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The Fantastic Ms. Foxby Andrew Myers | Manhattan magazine | February 22, 2012
Megan Fox is a superhero. Not the reptile-under-the-removable-human-shell variety—think species Superwoman, complete with celestial looks and the power to render most males speechless with one glance. This is incontrovertible, incontestable, indisputable. So why hasn’t the idea-ravenous pack of Hollywood producers, studio chiefs, packaging agents and imaginators in coffee shops across the scribe universe figured this out? How have they missed the myriad clues?
Let’s start at the beginning. Megan Denise Fox was born (or crash-landed) in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on May 16, 1986. Alongside her sister Kristi, older by 12 years, Fox was raised in a strict domestic environment. Until about age 10, she attended a Pentecostal church complete with snake handling and revivals; as a little girl, she found escape in the Old and New Testaments, awed and entertained by the parting of seas, the plagues of locusts, and the many and varied fights and flights. “That passed for pop culture in our house,” Fox says, adding that the stories helped to initiate a lifelong interest in religions, and specifically in Christianity. “I’ve always been intrigued and repulsed by how divisive and hateful different Christian denominations are to one another despite their obvious commonalities and interconnections,” she says. Religion remains a central pillar in Fox’s life; she regularly attends an L.A. church that she says is “not judgmental, does not close its doors to anybody, and has a young, active, passionate congregation, which is how I like to experience church.”
Paradoxically, considering the many prohibitions she faced, Fox was allowed to perform from a very early age. She began dance class at the community center in nearby Kingston, Tenn., and created private re-characterizations of Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz (Judy Garland was her childhood film idol). Her parents divorced when she was 5, and by the time Fox was 10, her mother Darlene had remarried and the family moved to Port St. Lucie, a small city on Florida’s Atlantic coast within easy driving distance of a much bigger stage: Miami. “It was close enough to pursue catalog modeling,” she says. “I started getting jobs quickly.” Fox has used adjectives like “abrasive,” “loner” and even “obnoxious” to describe herself during this period, and between ages 10 and 16 she was constantly grounded for transgressions that ranged from sneaking out of the house to “borrowing” the car long before she had a license.
“I was never the pretty girl,” says Fox, who had braces, was known to dye her hair orange and who often felt picked on and ostracized. Never mind that she is currently the worldwide face of Giorgio Armani’s beauty, fragrance and skincare campaigns, and has graced the covers of fashion glossies including Elle, Allure andHarper’s Bazaar and laddie mags like GQ, Esquire and Maxim. “I’ll fight to death for something I believe in, and I’ll be completely honest—even when being completely honest is maybe not the wisest way to be,” Fox says, adding that as she’s matured, she’s learned to hold back. “I’ve learned you can do yourself a disservice by being too honest too quickly,” she explains.
Nevertheless, for Fox, the proverbial stars fell into alignment. In what reads like a pre-World War II picture starring Ms. Garland, Fox’s modeling agent introduced her to a talent manager who booked her on small acting jobs.
The biggest of those gigs—a three-day stint as an extra during the Miami filming of Bad Boys II—came when Fox was just 15. Before turning 16, she had not only left high school and earned her diploma via a correspondence program, but she had also moved to Southern California. “It was the deal I’d made with my mom: I had to have a real diploma before she would allow me to drop out of Christian school and move to Los Angeles,” says Fox. “I think she’d dealt with me for so long she just accepted what was going to happen was going to happen,” she noted in a June 2009 interview with David Letterman. But her mother was also supportive, moving cross-country with Fox and settling them both into the Oakwood Apartments.
Fox was fast out of the gate professionally, working on what she calls “small things, or pilots that didn’t make it into shows,” and in short order was cast as Carla Santini, starring alongside Lindsay Lohan in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (released in 2004), which allowed Fox to meet the requirements of another mother-daughter pact: As soon as she could pay her own rent, she could live alone.
Once she was on her own, Fox began a professional sprint. On the ABC sitcom Hope & Faith, she played Sydney Shanowski for two seasons and, at age 18, met her future husband, former Beverly Hills, 90210 star Brian Austin Green, during a cameo in which he played himself. “I was too young to remember Beverly Hills, so I didn’t know who he was. But I knew I was instantly in love,” Fox says (they married in 2010). Next came her breakout role as Mikaela Banes in Transformers, which reportedly earned more than $700 million. A sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, followed in 2009, as did a host of other movies in disparate genres—How to Lose Friends & Alienate People in 2008, Jennifer’s Body in 2009, Jonah Hex in 2010 and last year’s Passion Play. “I always try to choose something different than what I’ve done before,” she notes, and has also stated in prior interviews that the director and fellow cast members also rank high in her selection criteria.
Fox says, “I’d rather be with good people in a bad movie than the other way around,” but that wish is rendered moot in her upcoming Friends With Kids. An ensemble comedy by actor-writer-director-producer Jennifer Westfeldt (perhaps best known for 2002’s Kissing Jessica Stein), the plot centers on two 30-something best friends who decide to have a child together while keeping their relationship platonic in order to avoid the price that puke and poo exacts on a romantic relationship. Life-changing curveballs ensue, and Fox, who becomes baby-daddy Adam Scott’s red-hot professional-dancer girlfriend, is one of those curves. “Most of the cast knew each other very well already—Kristen [Wiig] and Maya [Rudolph] are BFFs; it was such a nice, welcoming, supportive environment,” says Fox, who very much enjoys acting in comedies, and who, following a cameo as herself in Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator this spring, will appear in Judd Apatow’s This Is Forty later this year.
But all of that is just the backstory. Once you look closely at the facts, once you gaze into Fox’s otherworldly light blue eyes and glimpse wormholes to other solar systems, it’s obvious that she can’t possibly be merely human.
There’s her love of comic books, which stems from a childhood fondness for heroic tales and fantastical adventures that are often rife with explicit moral codes. Favorites included Gen 13, a series about a team of five superpowered teenagers and their mentor, and Witchblade, a series in which a tough-as-nails female NYPD homicide detective gains powers via the possession of a supernatural artifact. And Fox is currently involved in the film development of Fathom, a series by her favorite artist, the late Michael Turner, who created and drew several issues of Witchblade. She is already attached to star in and produce the adaptation.
There’s also her fascination with ancient civilizations, stemming from her introduction to ancient Egypt in the Bible. “I would love to go on a dig!” she says. She’s certain that archaeology holds answers to all the big questions, but thinks many clues are concealed by governments and scientists. “Come on! You don’t think everything that’s learned is released to the public, do you?” she asks. Then she adds, “Surely you know one of my favorite shows is Ancient Aliens?” referring to the History Channel series that posits theories of past human-extraterrestrial contact.
Obviously, like Clark Kent and those kids on Roswell, Fox is searching. Like them she has extraordinary looks. Like them, she’s from a small town. Like them, she has uncommon, unanticipated, unidentifiable gifts: “I have this weird, Carrie-like ability to make things happen,” Fox says nonchalantly. And like them, she experienced moments of adolescent alienation, required of almost all nascent superheroes.
When asked what her secret power would be if she were a comic book heroine, Fox answers without skipping a beat: “Invisibility.” Then she explains her choice: “It’s how you gain the most advantage, at least in practical situations.” She adds, “I would also need super strength, but that’s a given.” A real-life, drop-dead gorgeous Hollywood starlet who discovers she’s a superhero? This is one franchise we’d all tune in to watch.