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At a time when Fox News continues to be in the spotlight for its coverage of the border controversy, Showtime and Russell Crowe are poised to put the spotlight on its controversial founder, Roger Ailes.
The CBS-owned premium cable network has tapped the Oscar-winning actor to star in an eight-episode limited series about Ailes. The miniseries is based on Gabriel Sherman’s extensive reporting and best-selling book, The Loudest Voice in the Room.
Sherman, who interviewed more than 600 people for his book, co-wrote the pilot alongside Tom McCarthy, who is no stranger to exploring journalism onscreen after winning an Oscar for Spotlight. The project is being executive produced by Emmy winner Jason Blum and is a co-production between Showtime and Blum’s Blumhouse Television.
“In many ways, the collision between the media and politics has come to define the world we live in today,” Showtime CEO David Nevins said Monday in a statement, comparing the series to Orson Welles’ exploration of William Randolph Hearst in 1941’s Citizen Kane. “We’ve seen this phenomenon depicted on screen as far back as the story of Charles Foster Kane, and it finds contemporary embodiment in the rise and fall of Roger Ailes. With Russell Crowe in the lead role, this limited series promises to be a defining story for this era.”
The untitled Ailes miniseries was first announced in October 2016, when Blumhouse launched its TV studio. The project landed at Showtime in April 2017. Here’s how Showtime describes the mini: “In today’s politically charged media landscape, no figure looms larger, even after his passing, than Roger Ailes, molding Fox News into a force that irrevocably changed the conversation about the highest levels of government. To understand the events that led to the rise of Donald Trump, one must understand Ailes. The upcoming limited series takes on that challenge, focusing primarily on the past decade in which Ailes arguably became the Republican party’s de facto leader, while flashing back to defining events in Ailes’ life, including an initial meeting with Richard Nixon on the set of The Mike Douglas Show that gave birth to Ailes’ political career and the sexual harassment accusations and settlements that brought his Fox News reign to an end. Told through multiple points of view, the limited series aims to shed light on the psychology that drives the political process from the top down.”
McCarthy, who earned an Oscar for co-writing Spotlight and was also nominated for its direction, will executive produce alongside Blum, Alex Metcalf, Marci Wiseman and Jeremy Gold for Blumhouse TV, which optioned Sherman’s book and brought the project to Showtime. The indie studio will manage physical production on the series, which will use Loudest Voice in the Room as its primary source material.
For his part, Crowe has been Oscar-nominated three times for best actor and won for Gladiator. His credits include A Beautiful Mind, The Insider, L.A. Confidential, Master and Commander and Les Miserables. Crowe is repped by WME.
Showtime’s Ailes mini arrives as Fox News finds its coverage of President Trump’s immigration policy front and center in the press, with multiple Fox-based showrunners, producers and stars expressing their disdain for the corporate sibling.
Ailes resigned as Fox News CEO in summer 2016 in the wake of numerous sexual harassment allegations. He helped launch the careers of TV news figures including Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly and other right-leaning hosts. Fox News continues to be Fox’s most profitable asset in Rupert Murdoch’s conglomerate, earning more than $1 billion annually.
Ailes, who died in May 2017 at the age of 77, continues to be fodder for both the big and small screen. Charlize Theron and director Jay Roach are teaming with Annapurna for an Ailes-focused feature film, with the actress-producer set to portray Kelly.
For Blumhouse, the series arrives as the company is poised to launch the Amy Adams-led limited series Sharp Objects in July on Showtime rival HBO. The company’s TV credits include HBO’s The Normal Heart and USA Network/Syfy’s forthcoming Purge series.
McCarthy, whose TV credits also include Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, is repped by Gersh.
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