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The real reason why Hollywood dumped Megan Fox

After a couple of small appearances in early 2000s teen movies (the Olsen twins' Holiday in the Sun, Lindsay Lohan's Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen), Megan Fox became a superstar virtually overnight playing Mikaela Banes in Michael Bay's 2007 big-budget blockbuster adaptation of Transformers. Men's magazines like Maxim, Stuff, and GQ couldn't get enough of her, and Hollywood cast her in potential blockbusters (Jonah Hex) and quirky passion projects (Jennifer's Body) alike. Then her career hit a few snags, seemingly alienating much of Hollywood due to a feud with Bay that also involved Steven Spielberg. The next phase of Fox's career: a streak of box office bombs, projects that never got off the ground, and critically-skewered performances.

Fox's most visible recent work: a short-lived Travel Channel series about ancient cultures called Legends of the Lost. So what happened to the actress for whom the Maxim "Hot 100" list was basically created? Here are some reasons why she may have fallen off the A-list.

She trashed her director (and her movies)

When most people verbally attack their boss and it gets back to them, they might get reprimanded or fired. When a movie star criticizes their high-powered director, it just might get them blacklisted throughout Hollywood. In the middle of what was supposed to be a fluff piece for the British magazine Wonderland in 2009, Fox issued a controversial reply to a question about working with Michael Bay. "He's like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad man reputation," Fox said, equating her director on two Transformers movies to the power-mad general and emperor bent on conquering Europe in the early 1800s. Then Fox kept talking. "He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is."

Fox also disparaged the Transformers franchise in Entertainment Weekly. "I can't s*** on this movie because it did give me a career and open all these doors for me," Fox said (via ComicBookMovie) about the first Transformers movie. "But I don't want to blow smoke up people's a**. People are well aware that this is not a movie about acting." Even if Bay was a tyrant on set (and even if Revenge of the Fallen wasn't a good movie), you just can't throw around the "H" word — or mock other people's work — in Hollywood and come out unscathed.

She was fired from Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Fox signed up to reprise her role of Mikaela Banes for the third Transformers movie, Dark of the Moon, and even attended some rehearsals. That's all in spite of her comparing director Michael Bay to Hitler, and he was apparently willing to let bygones be bygones. But his boss — producer Steven Spielberg — couldn't. After he directed the film Schindler's List, he founded the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation to combat bigotry and keep alive the stories of Holocaust survivors. It's maybe not surprising, then, if he doesn't take such talk lightly. Bay told GQ that when the cast convened, Fox "was in a different world, on her BlackBerry. You gotta stay focused. And you know, the Hitler thing. Steven said, 'Fire her right now.'" 

Spielberg denied this version of the events, and Fox's reps told People, "It was her decision not to return." But whether the stories from Bay, Spielberg, or Fox are accurate, screenwriters were left scrambling to rewrite the Dark of the Moon script to create a new character to replace Fox's Mikaela, and the casting team was racing to find a new actress. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley eventually got the gig.

She's "difficult" to work with

Megan Fox's comments about Michael Bay and subsequent angering of Steven Spielberg earned her a reputation that she was "difficult." Dealmaking Hollywood big shots generally don't like to be criticized by actors. While she probably didn't express herself in the most thoughtful way, Fox bore the brunt of the backlash from her remarks about the guy who directed her in two star-making Transformers movies. But it wasn't just Bay and Spielberg who took issue with Fox's attitude toward the franchise that made her a known entity. Transformers: Dark of the Moon screenwriter Ehren Kruger told GQ in 2011 that while Fox showed up for the film's early rehearsals, "she seemed like an actress who didn't want to be a part of it. She was saying she wanted to, but she wasn't acting like it." 

After Fox's famous "Hitler comments," three crew members who'd worked on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen released a savage statement trashing an actress they called "Ms. Sourpants," "dumb-as-a-rock," and an actress who would likely wind up "a porn star in the future." Additionally, they said Fox is "thankless, classless, graceless" and "never smiles." Whether or not any of that vitriol is objectively true, it would certainly lead many in Hollywood to equate working with Fox with courting drama.

Jennifer's Body bombed

Megan Fox's follow-up to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen seemed like a sure bet on paper. Penned by freshly Oscar-minted Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody, directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Karyn Kusama (Aeon Flux, Girlfight), and costarring rising Mean Girls and Chloe star Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer's Body was a wry, satirical high school-based horror comedy with feminist themes. All that didn't quite mesh with the film's marketing campaign — primarily images of popular sex symbol Fox in skimpy cheerleading and schoolgirl uniforms. Reviews were mixed, and the R-rated film earned a paltry $6.8 million on its opening weekend.

Fox isn't totally to blame for the film's failure — Roger Ebert gave her credit for "playing the role straight" of a superficial cheerleader who kills her male classmates during a demonic possession — but she certainly endured the blame. Producers likely interpreted its lackluster commercial showing to the presence of Fox, implying that Fox couldn't open a movie unless her costar was a CGI robot.

Jonah Hex hexed her career

In the wake of Marvel Studios launching its Marvel Cinematic Universe with the first two Iron Man movies and The Incredible Hulk, corporate partners Warner Bros. and DC Comics wanted a piece of that sweet page-to-blockbuster business. Not quite ready to trot out new Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman movies for its "DC Extended Universe" franchise, DC exploited its lower tier titles and released a Jonah Hex film in 2010. "What," millions of potential filmgoers asked, "is a Jonah Hex?" He's a grizzled, 19th century bounty hunter with a burned face. Josh Brolin played the title role, while Fox played the love interest, an Old West prostitute named Lilah Black. Jonah Hex proved a massive dud, earning a 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and just $10 million at the American box office. 

As proof of how much easier men have it in Hollywood than women, star Josh Brolin has continued to work steadily in movies — even comic book-related movies like Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Endgame. But for Fox, the film's failure was as damaging to her big-screen career as her character's corset was to her internal organs. Even Fox admits it was a turkey. At WonderCon 2016 (via CBR), she discussed which of her films she'd let her kids watch. "Something like Jonah Hex, I'm not going to let them see ever," Fox said. "No one should ever see that movie."

Passion Play didn't play

Right after the release of the second Transformers movie, Megan Fox took a much-desired stab for indie cred and artistic relevance with Passion Play, an artsy drama from writer/director Mitch Glazer (Scrooged, Rock the Kasbah). Despite a cast that included Mickey Rourke (not long after his Oscar-nominated comeback performance in The Wrestler) and Bill Murray, the film became what Indiewire called an "object of instant derision" when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010, which led to a theatrical release of just two screens. Passion Play earned just $3,669 before disappearing to DVD.

The film, which featured Fox as a carnival sideshow attraction (a woman with angel wings) freed by Murray's character, earned savage reviews. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly called it "soggy and sentimental," while Brian Holcomb of CinemaBlend said "Passion Play should really be much funnier than it is. Oh, it's not a comedy, by the way." Rourke himself even called the movie one of the many "terrible ones" he's made over the years. It's a smear on Fox's resume, too.

She became seriously overexposed

Between her breakthrough role in 2007's Transformers and the release of 2010's Passion Play, Megan Fox starred in around half a dozen movies. Around the time of the one-two punch of Revenge of the Fallen and Jennifer's Body, the Megan Fox media backlash began in earnest. 

In the summer of 2009, the New York Daily News declared that year's August 4 to be "A Day Without Megan Fox," a day upon which media outlets would voluntarily not publish stories or photos involving the actress. Joining the NYC newspaper in its 24-hour stand against a young Hollywood actress: websites Asylum, Double Viking, and AskMen, which are all the kind of leering "men's sites" that racked up millions of hits by posting racy Fox photo spreads."You can have too much of a good thing," an AskMen editor said. "We're joining in the media blackout and giving our readers a one-day reprieve from the woman we've been drowning in all summer." When even AskMen is tired of seeing Fox in various states of undress, something is definitely off.

Hollywood couldn't fathom Fathom

Jonah Hex may have made Megan Fox persona non grata in the world of comic book adaptations, but a year before that film was released, she was reportedly close to starring in a movie version of the '90s comic Fathom. Created by the late artist Michael Turner, Fathom revolves around an aquatic heroine named Aspen, a part Fox had hoped would lead to her own solo comic book franchise. It wasn't even a lark or a career move for the actress, but rather something of a passion project. "I want someone who loves her and loves the comic to play her. It doesn't have to be me, but I just didn't know of any actresses at the time who loved the comic or even knew about it," Fox told MTV (via Comicvine) in 2009 . "So I was sort of fiercely protective of it, because I didn't want it played by someone who doesn't give a s**t."

A Fathom movie, starring Fox or any other actress, never did get made. With the project stalled, Fox told ScreenRant in 2014 that, by that point, she was probably getting too old to play Aspen. "She's mid-20s, and I'm passing that soon," she explained, "so we gotta jump on that horse quickly if we're going to it."

A third Ninja Turtles movie didn't happen

Apparently time and money heal all wounds, because by the mid-2010s, Michael Bay and Megan Fox were on good professional terms again — at least, enough to make franchise movies together. Fox starred as April O'Neil in 2014's big-screen, live-action, Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. It was a box office hit, grossing $191 million, making it the highest-grossing film to ever feature the heroes on the half shell. But the 2016 sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, grossed less than half of what its predecessor did and received a lackluster response from critics and audiences. 

This new Turtles franchise represented Fox's most stable and comfortable career path, but that seems to have stalled. Despite the poor showing of Out of the Shadows, Paramount announced that a third Ninja Turtles movie was in development. Unfortunately for Fox, that was back in 2018, and there's been little news or progress on the project. But that might not even matter for Fox, because, according to Variety, when Paramount announced the project, they explicitly called it a reboot. If the studio wants to get past the stench of Out of the Shadows, it's likely Fox wouldn't be asked back.

She's a victim of typecasting

Megan Fox is widely regarded as an attractive person. That's almost a job requirement for movie star, but it's also a double-edged sword — good-looking actors and actresses often struggle with being typecast. Fox has discussed her frustrations with this, getting roles in movies designed to show off her looks and sex appeal that don't provide a chance to show off her acting chops. "You have these stereotypes that still dominate films: the nag, the trophy, the escort," Fox told the New York Times. "I haven't been sent a nag script yet, but I do get plenty of, like, 'interesting stripper.'" 

Fox has taken on the role of "hot woman" quite a few times, but even when she manages to break out of the typecasting trap — such as in smaller, nuanced films like the Ed Burns dramedy Friends with Kids — her looks are still what get attention from reviewers. (A Philadelphia Inquirer review said Fox was "a smarter kind of hot" in the film.) And while movies are a team effort between writers, directors, producers, studio executives, crew members, and actors, it's the latter who ultimately serve as the face of the project and receive the most criticism. For example, Fox has been "honored" with six Razzie Awards recognizing her performances in not-great movies (Jonah Hex, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) that didn't give her much to work with.

Megan Fox, comedy star in the making?

Fortunately for Megan Fox, she discovered the value of irony and subversion. The actress found success in recent years by taking on self-aware, self-deprecating roles in comedies that both tweak and send up her aloof, glamorous image. In Judd Apatow's midlife farce This is 40, she plays a character who works with Leslie's Mann's character, presented as an almost supernaturally attractive young woman (who has a side gig as an escort). Fox also made a cameo in Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator, playing a woman the movie's titular General Aldeen has paid to spend time with… who is also actually the real Megan Fox. 

She may be on to something with this move into comedy. In 2016, she temporarily joined the cast of the Fox sitcom New Girl, filling in for star Zooey Deschanel, who was out on maternity life. She breathed new life into the aging sitcom as Reagan, an aloof, glamorous drug company rep who falls into a relationship with slacker Nick (Jake Johnson). Meanwhile, her roles in the upcoming James Franco period comedy Zeroville and the dark ensemble comedy Big Gold Brick prove that there's life after giant transforming robots and pizza-loving sewer ninjas for Megan Fox.