The architect: An unrecognizable Russell Crowe is 'The Loudest Voice'

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Francis Babin / TV Media
The cast of "The Loudest Voice"

The cast of "The Loudest Voice"

Every now and then, a subject becomes a hot topic in Hollywood. For some reason, multiple people sometimes have the same idea around the same time, resulting in television series and films with very similar plots being released close together. There are countless examples of these twin projects (see 1998's "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon") with many more on the way in the near future.

The final years of former chairman and CEO of Fox News Roger Ailes is the subject of dueling 2019 productions. Jay Roach's ("All the Way," 2016) upcoming film "Fair and Balanced" and Showtime's series "The Loudest Voice" dig deep into the life of the highly influential and controversial figure. On Sunday, June 30, witness the rise and fall of one of the most powerful men in America with the premiere of "The Loudest Voice."

For decades, big-screen A-listers did not cross over to the small screen, and television stars rarely made the leap to features. A movie star working television gigs was often a sign of the end of a bankable career, but things have changed a lot now that we've entered the era of "peak TV." Nowadays, it's a common sight to see major film stars on HBO, Netflix or even basic cable. With that said, it's still newsworthy when Academy Award winners make the transition.

"The Loudest Voice" is headlined by an almost unrecognizable Russell Crowe ("Gladiator," 2000) as Roger Ailes, with Sienna Miller ("The Lost City of Z," 2016) as Beth Ailes, ex-wife of the media giant, and Naomi Watts ("Gypsy") as Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor. Rounding out the cast are Seth MacFarlane ("The Orville"), Annabelle Wallis ("Peaky Blinders"), Simon McBurney ("Rev."), Josh Charles ("The Good Wife") and Aleksa Palladino ("Boardwalk Empire").

Based on the 2014 bestselling book "The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News — and Divided a Country" by Gabriel Sherman, the seven-episode miniseries focuses on the last decade of Ailes' life, but it includes flashbacks to his earlier days as a television executive and media consultant. To understand the current political climate in the United States, we must understand the man who helped shaped our present reality. The Showtime bio outlines the genesis of Fox News — a fateful encounter with Richard Nixon on the set of "The Mike Douglas Show" — as well as the allegations of sexual misconduct and settlements that brought down Ailes.

In 2016, multiple women came forward claiming Ailes had sexually harassed them after former "Fox & Friends" co-host and host of "The Real Story" Gretchen Carlson filed suit against her old boss. In the wake of these allegations, many sordid details about Fox News's toxic corporate culture were released to a largely unsurprised public. Under Ailes' tyrannical leadership, Fox News became a television powerhouse, but for many employees, working there was a nightmare. 

Sienna Miller in a scene from "The Loudest Voice"

Sienna Miller in a scene from "The Loudest Voice"

The miniseries hails from Blumhouse productions, which is responsible for the wildly popular horror films "Get Out," (2017), "Insidious" (2010) and its sequels, the "Paranormal Activity" franchise (2007 to 2015) and many more hits. Recently, the company has started to branch out with non-horror television projects like last year's lauded "Sharp Objects." With that said, the company's creations still have a tinge of horror to them, just not in what might be considered the traditional way. Co-president of Blumhouse Television Marci Wiseman stated at the ATX Television Festival in Austin earlier this year, "It's not just horror, but what's horrifying."

"The Loudest Voice" takes viewers behind the scenes into a world where winning is everything, and where horrifying acts go unpunished. The spotlight shines brightest on those in power who acted with impunity and those who helped cover up everything.

The scenes between our two leads are uncomfortable and claustrophobic, but thankfully the filming of them was anything but. "The Loudest Voice" marks a reunion between Crowe and Watts, who worked together all the way back in the early 1990s in the Australian miniseries "Brides of Christ." Crowe told Entertainment Weekly that he had a fabulous time working with his fellow Aussie and longtime friend: "The last time I was on a show with Naomi, it was way back. We didn't really do that much work together on the show, but we've known each other for a long time."

Next year marks a major milestone in the history of television. On June 1, 1980, the Cable News Network (CNN) launched and forever changed the way in which we interact with the news. In its wake, many 24-hour news networks were launched, each trying to replicate the success of the Atlanta-based network. 

Fox News took to the airwaves in 1996, and the media landscape has never been the same. Since then, the reigning king of cable news has transformed itself into one of the most powerful entities in the world. Regardless of your views of the network, its cultural dominance is undeniable, and this transformation would never have been possible without Roger Ailes' leadership.

On Sunday, June 30, witness the birth of Fox News, the ugly accusations that brought down Ailes and everything in between in the premiere of "The Loudest Voice," on Showtime.