Michael Shannon says he’d never play our sitting president, but another thespian Hollywood has always loved to cast as a bad guy is slated to play someone nearly as evil. The legendary John Lithgow, Variety reports, will be taking the role of no less than Roger Ailes, the late, disgraced media mogul who turned Fox News into what it is today. It will take a whole heaping lot of empathy for Lithgow to get into that skin. (Ditto some extensive jowl make-up.)
The as-yet-untitled film is all about Fox News, and it will delve deep into Ailes’ serial sexual harassment of his female staffers. As reported earlier this month, Nicole Kidman will play Gretchen Carlson, the anchor whose accusations against the network titan knocked the first domino that led to his departure, right before he left this mortal coil as well, while Charlize Theron will take on Megyn Kelly, another of Ailes’ alleged victims. Margot Robbie is also on board, presumably to play another of the network’s army of blondes.
These days Lithgow has mostly (though not exclusively) been playing kind characters, from the nice grandpa in Interstellar to the touchy-feely, uh, grandpa opposite Mel Gibson in Daddy’s Home 2. Lithgow also recently won an Emmy for playing Winston Churchill — who wasn’t exactly kind but was no villain — on The Crown. The actor first made his name, though, with playing psychos and weirdos, from Brian De Palma’s Blow Out to the dastardly (and heavily Italian-accented) Dr. Lizardo in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension to the dance-hating minister in Footloose. And who can forget when he ripped off Kris Kringle in 1985’s Santa Claus: The Movie, which ends with him flying into outer space?
Lithgow was, of course, always more than a bad guy. A theater rat before he was a movie star, he’s always been as home with villainy as he was playing nice, in movies like Terms of Endearment and The World According to Garp, in which he gave us one of Hollywood’s first positive portrayals of a trans character. His turn as an aging New Yorker forcibly separated from his husband (Alfred Molina) in 2014’s Love is Strange is one of the actor’s gentlest, most heartbreaking screen turns.
And now enjoy this classic scene of Lithgow losing his mind from the aforementioned Buckaroo Banzai: