It’s no secret some Hollywood stars get where they are through a combination of luck, beauty and connections. Sometimes, they barely have to speak for more than a minute before you realise there’s not a lot going on upstairs no matter how profound or intelligent they sound when reading a script. And the prettier the actor, the emptier the conversation usually is.
So when Moviehole.net sits down to talk to Megan Fox about playing April O’Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and the 30 year old is as luminous as she looks in the gossip magazines, we resolve to keep our questions short and simple if we don’t want lots of stilted silences.
The other thing about Hollywood stars is they can surprise you, and Fox is as actually eloquent (yes, even when she’s talking about astrology) and self-assured as she is beautiful. The Memphis, Tennessee native opened up about playing a beloved character, women in film and her own use by date.
How is it to be back in the TMNT franchise?
It’s really good. We should all consider it a blessing when the first one does so well. I actually had an amazing experience, this one was really easy and fun and there is a lot of levity on set. It was a good time.
I think they figured out the tone from making the first one. You have the comic book, which was really dark, you have the cartoon, which was made for children, and then you have the late eighties movies which were sort of a blend of both.
They didn’t have a very clear idea of the exact tone of the first one and they found it in editing, so going into this one they knew right away what kind of movie they were going to make. Everything was already aligned and I didn’t have to be a part of that process, everyone knew what they wanted and that’s easier.
How has April evolved since the first film? Is there anything you couldn’t do with her before you wanted to this time?
She’s less focused on her career. The first movie was all about her being ambitious and trying to achieve and believing work will complete her. In this movie she’s much more relaxed, having a good time with these boys and going about her own life at her own pace.
It’s not such a struggle to know who I am and to prove who I am to people and that was a weird, it was almost commentary on how an outsider would perceive me as an actor, what was going on with April. It’s nice to just have a more casual approach.
Stephen Amell [Casey Jones] said it’s funnier than the first one.
Definitely. It’s more lighthearted and it doesn’t take itself so seriously. There are winks, it makes comments about what kind of movie it is, which is something we saw in Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool, just acknowledging what kind of movie you’re making.
Does it feel like the scope is bigger?
They tell me that the budget was the same, but I don’t know. There are a lot of characters. It almost seems that to an outsider there might be an overload. When there’s too many popular characters you lose the story, it’s all about action scenes, but I think they’ve done a really good job of maintaining the story. It feels massive, I haven’t seen the whole movie, I’ve seen some of it in ADR and it feels a lot bigger than the first one.
Is it nice to play a strong willed woman, what with the continuing conversation about diversity?
It’s positive whenever it can happen, but it’s still a female in the hands of an entirely male production. All the way up to the top this is a male dominated industry so it’s still colored through the lens of how men view women and life, but it’s definitely moving in a positive direction.
When we have more female filmmakers then we’ll have more movies with female leads, but we need more female writers. You need someone who understands the psychology of a woman to be able to write a woman well and it’s impossible for men to do that, they’re not trained to do it.
If a man wants to be a screenwriter he needs to take psychology classes to understand what he’s trying to create. We just need to get more women behind the scenes in the industry.
Has that improved since you started in the business?
It’s hard to say, in some ways it has because there’s a focus on it now, so there is pressure for it to evolve.
But out of ten scripts I can tell you without opening them I’m being offered the prostitute in five of them and in the other five it’s the jealous, stuck up or ice cold wife or girlfriend. It’s very rare to come across a female character that’s interesting and multidimensional, it just doesn’t happen yet.
Why not write or direct yourself?
I just don’t have the skillset to do that. I don’t think I’d be a good screenwriter, maybe a writer in a different way but those are the things you need to study. You can’t just decide that because you’ve being on set and seen it and experienced it you’ll be good at it.
Even if the roles are bad, are the stories interesting and give you the chance to change up the character a bit?
It has a lot to do with who’s involved with making the movie. When I read it I operate off intuition. If it feels like it would be a fun or necessary experience I’ll do it. I usually choose things that seem like they’re going to be fun, life’s too short and I’m not trying to slit my wrists and bleed for the art, I’m working and going home to my kids and that’s all it is.
How was working with James Franco on Zeroville?
He’s a very interesting, eccentric genius. He’s so multifaceted and his brain is in so many different places at once. I don’t know how he does everything and he does it for a very low budget. He’s someone who needs to express himself through his art. My mind doesn’t work like that I don’t know I’ll ever understand what’s going on inside of him but I had a really good time with him.
Talk about your character.
Soledad is sort of a dark angsty figure who’s not necessarily hard to relate to because she’s an actress. She’s suffering with some inner demons, she is also a mother but not a good one. There’s a point where her kid is living in a car and the daughter is not being taken care of and I’ve seen that happen a lot in this industry, it’s a metaphor for how women don’t take care of their children because they’re so focused on self. You tend to have so many narcissists attracted to this industry that the parenting suffers.
There seems to be a love triangle between you, Stephen Amell and Will Arnett in TMNT2.
I interact the most whenever I can with the boys that play the turtles because they’re really charming and funny and I have a good time with them. Then Will of course comes in and drops his one-liners and make everybody laugh.
He and Steven got on really well and they have a bro relationship. They’re Canadian so they talk about hockey, but I interact mostly with the boys and have a sort of Wendy in the Lost Boys relationship with them on camera and off.
So you’re a den mother as well as a big sister.
Kind of, but I’m also a mischievous shit starter too.
Did you have any scenes with Judith Hoag (April in the 1990s series)?
I had a couple of scenes with her, I hate talking about this because you never know what the edit of the movie is going to bring but I did have scenes with her.
She was really friendly, she was really gracious, she’s really proud of her role in this franchise. The fans love it so much and she’s really humble that they still love her so I had a really good experience with her.
Did you have it in your mind that you had to live up to that performance or do something different?
No, there was a different April throughout those movies, they switch up the actresses and then you have the cartoon. You have so many different versions of April. I can never be her, I’m obviously a very different person in every way so you don’t want to try to mimic what someone else is doing. I just try to do the best I can with what they write on those pages. I felt no pressure at all.
What advice can you offer newbies like Stephen as a veteran of the industry?
Just stuff like how to save your energy when the camera is not on you, or knowing they’re shooting something but it’s never going to be in the movie, stuff like that I’ve just done it for so long on these types of movies. I’d tell him not to go all out if they’re in a wide shot or go all out in your fight sequence because they’re going to push in, technical things like that.
Also maybe navigating life on set, a big movie is a bizarre world with so many people involved and so much money at stake, it’s an interesting little society. You have to just know there’s a good way to navigate it and a bad way and I try to help whenever I can because I’ve learned.
Do you consider yourself a role model?
That’s subjective of course, it depends on your version of a role model. If a role model is someone who encourages kids or people to embrace eccentricities and be counter-cultural then I definitely believe I’m a role model, I’ve never really worried about fitting in or belonging, I’ve always sort of shunned needing praise or validation from other people.
You haven’t been as visible lately as you were back in the Transformers days.
I make two movies a year, that’s what I’ve done since 2007. I don’t like to work a lot, I’m not a workaholic and I crave a lot of intellectual stimulation, so being too caught up in set life and acting takes me away from learning and that’s very difficult for me. I suffer a lot when I’m not able to read.
How are you facing up to being 30?
There’s something in astrology called your Saturn return. Saturn, which is the planet of karma and responsibility and life lessons, takes 30 years to orbit your chart. Usually everyone in their thirtieth year has some sort of self realization or need to shed things that aren’t necessary to getting on their path and making sure they’re going in the right direction. People who are extremely lost have some sort of breaking point or some sort of a low that they hit around that year.
I’m getting to a point where I can’t deal with things that feel frivolous or unnecessary. I’m trying to figure out what I really want to do with the rest of my life. Hollywood isn’t somewhere where you can work until you’re elderly – especially as a woman, your time is limited – and it’s also not something I’m necessarily passionate about.
Lately I’m asking myself ‘what is it that I’m here for and where are my passions and what is my inherent skillset, what I was sent here to do, what is my purpose?” This year I’m seeing that more clearly.
Does it mean more time off?
I always take so much time off. I got to this place of having name recognition without any effort. I’m not very ambitious and it’s very strange that I keep getting offered these big tentpole franchises. I’ve always wondered why it’s happening to me when I put no effort into it. There has to be a reason.
I’m just trying to figure out exactly what that is and I don’t think I can take time off per se because I’ve being given this platform for a reason and I’m not trying to deny it or reject it, I just have to incorporate it.