Annapurna Pictures has dropped the untitled Fox News film focused on the scandal at the conservative-leaning network that led to the end of former chairman Roger Ailes’ career two weeks before it was to begin production, according to a person familiar with the project.
It was announced on Monday that Malcolm McDowell had been cast as Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch. But financing for the film didn’t come together for Annapurna. A person familiar with the project told TheWrap that there were budget issues. But the budget was approved by the studio as recently as last week, another person familiar with the project said, adding that there may be other issues at Annapurna beyond the budget.
Universal’s indie and foreign film arm Focus Features is in the mix to pick up the film, as well as Amblin and Participant Media.
Canadian-based Bron Studios, responsible for such films as “Fences” and the upcoming “The Front Runner” will likely co-finance production. The production budget on the film is said to be north of $35 million. Annapurna would no longer have any involvement with the film.
The project would likely move studios as is, with “The Big Short” writer Charles Randolph penning the script and Jay Roach (“Game Change,” “Trumbo”) set to direct.
The film touts an ensemble of top actors portraying the people involved at Fox News during Ailes’ tenure. John Lithgow was cast as the infamous Ailes alongside Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman playing former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, and Margot Robbie in a fictional role of an associate producer. Kate McKinnon and Allison Janney had also recently joined the cast.
The film was expected to tell the story of the Fox News sexual harassment scandal from the point of view of the women who took on the toxic male culture of Fox News, ultimately leading to Ailes’ downfall.
Ailes resigned from Fox News in 2016 after Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit that resulted in multiple women coming forward with similar claims. At the time, Ailes was considered the mastermind behind the success of Fox News and one of the most powerful men in both media and American politics.
Roach, Randolph and Lighthouse Management and Media’s Margaret Media were all on board to produce.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news.