Roger Ailes Had 'The Loudest Voice' — Beth Ailes Had 'A Real Fierce Loyalty' | WGLT

Roger Ailes Had 'The Loudest Voice' — Beth Ailes Had 'A Real Fierce Loyalty'

Jun 27, 2019
Originally published on June 27, 2019 10:42 am

We know how the story ends: Roger Ailes, a titan of American media — the mastermind who built Fox News — was forced to step down in 2016, in the wake of sexual harassment accusations. He died a year later at age 77.

Now, the new Showtime series The Loudest Voice, offers a glimpse into how this story begins. It's based on the book by biographer Gabriel Sherman, and stars Russell Crowe as Roger Ailes.

Sienna Miller plays Beth Ailes, his wife of 20 years, who is by his side from the network's first broadcast, to allegations of sexual harassment.

"I think you'll be surprised at how charming in moments he comes across," Miller says. "I mean, this isn't some kind of takedown of Roger Ailes. It's really a look at the man who was incredibly successful — who really did change the world — and was very conflicted in many ways."

Miller spoke with NPR about what it was like to portray a woman living in her husband's shadow.


Interview Highlights

On what intrigued her about the role

So Beth is very religious, very devoted to her husband. ... It just felt like a very interesting story to kind of delve into at this moment in time — I think that was probably the most compelling aspect of wanting to do this. But also, to play someone completely different to myself and to have a look at the intimacies of that relationship.

On whether she reached out to speak to Beth Ailes

The producers had, and people had, and I knew that she was not willing to cooperate because I think it's a very personal story. I think obviously in light of all the harassment issues that happened just before he died, and in light of the fact that he so recently died, I think it's probably too raw. I can understand why she wouldn't want to be complicit in telling this story.

On the dynamic of their marriage

There was something that I noticed about the footage that I'd seen of her ... there was something quite childlike about her. I know that she'd lost her father very young. She was with this man, [Roger], who was significantly older than her. It was her second marriage — her first husband had been abusive. So, I think that was an aspect to their relationship which was to do with her feeling protected and safe. And I'm sure that Roger had the capacity of creating that for her. I did sense a fragility in her, and also, as you'll see as it goes on, there's kind of a real fierce loyalty towards him.

On Roger Ailes compartmentalizing his affection for his wife and preying on other women

I think that he was very able and adept at managing to separate his work life, and his extracurricular [sexual] activity, and his home life. And I think at home he was a very devoted and extremely loving husband. I think as things start to unravel inevitably Beth started to unravel, and that's understandable. But she still stood by him to the very end. ...

He grew up in a culture where that was just sort of "allowed." It's shocking to see. And many of his victims are devastated to have lost their careers as a result of not capitulating. You know, it's a mess. But in his mind, it was probably just, you know, "what men do." I'm very glad those days are changing.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

We know how the story of Roger Ailes ends. The man behind the rise of Fox News was forced to step down in 2016. He died a year later.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Roger Ailes, the man who built Fox News from the ground up, is out as top boss.

LESTER HOLT: In the wake of a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former Fox News anchor...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Roger Ailes has resigned effective immediately.

KING: Now a new show chronicles his ascent before his fall. The Showtime series "The Loudest Voice" is based on the book by biographer Gabriel Sherman and stars Russell Crowe as Roger Ailes.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LOUDEST VOICE")

RUSSEL CROWE: (As Roger Ailes) I'm just trying to make this network the best and most watchable it can be. And that's what everybody in this room - everybody - should be focused on.

KING: In "The Loudest Voice," everybody is focused on Roger Ailes, and that includes his wife. From the network's first broadcast to the sexual harassment allegations, Beth Ailes, who's played by Sienna Miller, is there by her husband's side. Rachel talked to Sienna Miller about playing a woman who lives in her husband's shadow.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Introduce us, if you will, to Elizabeth Ailes, known as Beth. What specifically drew you to her as a character?

SIENNA MILLER: So Beth is very religious, very devoted to her husband. And, I think, behind the kind of impact that this man had upon the world, there was this woman. So aside from the fact that it just felt like a very interesting story to kind of delve into at this moment in time, I think that was probably the most compelling aspect of wanting to do this. But also to play someone completely different to myself and to have a look at the intimacies of that relationship, I just found it intriguing.

MARTIN: Did you ever reach out to her when you were preparing for this role?

MILLER: You know, they - the producers had, and people had. And I knew that she was not willing to cooperate because I think it's a very personal story. I think, obviously, in light of all the kind of harassment issues that happened just before he died and in light of the fact that he so recently died, I think it's probably too raw. I don't - I can understand why she wouldn't want to be complicit in telling this story.

MARTIN: Their marriage is a central part of this story. And it is a complicated one, isn't it? There's a clip I want to play. This is of the two of them, Roger and Beth. They're out to dinner. And he has just been fired from CNBC - let go - and has started this new network or is about to start it. Beth, though, has just gotten a promotion at CNBC.

MILLER: (Laughter).

MARTIN: She turns him down. Let's listen to this exchange.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LOUDEST VOICE")

CROWE: (As Roger Ailes) Why don't you come work for Fox? You can get off that sinking ship.

MILLER: (As Beth Ailes) You know, since you left, I've been really running things, like, running the transition at MSNBC. I'm in charge.

CROWE: (As Roger Ailes) I've got to say, though, you know, you working for those [expletive] who fired me, it makes me feel like I'm losing. And I don't like to lose.

MILLER: (As Beth Ailes) You're not losing, Roger. You're definitely not losing me.

MARTIN: We get a little hint there of the power dynamic between the two. Ultimately, he does make her choose between her career and him. What kind of sacrifice was that, from what you know of her? I mean, what kind of career did she have?

MILLER: She was a pretty successful producer when they met. For me, that would be a big sacrifice and a compromise. At the same time, I think she saw the potential in him and saw that she could fulfill a role at home supporting him. She sort of saw the bigger picture, perhaps. At least, that's the way that I read it. And she wasn't wrong, you know? She definitely backed a winner.

MARTIN: How did you decide how to portray her? I mean, your Beth Ailes - it's not that she lacks conviction, but there is a fragility to her.

MILLER: Yeah. There was something that I noticed about the footage that I'd seen of her and from some conversations. There was something quite childlike about her. And I know that she'd lost her father very young. She was with this man who was significantly older than her. It was her second marriage. Her first husband had been abusive. So I think there was an aspect to their relationship which was to do with her feeling protected and safe. And I'm sure that Roger had the capacity of creating that for her. I - yeah, I did sense a fragility in her. And also, as you'll see as it goes on, there's kind of a real fierce loyalty towards him.

MARTIN: Even as we acknowledge that this is a fictionalized account, we do see the onscreen Roger Ailes, played brilliantly by Russell Crowe, engage in what we shall describe as extracurricular sexual activities.

MILLER: And I mean, it's not exactly a fictionalized account because it's based on a book that was based upon 600...

MARTIN: You're right - Gabriel Sherman's book, which was well-researched and...

MILLER: Yeah. I think a lot of people would say that it was - it could - a lot of it would be close to the truth.

MARTIN: So how does that affect your character? I mean, do we see her start to acknowledge that and come to terms with it?

MILLER: You know, I think that he was very able and adept at managing to separate his work life and his extracurricular activity and his home life. And I think at home, he was a very devoted and extremely loving husband. I think as things start to unravel, inevitably, Beth started to unravel. And that's understandable, but she still stood by him to the very end.

MARTIN: Because it's - and not just consensual sexual activities. I mean, he - we see him harassing women, making unwanted advances, preying upon young women who come looking for jobs, applying for jobs.

MILLER: Yes.

MARTIN: It sounds like he's able to compartmentalize.

MILLER: And I think - and to many degrees, he grew up in a culture where that was just sort of allowed. It's shocking to see. And many of his victims are devastated to have lost their careers as a result of not capitulating. You know, it's a mess. But in his mind, it was probably just, you know, what men do. I'm very glad those days are changing. But on the whole, I think it's - yeah, I think you'll be surprised at how charming in moments he comes across. I mean, this isn't some kind of takedown of Roger Ailes. It's really a look at the man who was incredibly successful, who really did change the world and was very conflicted in many ways.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXANDRE DESPLAT'S "MOLLY'S SOLITUDE")

MARTIN: The series is called "The Loudest Voice." It premieres Sunday on Showtime. It stars Sienna Miller. She plays Beth Ailes, the wife of Fox News founder, Roger Ailes.

Sienna, thank you so much for talking with us.

MILLER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXANDRE DESPLAT'S "MOLLY'S SOLITUDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.