Almost 10 years ago, Megan Fox spoke publicly about working with filmmaker Michael Bay on two Transformers movies. She explained that she would ask the director understandable questions about her scenes—“Who am I talking to? Where am I supposed to be looking?” And his responses—reportedly “Be hot,” “Just be sexy”—made it clear that character wasnt as important to the filmmaker as, say, her cleavage.
In a network television interview the same year, Fox recalled that her first collaboration with Bay was on Bad Boys II. The actress had just turned 15, was put in a stars-and-stripes bikini and six-inch heels, and told to dance underneath a waterfall. After she shared the anecdote, the studio audience laughed.
In another interview, Fox recalled how Bay had her “audition” for her Transformers role by washing the directors Ferrari while he filmed her. Fox also accused the director of being like “a dictator” and a “nightmare” on set, comparing him to Napoleon and Hitler. If Fox had made those statements today—after the fall of Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves, and at the height of the Times Up movement—the actress would likely receive a much different response than she did in 2009.
Bay offered an apology, but not the kind that would suffice today: “I know thats just Megan. Megan loves to get a response. And she does it in kind of the wrong way. Im sorry, Megan. Im sorry I made you work 12 hours. Im sorry that Im making you show up on time. Movies are not always warm and fuzzy.”
As if that response was not cutting enough, three anonymous members of the Transformers crew wrote a disturbingly misogynistic open letter that Bay published on his official Web site. (Bay has since removed the letter.) In it, the crew members called Fox “dumb as a rock,” unprofessional, “Ms. Sourpants,” a “grump,” “thankless,” “classless,” “graceless,” and an “unfriendly bitch.” An excerpt:
“When facing the press, Megan is the queen of talking trailer trash and posing like a porn star. And yes weve had the unbearable time of watching her try to act on set, and yes, its very cringe-able. So maybe, being a porn star in the future might be a good career option. But make-up beware, she has a paragraph tattooed to her backside (probably due her rotten childhood)—easily another 45 minutes in the chair!”
The open letter was not met with rage, as it would be today. And if anyone suffered professionally, it was Fox for speaking out. Her next movie, Jennifers Body, fizzled at the box office. (Interestingly, she played a character who used her sexuality to take down those who objectified her. “Had this film been made a decade later, its possible Fox could have been heralded as the feminist revenge hero of our time,” wrote Anne Cohen in a Refinery 29 post published this summer.) Her post-Transformers career comprised mostly indies and the occasional supporting comedic role. Aside from a gratifying turn in This Is 40, Fox did not make her return to major box-office business until reaching a “detente” with Bay, and re-uniting with the filmmaker on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
So forgive Fox if, 9 years later, she isnt super-jazzed about sharing the very #MeToo anecdotes that burned her a decade earlier.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Fox says, “I was ahead of my time and so people werent able to understand. Instead, I was rejected because of qualities that are now being praised in other women coming forward.” As for why she didnt jump in as her peers shared their own #MeToo stories, Fox explained, “I just didnt think based on how Id been received by people, and by feminists, that I would be a sympathetic victim.” Because of how she was treated before, Fox is understandably weary of offering herself up to the same scrutiny again. “I thought if ever there were a time where the world would agree that its appropriate to victim-shame someone, it would be when I come forward with my story.”
Fox acknowledged that she has “quite a few stories.” Asked whether the world owes her an apology—as suggested by an article last year in the Mary Sue—the actresses responded, “I mean, thats a lovely sentiment, and I appreciate that.” But she isnt offering up stories anytime soon, and for understandable reasons. “My words were taken and used against me in a way that was—at that time in my life, at that age and dealing with that level of fame—really painful.”
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Julie MillerJulie Miller is a Senior Hollywood writer for Vanity Fairs website.