera, Crowe explained that the tactic wasn’t necessarily wrong.  When Colbert suggested that "truth be damned," Crowe corrected the late-night host and added, "truth has its place." "People don’t really want to be informed. They don’t want all the details. They just want to feel informed." 

Crowe went on to explain that Ailes hatched his plan for a conservative competitor to such networks including CNN and MSNBC because he noticed a bias in media.

He explained: "He simply wanted to create. If he hadn’t seen a certain bias in media then Fox News could’ve been the exact opposite. Outlets like CNN, NBC, etc. everyone had a left-leaning bent, so to him what was available was a conservative audience that was being underserved. And that proved to be very true because you now have one single news network that dominates half of the available audience." 

Colbert then asked whether Ailes "won,” to which Crowe commended Ailes for putting Fox News in an "incredible situation." 

"That’s a money-making machine. They make $2 billion a year in profit. That’s a hell of a thing when you think that news services began with the understanding that you would offer news as part of your broadcast but you did it from the perspective of not needing or requiring a profit.  The first network news were seen as a public service, and quite frankly I don’t know how we got away from that." 

Later on in the show, Crowe chatted about reuniting with a horse named George, which he rode in both his 2000 film Gladiator and his 2010 film Robin Hood. After reuniting with George, Crowe admitted he told the horse, "Do you realize we won an Academy Award?" 

Showtime's The Loudest Voice will premiere on June 30, starring Simon McBurney as Rupert Murdoch, Sienna Miller as Elizabeth Ailes, Crowe as Roger Ailes, Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson, Annabelle Wallis as Laurie Luhn and Seth MacFarlane as Brian Lewis.