Alexis Bloom’s last film was for HBO with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Once that was complete, she decided to take on Roger Ailes, founder of Fox News. Where do you begin with someone like him? “The beginning,” Bloom says. Her aim was to try to understand him and how he became who he was.
From Bright Lights to Roger Ailes. That’s a big shift. Why Roger?
He’s important. We live in his world. He’s a fascinating figure and he’s human. As much as we want to make him a monster, he’s human. He is capable of monstrous acts and let me be clear on that, but he’s important and he’s fascinating. He’s weird and compelling in his own ways.
He’s a monster. You find that great balance in the doc. What’s your entry point to Roger given there’s so much out there on him. With him, where did you start?
I began by trying to understand who he is and how he became the ego-maniacal, power-hungry paranoid person at the end. You try to understand what made this man and what puts you on the path to becoming that. It’s a kind of parable. It’s a cautionary tale. It’s a parable of a great “Heavy” American. He was great and powerful. He was lauded and he was important. Everyone starts somewhere. So we started at the beginning. What made him vulnerable? What made him insecure? Who informed him? Who were his influences? You see the footprints in the sand and they get heavier, dug in, and finally, you have this colossal, ambitious, power-hungry person. Everyone starts somewhere. He started in Warren, Ohio.
Was there any particular person who guided you and suggested you look here?
We speak to so many people and we read everything about him and every newspaper article, every radio interview. I read some good books. I read and listened. I speak to people and branched out by asking if there was anyone they thought that I needed to speak to and branched out that way. It’s pure detective work and you’re on this forensic trail.
How did Fox News kickback, or not?
They were sealed. There was no guidance, no invitation and there was no kickback. They don’t welcome analysis.
What I found fascinating was how he was responsible for Trump and Nixon and you see his trail. What surprised you about him?
The depth of his paranoia was surprising to me. He carried a gun at all times. He had bulletproof glass in his office. He genuinely thought Obama was going to come and take him out by using the TSA of all things. He was deeply paranoid. It surprised me how much he had these self-created myths. He made stuff up about himself all the time. That someone with that power could be so fast and loose with the truth.
Then you look at Trump and see the same things, almost parallel to Roger in that sense.
He surprises me too. Trump surprises me. It’s a crazy level of what’s become of what’s acceptable. They’re so mainstream. Two years ago, it was unthinkable.
Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes is released on December 7