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Sly as a fox, despite her handlers Add to ...

jschneller@globeandmail.com

Why is everyone so afraid of Megan Fox? I don't mean in her new movie, Jennifer's Body, where she plays a carnivorous demon who derives power from feasting on others. What I mean is, why did her publicity team at the Toronto International Film Festival insist that she had to do her interviews accompanied by her director, Karyn Kusama ( Girlfight), and her producer, Jason Reitman? Screenwriter Diablo Cody (who won an Oscar for writing Juno) may have written the film because, as she joked, "There's nothing scarier than a Bitchy Attractive Woman. She should take her place right up there with Frankenstein and Dracula." But apparently, to some of her handlers, there's nothing scarier than what Megan Fox might say.

She's only 23, and her résumé is still thin. She appeared in the two Transformers blockbusters; in How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, in which she sent up ambitious starlets; and in stray bit parts, usually wearing a bikini. Most of her fame has been derived from her frequent appearances on the covers of lad magazines - she's Snow White with a killer bod - and her reputation for speaking frankly to interviewers.

But now there seems to be a tug of war going on among her handlers as to what Megan Fox: Stage Two is going to be. Jennifer's Body is a smart choice. Kusama, Cody and Reitman are a powerhouse team; their films have both indie credibility and box-office success. Fox's next movie, Jonah Hex, teams her with Josh Brolin, a highly respected guy. And at the TIFF press conference for Jennifer's Body, she evinced a wised-up sense of humour all her own. "I don't think this is a horror movie," she said. "If I were going to use my talking points from the studio, I'd say it's a sexy thriller with a wicked sense of humour." That's pretty clever, and nervy. She also thanked Kusama for "not making me bend over a bike," as she had to do in Transformers 2. (In Transformers 1, it was a car.)

Still, Fox can't quite let go of the sex-kitten stuff. During the presser, she occasionally stuck her thumb in her mouth, and each time the camera clicks immediately would crescendo like an army of cicadas. If I could hear it, she could. Arriving late for our interview, she danced in on her tippy-toes, shoeless (she was wearing a fitted plaid dress, flesh-coloured fishnet stockings, and vermilion toenail polish). And while we talked, she tucked herself this way and that, sitting on every part of her chair but the actual seat. I don't think that's an act, I think it's innate. But as she talked, I had the strong sense that her team was trying to choreograph her persona - to figure out how to maintain her audaciousness while still selling her as an intelligent actress.

Fox would say something, and then Reitman or Kusama would explain or amplify it. For example, Fox said, "Jennifer pretends to be unintelligent, but she's not. And for me, despite my vocabulary that I try to use in every interview, people assume I'm a little daft."

Right away, Reitman countered, "I don't know that people assume that any more. I don't think anyone could be confused enough to say that you're not very impressive. You cannot be a stupid person and do this as well as you do." It was as if he were telling me what to think.

Fox said, "I think I understand why actors go insane, because you're merchandised, you're a product that gets sold. So the media has to brand you, to label you something. The lines between reality and fantasy get blurred and you can lose yourself in that."

Kusama immediately countered, "The frankness and bluntness you bring, Megan, is a way to counteract that possession."

When I asked Fox if she'll now refuse to bend over in Transformers 3, she answered, "Those aren't my movies. Those are Michael Bay's, and he's my boss, and he clearly knows what he's doing; Transformers 2 made $700-million. So I do what he asks." But, she added, and rolls her eyes while doing it, "All day, every day."

Reitman couldn't let that one alone, either: "Megan, you somehow balance the idea of seeing that as your job, and at the same time you have the confidence to be frank in a way that requires a lot of intelligence to back it up," he said.

It was like watching badminton. Here's Fox: "Everything is so sensationalized with me. At the press conference [her co-star]Amanda Seyfried innocently made a comment about the blood in the movie - she said, 'It's fun to be wet all the time.' If I said that, it would be on the cover of everything tomorrow and everyone would be shitting on me for it. It takes courage to keep going. Some people are fortunate to be able to stand alone with their talent. They don't have to do interviews the way I have to."

Then, bap, there's Reitman: "You're also just starting."

Here's Fox (on the mob scene at her red carpets): "It feels like they're stealing your soul. You're so used in that moment, by everyone - by the designer that you're wearing, by the hair and makeup people, everyone's using you to further themselves somehow, and to sell you to people."

And bing, there's Kusama: "There's a power implicit in a woman who possesses her own beauty. A lot of young actors really want to be likeable, but you, Megan, weren't afraid of exposing the parts of the character that were isolated and lonely."

Kusama and Reitman were very friendly about it, and tried to make it seem organic, but it was exhausting. Finally, for a few minutes at the end, they let Fox speak for herself, and she proved to be a girl worth hearing from. "I'm so choosy about scripts," she said. "If my agent had his way I'd be making 10 movies a year. And I would have a lot more money."

About working with Brolin, she said, "It was the hardest five days of my entire life. He was not going to let me be bullshit in his movie. In rehearsals, if I would do something and he didn't believe it, he would go, 'I don't believe you, do it again.' And we'd do this for an hour, until he believed the one line. He really put me through it, and exposed me completely until there was nothing left to be afraid of, and I could just do it."

Most tellingly, Fox said that her only concrete goal is "to be working 10 years from now. Everyone rolls their eyes when I say it, but in 10 years I'll be 33. That ain't no spring chicken in Hollywood. The reality is, if you're nothing but a pinup, at 33 you're reaching your expiration date. I have to develop skills, I have to get better, I have to be a good actress."

Kusama felt compelled to add, "It's very wise for you to know that's even a question," but she didn't need to. The interview had proved Fox's point.

Follow on Twitter: @JoSchneller

 

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