A new, young audience is eager to get to know the actress, and after a decade of being righteously misunderstood, she is finally ready to let them.
Megan Fox is lying on the floor in front of me showing a group of people just how flexible she is. On command, she contorts herself so that her foot is flat on the ground next to her head. She looks at the photographer who is documenting this moment and relaxes her face into the perfect pout. A second later, I watch as she springs up and walks over to a monitor showing photos to see just how this bizarre position looks. “That’s fucking sick,” she yells, pointing her impossibly long and perfectly manicured fingernail at the screen, “let’s keep trying.” She runs back to the set and lays down on the floor, bringing her leg back so far it looks like her foot belongs to someone else.
The entire day I spent with her on set, she was like this — willing to be playful but serious about the image she was putting out. There was also palpable confidence coming from her that I may have expected from the Megan Fox I watched in movies like Jennifer’s Body or Transformers, but I wasn’t sure what I would get from her now. In the last year, Fox went from a decade of self-imposed hiding to being completely back in the spotlight with two upcoming movies, a fresh divorce, and a new, very public relationship with Colson Baker A.K.A. Machine Gun Kelly.
While we can all recognize some version of what it’s like to emerge from hibernation in the midst of the pandemic, what she is doing right now is something completely different.
Before she arrived, I was preparing for her to be somewhat reserved, especially given her sordid past with the media. The reemergence she is experiencing is in part due to the revisionist history that we saw take over the internet in 2020. Many people (who were very online for months on end) began to reacquaint themselves with a thorny and particularly gross period of young female stardom that emerged in the late ’90s and early 2000s. The consensus was that most of us not only condoned the invasive behavior of the media because of some voyeuristic desire to watch another person fail but we also participated in treating young female celebrities like they were circus acts. Although people like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan get the most frequent citations when we think about the invasive paparazzi mania, the salacious headlines, and the often sexist interviews; Fox was there too, and it changed the course of her life.
“It is a little bit like being a phoenix, like being resurrected from the ashes,” she tells me as we sit down together in the dimly lit hair and makeup room. Her legs are folded up on a tall stool, and she doesn’t have a shirt on, just a black lacy bralette that she picked from a rack of tank tops and sweatshirts, a pair of flared Merlette leggings, and UGG slippers. There was nothing pretentious about what she was wearing; she looked soft and comfortable folded up in that chair, but there was an element of resistance and ownership that spoke to where she’s been and who she is now. It’s reminiscent of the change in her style we’ve seen on red carpet appearances this year. Her Barbie pink jumpsuit at the iHeartRadio Music Awards and a flossy Mugler dress at the Billboard Awards were the subject of a week’s worth of headlines that she not only embraced but knew would happen.
“I was brought out and stoned and murdered at one point,” she says referring to the last decade of her career. “And then suddenly everybody’s like, ‘Wait a second. We shouldn’t have done that. Let’s bring her back.'” She went on to say that she was never looking for validation from anyone because she knew she had been wronged. Having what happened to her career be rehashed in a way that is sympathetic is simply helping her let go of the way she was treated after she spoke up about her experiences in the early 2010s.
During that period, she was very publicly not hired back for the second Transformers movie — allegedly a directive from Stephen Spielberg, though he denied this — after she called Michael Bay “Napoleon” and compared him to Hitler in a 2009 interview. She was also constantly battling the sexist criticism around every role she took and public appearance she made. In 2011, a then-25-year-old Fox posted a Facebook album titled “Things You Can’t Do With Your Face When You Have Botox,” and filled it with pictures of herself furrowing her brow to combat rumors about her having plastic surgery. It shouldn’t have mattered either way but her looks and her outspokenness had become the go-to fodder no matter what she did.
“I had to armor up so much inside myself and I had to be so tough to have to process this really crazy-heavy price for what I thought was doing the right thing,” she said.
Hindsight is a really interesting part of the public’s current view of Fox. Especially because some of her movies, which are now raised up on pedestals by a cult-like following on TikTok, were box-office flops when they first came out. Jennifer’s Body, in particular, is one that has seen a new generation of young, queer women praising the film for its perfect mix of camp, drama and, feminism. The velour heart hoodie that her character wears is now made by brands like Dolls Kill and sells out by the week. When it was initially released, however, it was bashed by pretentious male critics who were looking for a way to put down a movie that gave sinister power to a woman who understands her own sexuality. “If you’re in search for a way to ogle Megan Fox’s body, there are a lot better ways to do it than subjecting yourself to this,” one critic wrote, suggesting exactly what she feared would happen when she decided to star in the movie.
“I think the men [the studio] tried to market to were confused,” she explained.
She went on to say that one scene in particular, in which Jennifer and Anita (Amanda Seyfried) make out, was something she was very worried they would try and push toward those very same ogling men the critic spoke of. “That was a real thing that goes on with teenage girls that are discovering their sexuality, and sometimes that’s discovering that they love other girls,” she explained. “It’s not like that [kissing] scene was even particularly sexual for men. It was more so for any woman who’s ever thought, ‘I really love my best friend, and I don’t necessarily know what that means, but I’m going to figure it out.'”
“I realized that I had been living in a self-imposed prison for so long because I let other people tell me who I was or what I wasn’t.”
The way this movie has been resurrected on social media in the last year has a direct correlation to Fox’s real life. Soon after the movie was released, she retreated — she was no longer interested in fighting off the constant misunderstanding around her. “I had to adopt a belief system that only I was going to take care of myself and be there for myself because I was constantly going to be outcast or rejected,” she says matter-of-factly. In the 10 years since then, based solely on the headlines around her, Fox’s life could have been boiled down simply. She married 90210 star Brian Austin Green, the couple had three children — Noah, 8; Bodhi, 7; and Journey, 4 — and remained relatively out of the spotlight with the biggest parts of her acting career behind her.
Then in 2020, something changed, and it felt completely random for those of us who weren’t paying attention. Fox and Green announced they were getting a divorce, and suddenly people were interested in what had happened to her during all these years and what this new, single chapter might look like in the post-#MeToo Hollywood era.
For Fox, the moment of change came from an epiphany or a “change in my psychology,” as she described it when she was in South Africa filming her 2020 film Rogue. “I took all my crystals, and I set up my little temple inside my room. I turned on this massive TV, and Jonah Hex was on, which got panned in the press. It was supposed to be terrible,” she tells me through a laugh. Jonah Hex is another movie that is currently being resurrected by TikTokers praising Fox’s role in it. The hashtag has 13 million views and most of the videos are just fan cam scenes of her. “I had never even watched it because the other actors told me not to. I mean, I got crucified for that movie, just brutalized in the reviews. But something came over me, and I said, fuck it, I’m going to be brave and watch it.” When she did, she realized the criticism was probably overblown and a product of the culture that was looking for her to fail. Hilariously, one of the biggest critiques was her southern accent. Fox is from Tennessee.
“I had this incredible breakthrough, and I realized that I had been living in a self-imposed prison for so long because I let other people tell me who I was or what I wasn’t. I hid because I was hurt.”
When she said that last sentence, the difference between who the tabloids and critics told us Megan Fox is, and the actual person she’s been this whole time became more apparent than ever. It’s so easy to write off the cruel way we talked about famous women as something that shouldn’t have stuck. They are rich, they are attractive, they have so many resources that most of us could never dream of. But it’s heavier than money or fame. The person sitting across from me was trying to figure out how to come back from a decade of being so righteously misunderstood with a new audience of people who are finally willing to listen to her tell us who she is.
“That night, I stayed up and promised myself that I would never live one more day of my life from fear. I came home, and my whole life changed. I got a divorce and I started working more and doing more things. I ended up meeting Colson, and then literally everything exploded from there.”
There’s no doubt that nostalgia for the 2000s, and a newly found soft spot for its misunderstood starlets, is part of why Fox’s name is back in the headlines, but there is, of course, an elephant in the room … a super tall, tattooed one named Colson Baker who was in the actual room with us. In the middle of our shoot, Baker walked in wearing a pair of black shorts covered in chains, he had two different Doc Marten platform shoes on his feet, one white and one black, and his nail polish matched his outfit. I asked him if the polish was from his new line, and he said he was just testing something out. At 6-foot-4 he has a commanding presence; everyone knew he was there when he walked in and turned to him, but he beelined straight for Fox. She lit up when she saw him.
“I don’t think people get the opportunity to believe in real, great love, and that’s what we have together.” – MACHINE GUN KELLY ON MEGAN FOX
The pair met while filming Midnight in the Switchgrass and instantly hit it off, though Fox clarified that she hadn’t met him before she filed for divorce from Green and made sure to note that he had “nothing to do with it.” At one point I saw him grab her hand and start slow dancing with her in the corner as Childish Gambino’s “Daylight” bumped through the speakers. Even for a cynic, it was undeniably sweet. When she was on set posing in an Area corset, he looked at the monitor saying “wow” repeatedly. It made her smile but also made her shy in a way that I can only compare to that vulnerable feeling you get when someone watches you take a selfie.
“She’s like the earth,” he told me. It was a more poetic response to the simple question, “What’s she like?” than I expected.
“When it’s summer, it’s the hottest summer. When it’s winter, it’s the most amazing chill. In the fall and spring, it’s a beautiful transition. She is unlike any person I have ever met in my life,” he explained, after Fox flirtatiously shooed him away from set because his constant ‘wow’ reactions made her feel a bit too exposed. “I just want people to understand this is real,” he added. “I don’t think people get the opportunity to believe in real, great love, and that’s what we have together.”
The frequent headlines about their relationship don’t seem to matter all that much to them. As Baker put it, they are committed to each other on a “different level” and clearly in love — like that dance in the corner, there are so many times throughout the hour that they steal moments together. I would look away for one second just to find them back next to each other like no one else was around. Still, though, there is some familiar sexist trolling that has come as a result of their public appearances. “There’s so much judgment,” Fox tells me as we enter the final minutes of the eight-hour day working. She says people will ask her, “Where are your kids?” every time she’s seen on a red carpet or the back of Baker’s motorcycle.
“Do you ask their dad when he’s out?” she asks, mimicking the judgmental tone I’m sure her critics lob her way.
Though I thought it was rhetorical, she makes sure to answer, almost as though she’s speaking directly to the hordes of anonymous mom-shamers attempting to make her out to be a bad parent. “No, because you don’t expect a dad to be with the kids all the time, but I’m supposed to not be seen and be at home with my kids. They have another parent. I have to leave and sometimes I don’t want them photographed and they don’t come with me. This whole year I’ve been very surprised by how archaic some of the mindsets still are in some people.” Notably, Baker has a child as well (an 11-year-old daughter, Casie, with his ex-girlfriend Emma Cannon), and pearl-clutching observers and headlines never seem to ask him those same questions.
Fox has also faced ridiculous criticism about their four-year age gap; she is 35, and Baker is 31. “You want to talk about patriarchy?,” she asks, giving me an ‘I know you do’ look. “The fact that he’s four years younger than me, and people want to act like I’m dating a younger man. He’s 31, and I’m 35. Granted, he’s lived like he’s 19 his whole life, but he isn’t 19. No one would blink twice if George Clooney was dating someone four years younger.” Then she added what I’ve come to realize is her signature flourish to this sermon and it’s something that I think most women in Hollywood would have given a standing ovation to. “Four years? Go fuck yourself. We would have been in high school together. That’s so ridiculous that women are treated that way.”
Her expletives are not just reserved for people being sexist toward her and other women in the workplace; she also has a strong helping of them for the people who want to treat her family with disrespect. When I ask her about her kids, Fox does something women are told constantly to avoid in professional settings: She cried. At first, she apologized for her emotions but then immediately stopped herself and went on with what she was saying. Like her epiphany around her career, she acknowledged there’s no need to hold back a feeling just because of some arbitrary behavioral rule set out for women. And when it comes to her “babies,” all that matters is protecting them, especially her oldest, 8-year-old Noah, who has been subject to “mean, awful people and cruel people,” online. “I don’t want him to ever have to read that shit because he hears it from little kids at his own school who are like, ‘Boys don’t wear dresses,'” she says.
Fox, of all people, understands the need to shield herself from the horrors of being famous in public, going so far as to remove herself entirely for a decade. But don’t expect her return to the big screen to be a carefully plotted, Oscar-baiting road now.
“I always get people saying, ‘Nobody looks better covered in blood,'” she joked when I asked her why she took her latest role in the horror film Til Death. She then adds in all seriousness that it was a “good transition movie” for people to see her as a real adult, not just the girl everyone remembers playing a mean teen in movies with the Olsen twins and Lindsay Lohan. In this film, Fox plays a woman whose husband has put her in a physical and psychological trap. It’s certainly more mature than the movies of her past and deals with domestic violence and adultery. Sort of like her real life, its focus is on a woman taking back her power.
After this summer, Fox is ready to make moves. She knows she’s on a track but is still trying to figure out what she wants next. “I should probably start manifesting,” she said. “I won’t lie, I do want to find a Marvel or a DC character that I’ve always wanted to play, and do one of those.”
I shake my head in the affirmative and she gives me a sort of knowing smile back. “People hate on you as an actor for that because it doesn’t get you the big awards. I don’t give a fuck. Give me an MTV award. I don’t need a fucking BAFTA.”
It was a good note on which to end our interview, because her response came out of her mouth without any artifice, every single question met with a brutally honest answer. She’s the author of her story now.
“If you ain’t killed me yet, you’re not going to kill me,” she finished.
And I believe her.