Everybody in her life would say she’s spiritual to the point “where it might annoy certain people,” she says, candidly. Fox, 35, typically begins her day with tarot cards and reading her horoscope. Before the pandemic, she integrated daily deep visualization and shamanic meditation. On the June afternoon when we speak, she’s even been planning rituals to harness the power of the looming solar eclipse.
Fox, who long endured a fraught relationship with Hollywood, is ready to embrace acting and being in the public eye again — due in no small part to her intuition. This year, the actress has a stacked schedule of movies, including the lead role in the offbeat horror-thriller “Till Death,” out July 2; the crime thriller “Midnight in the Switchgrass,” which also stars her now-boyfriend, actor and musician Machine Gun Kelly, a few weeks later; and Brian Petsos’ forthcoming directorial debut “Big Gold Brick.”
While Fox’s acting gigs have been limited in the past few years, it’s because she has remained intentional about the roles she takes. “I always choose things just based on feeling,” she said over the phone from her Los Angeles home. “Sometimes it’s because I feel like where the movie is shooting is going to be significant to me for some reason, or something about it is going to be significant for my life.”
Fox’s comeback in “Till Death” puts her front-and-center in a “Gerald’s Game”-meets- “Ready or Not”-esque film, portraying a woman who wakes up handcuffed to her dead husband, trapped in a revenge plot. What follows is a sick, twisted fight for survival. The horror role was appealing because it was nuanced and went beyond being a “straight gore-fest,” she says. “Seeing this unusual relationship where you’re not really sure what’s happening with her and her husband, it makes you very uneasy right from the start, but you’re not sure why.”
Fox’s return to the horror genre is significant. Since the 2009 release of the bloody “Jennifer’s Body,” Fox has been strategic about signing onto any film in a similar vein. She’s encountered tons of similar scripts over the years, but the Karyn Kusama and Diablo Cody movie, which has reached cult status in the dozen years since its release, remains precious to Fox.
“‘Jennifer’s Body’ is iconic, and I love that movie,” Fox said. “I didn’t want to do that movie an injustice by doing something that was similar but not as good.”
Though it was misunderstood and panned at the box office (“Critically everyone s--- on it”), its presence as a growing phenomenon has more than satisfied Fox. “This movie is art, but when it came out, nobody was saying that,” she recalls. Fox felt that her performance in that movie, as well as the supernatural western “Jonah Hex” in 2010, didn’t deserve the harsh judgment it received. She recently watched the latter for the first time and thought it was “decent.” “While I shouldn’t have been nominated for an Oscar for it, I’m definitely not bad in it,” she laughs.
When Fox began her acting career in her teens, she was often typecast as a stuck-up Queen Bee, but she enjoyed it. “When I was a teenager, all those little movies I was doing with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen [“Holiday in the Sun”], and then Lindsay Lohan [“Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen”] and Kaley Cuoco [“Crimes of Fashion”], that was essentially the exact same character. All of my lines were interchangeable,” she recalls.
The addition of “Jennifer’s Body” to her résumé, in which she played the titular role as the popular girl turned man-eating demon, seemed to give the public the illusion that Fox had been playing herself. “I think there has been a pervasive perception of me as a shallow succubus, if that makes any sense, for at least the first decade of my career,” Fox said. “And then that started to change more recently as people revisited some of my interviews, listened to me speak and started to see me in a different way.”
Landing a role in the blockbuster Transformers franchise in 2007 had helped catapult Fox to superstardom. But after the release of the second film — and while doing promotion for “Jennifer’s Body” — Fox was fired in 2009 from the third installment after making comments comparing director Michael Bay’s on-set style to Hitler.
At the same time, Fox had become increasingly frustrated with the blatant misogyny she was facing in Hollywood, between the mismarketing of Kusama and Cody’s movie to focus on how “hot” Fox was (which was antithetical to the film’s plot), to a 2009 appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” where she described being sexualized at 15 as an extra in a scene from Bay’s “Bad Boys 2.” Instead of finding support when she opened up, everyone laughed.
“That was a microcosm of my whole life and whole interaction with Hollywood,” she recalls. “It was just very dark.”
While the viral clip resurfaced last year recasting the interaction, Fox posted a message on Instagram thanking fans for their renewed support (and issuing a few clarifications). But the initial interview was just another day in Hollywood for her. “I was so lost and trying to understand, like, how am I supposed to feel value or find purpose in this horrendous, patriarchal, misogynistic hell that was Hollywood at the time?” Fox recalled. “Because I had already been speaking out against it and everyone, including other women, received me in a very negative way for doing it.”
While she wasn’t exiled by Hollywood, she struggled with her self-confidence as an actress. “I was never really established as having been talented,” she says.
Fox says that giving birth to her first child in 2012 (she shares three sons with ex Brian Austin Green, from whom she filed for divorce last year) made her retreat from the industry and find “purpose.” “That kind of saved me honestly,” Fox said of having children. “I needed an escape.”
It wasn’t until after the birth of her youngest son in 2016 that she was ready to reenter the world of fame again. That year, Fox landed a recurring role on the Fox comedy “New Girl” as Reagan, a pharmaceutical rep and sublet for lead character Jess (Zooey Deschanel). Out of every character she’s played, she admits, Reagan was the one closest to her personality.
“People were surprised that I was funny at all,” Fox said. It was par for the course though: Surface-level assumptions have been a constant throughout her life and career. “More than being overlooked for my ability to handle comedy sometimes, I’ve always been surprised by how easy it was for people to overlook that I’m relatively intelligent,” she said. “I was like, how does that get so lost when there’s ridiculous amounts of material that can educate you otherwise?”
But Fox no longer bears resentment toward that time in her life. She credits her growth to the time spent raising her kids, which helped her become more introspective, self-reflective and empathetic. “It’s fertile soil,” she said. “It’s given me the ground that I needed to grow into something quite special.”
Truthfully, though, Fox says she always knew there would be a time when people would acknowledge how she had been wronged by the industry — she just didn’t know if she’d be alive to see it. “When I was fighting, even back then I felt like I was connected to Joan of Arc and all of these women who’ve been persecuted all throughout time,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m aligned with every woman that’s ever gone through this since the beginning of f---ing history.’”
It has helped that there’s been a societal shift when it comes to the power dynamics of men in Hollywood with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Thanks in part to this year’s documentary “Framing Britney Spears,” there has also been a cultural reckoning for how female celebrities of the past were treated by the media, which has helped change the narrative. While Fox feels that she isn’t “a particularly sympathetic character” for a lot of people — a conventionally attractive White woman — she notes there has been a group of women that have been more receptive to her of late, and she remains proud for speaking out against the mistreatment of women “a decade before it became popular.”
Lately, Fox has felt even more of a shift within herself: The once self-described “recluse” has enjoyed being pop-culture fodder — starring in the music video for Kelly’s 2020 single “Bloody Valentine,” having her dialogue from “Jennifer’s Body” appear on Halsey’s third album “Manic,” and going on double-dates with Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker. Still, she lives a largely Twitter-free life (though her Instagram is full of witty captions and fans praising her as a “bisexual queen”). Most of the time she hears about when she’s trending after the fact.
In her romantic relationships, spirituality has been a guiding force for Fox. While the Internet spent the past year and change fawning over her PDA-filled relationship with Kelly, the reality, she says, is that their bond has been much more cosmic. On the set of “Midnight in the Switchgrass,” Fox and Kelly only worked together for two days. Sure, she knew his name and that he “was a tall, blond tattooed rapper,” but she didn’t expect such a “magical” connection. “The first time I looked into his eyes, I was like . . . “I know you. I have known you so many times, in so many different forms, in so many different lives.” She “wasn’t expecting it’d be like, ‘God, you are my soul mate,’ instantly.”
And after 20 years of acting, Fox is more intentional than ever when it comes to what she wants for her life. She wants to take on roles that are “challenging” and “fun” but unconventional. Sure, she has some career aspirations: Growing up as a fan of comic books and graphic novels, Fox would love to be a part of the Marvel or DC Comics universes. With its enduring fan base, Fox would also be open to a “Jennifer’s Body”-related project. “I don’t think it’s a hard movie to make a sequel to,” she said. “I mean, they should make it into a TV series. That would be cool.”
But the actress is looking inward when it comes to her career goals. “I want to grow into myself as an actor,” she said. “I feel like I spent a lot of years not doing that because I sort of checked out from Hollywood. Now I’m ready to grow into myself.”