When Megan Fox appeared on TV show Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2009, she told an anecdote about working as an extra on her Transformers director Michael Bay’s 2003 action sequel Bad Boys II. The audience laughed, Kimmel made a joke, and nobody thought any more about it. However, when that same interview clip resurfaced on social media in June 2020, the reaction was shock and outrage on Fox’s behalf.
Fox made her acting debut in 2001 direct-to-video film Holiday In The Sun. She was 15 years old at the time and would go on to take eye-catching guest roles in TV sitcoms Two and a Half Men and What I Like About You. She then landed a regular TV role on Hope & Faith and starred opposite Lindsay Lohan in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen on the big screen.
Her breakout role came in 2007, though, when Fox played Mikaela Banes in Michael Bay’s blockbuster Transformers. The movie was a box-office titan and she became popular with teen audiences everywhere. She was nominated for three Teen Choice Awards and an MTV Movie Award, for “Breakthrough Performance.” Fox had gone from relative obscurity to worldwide movie stardom in a flash.
Unfortunately, things started to go wrong for Fox in 2009. She starred as Mikaela in the sequel Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, but it wasn’t received anywhere near as well as the first movie. Her other 2009 effort Jennifer’s Body, and 2010 comic book film Jonah Hex, were both critically lambasted and performed poorly at the box office. Her 2010 drama Passion Play, co-starring Mickey Rourke, even went straight-to-DVD.
Fox’s career had entered a downturn, with many observers believing the rot set in during an interview with Wonderland magazine in 2009. Here, Fox made some less-than-complimentary comments about Bay, and a feud began that would define her next few years. She said, “[Michael] wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation. He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is.”
Fox continued down this controversial path by addressing her perception of Bay off-set. She said, “So he’s a nightmare to work for but when you get him away from set, and he’s not in director mode, I kind of really enjoy his personality because he’s so awkward, so hopelessly awkward. He has no social skills at all. It’s endearing to watch him.”
“He’s so vulnerable and fragile in real life and then on set, he’s a tyrant,” concluded Fox. These comments were unlikely to put a smile on the face of Bay, who by most accounts does have a reputation for being prickly in a work environment. In the end, even though Fox said she liked him outside of work, invoking the name of Adolf Hitler and using the word “tyrant” were both extremely ill-advised moves.
In response, an open letter was published on Bay’s official website in September 2009. It was written by three unnamed crew members and was vitriolic in its skewering of Fox’s professional conduct and acting ability. In the letter, the crew compared Fox unfavourably with Angelina Jolie, before writing “We’ve had the tedious experience of working with the dumb-as-a-rock Megan Fox on both Transformers movies.”
The crew members also wrote, “When facing the press, Megan is the queen of talking trailer trash and posing like a porn star. And yes, we’ve had the unbearable time of watching her try to act on set, and yes, it’s very cringe-able. So maybe, being a porn star in the future might be a good career option.”
Bay then posted his own response to the website. “I don’t condone the crew letter to Megan,” he wrote. “And I don’t condone Megan’s outlandish quotes. But her crazy quips are part of her crazy charm. The fact of the matter I still love working with her, and I know we still get along. I even expect more crazy quotes from her on Transformers 3.”
However, Fox would not be a part of the third movie, entitled Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. In a Bay oral history published in the July 2011 issue of GQ magazine, he, and screenwriter Ehren Kruger, said Fox was distracted in rehearsals for the film and they believed she didn’t really want to be there. Bay claimed producer Steven Spielberg made the call to fire her, due in part to her Hitler comment from 2009.
Nonetheless, Bay and Fox would patch things up and she starred in the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, which he produced. In 2018 she revealed to TV program Watch What Happens Live that she believed the fault lay in her youth and inexperience. She admitted, “As I got a little older, I understood regardless of whatever my issues were, they should always have remained private. You should never blast someone like that in public.”
In addition to her comments about Bay, Fox has often told-it-like-it-is about Hollywood’s negative treatment of actresses. For example, in 2017 she told magazine Prestige Hong Kong that, “Women are undervalued. Equal pay for equal work.” In a 2018 interview with The New York Times newspaper, journalist Kathryn Shattuck wondered if Fox’s career had been hurt by her outspoken nature and asked if she felt the world owed her an apology.
Fox responded honestly. “I mean, that’s a lovely sentiment, and I appreciate that,” she said. A pause followed, before she added, “I don’t know that I want to feel anything about it because 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.”
“I don’t want to say this about myself,” mused Fox, “but let’s say that I was ahead of my time and so people weren’t able to understand. Instead, I was rejected because of qualities that are now being praised in other women coming forward.” She then wondered if her persona meant she would forever remain on the outskirts of the cultural conversation.
Fox said, “And because of my experience, I feel it’s likely that I will always be just out of the collective understanding. I don’t know if there will ever be a time where I’m considered normal or relatable or likeable.” After this sad revelation, she then addressed the #MeToo movement directly.
“Even with the #MeToo movement,” Fox admitted, “and everyone coming out with stories – and one could assume that I probably have quite a few stories, and I do – I didn’t speak out for many reasons. I just didn’t think based on how I’d been received by people, and by feminists, that I would be a sympathetic victim.” In fact, she was convinced that speaking out would backfire on her.
“I thought if ever there was a time where the world would agree that it’s appropriate to victim-shame someone, it would be when I came forward with my story,” said Fox. This depressing sentence showed just how deeply she had been hurt by her previous treatment. She believed she would be judged by the public and by Hollywood if she spoke out.
When asked by Shattuck if she wanted to get anything off her chest, Fox declined. “No, because I also feel like I’m not the universal hammer of justice. This is not to say that other people shouldn’t do what they feel is right. But in my circumstance, I don’t feel it’s my job to punish someone because they did something bad to me.”
In late June 2020, Fox’s negative treatment in Hollywood became a hot-button topic again when a clip from a 2009 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live resurfaced. In the interview snippet, Fox describes her experience on the set of Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II, which was released in 2003. At the time, she was only 15 years old.
Fox said, “They were shooting this club scene and they brought me in, and I was wearing a Stars-and-Stripes bikini and red cowboy hat. And six-inch heels. And he approved it, and they said, you know, ‘Michael, she’s 15, so you can’t sit her at the bar, and she can’t have a drink in her hand.’”
“So, his solution to that problem,” Fox continued, “was to then have me dancing underneath a waterfall getting soaking wet.” At this point, the audience in Kimmel’s studio laughed and Fox added, “That’s a microcosm of how Bay’s mind works.” It was Kimmel’s response to this with which people on social media took issue.
Kimmel joked, “Well, that’s really a microcosm of how all our minds work. Some of us have the decency to repress those thoughts and pretend they don’t exist.” The host’s reaction didn’t cause a stir in 2009, but it was immediately clear that wasn’t the case this time around. Social media users all over the world were shocked by Kimmel’s glib attitude and some even demanded he apologize.
Kristen Barry, a Twitter user, was outraged by Kimmel’s conduct. She wrote, “Jimmy Kimmel really said that all men think about underaged girls in bikinis, and the audience laughed when Megan Fox retold what was probably a very traumatic experience for her. And y’all wonder why women don’t come forward after being sexually abused.”
Another Twitter response from a woman named Sara highlighted the dangerous way in which the movie industry has sometimes treated inappropriate conduct toward its female performers. “I’ve been reading up on the Megan Fox thing for quite a while now but heard Kimmel’s response for the first time and…oh wow…just…wow…disgusting and genuinely scary. And the worst part is that this is representative of the attitude of most of Hollywood.”
Male Twitter users were equally disgusted. Ali Givenchy wrote, “The way Megan Fox told Jimmy Kimmel how Michael Bay sexualized her when she was 15 is so sad. The worst thing is Jimmy and the audience laughed at her and she felt embarrassed. Women don’t report sexual assault because people don’t take it seriously enough.”
A Twitter user named Bryan Lozano actually tagged Kimmel directly with his tweet. He wrote, “I saw that Megan Fox was trending and I read into this thread. Megan Fox was trying to tell us something. We just pushed it again and made jokes about it. Look how uncomfortable she is describing this moment. Jimmy Kimmel you owe her an apology.”
Matt Konopka, of the Killer Horror Critic movie review website, aimed his ire at Bay and Hollywood at large. “Megan Fox was a victim of an industry that took advantage of her, and what Michael Bay did was disgusting,” he wrote. “She deserved better.” He then suggested a re-evaluation of Jennifer’s Body, the feminist horror movie that has developed a cult following over the years.
A post from a user named House Of Dameron pointed out perceived hypocrisy in the higher echelons of Hollywood, and the Transformers franchise in particular. They believed that the only person whose career suffered from Fox speaking out, was Fox herself. They repeated Bay’s claim that Spielberg removed her from the third movie and noted that Bay was still allowed to direct three more sequels. They wrote, “Megan Fox deserved better from Hollywood.”
Finally, a Twitter user named Nat was scathing in her assessment of Bay. She wrote, “Megan Fox was sexualized from the age of 15 by Michael Bay. Then told by him that for her audition to be in Transformers she had to wash his car in a bikini whilst he filmed it. This is not okay. It will never be okay.”
Following several days of fan outrage and accusations that she was mistreated and sexualized by Bay, Fox posted a long statement on Instagram. Here, she defended him and suggested that the true details of events in question had been lost. She believed that sinister intent was being laid at his feet but felt it should be projected elsewhere.
Fox began by explaining, “I was around 15 or 16 years old when I was an extra in Bad Boys II. There are multiple interviews where I shared the anecdote of being chosen for the scene and the conversations that took place surrounding it. It’s important to note, however, that when I auditioned for Transformers I was 19 or 20.”
Fox then clarified her experience of the controversial Transformers audition, recountings of which had led to people construing it as Bay sexualizing an underage girl. This prompted much of the ire directed his way online. She wrote, “I did ‘work’ (me pretending how to hold a wrench) on one of Michael’s Ferrari’s during one of the audition scenes.”
“It was at the Platinum Dunes studio parking lot,” continued Fox, “there were several other crew members and employees present and I was at no point undressed or anything similar. So as far as this particular audition story I was not underage at the time and I was not made to ‘wash’ or work on someone’s cars in a way that was extraneous from the material in the actual script.” Fox then pleaded for opinions formed on the events to be based in the facts, not speculation.
In Fox’s opinion, Bay was not at fault in this situation. She also believed producer Steven Spielberg, who had been subject to some online criticism, did nothing wrong either. Fox wrote, “But when it comes to my direct experiences with Michael, and Steven for that matter, I was never assaulted or preyed upon in what I felt was a sexual manner.”
Fox made sure to express her gratitude for fans leaping to her defence. However, she confirmed that these particular incidents weren’t where her truly problematic treatment occurred. She wrote, “But these specific instances were inconsequential in a long and arduous journey along which I have endured some genuinely harrowing experiences in a ruthlessly misogynistic industry.”
Interestingly, Fox then hinted that she was holding back from publicly outing men whose misdeeds should be brought to light. But, for her own reasons, she would not be the one to name them. “There are many names that deserve to be going viral in cancel culture right now, but they are safely stored in the fragmented recesses of my heart.”
Fox concluded her statement poignantly. She wrote, “I’m thankful to all of you who are brave enough to speak out. And I’m grateful to all of you who are taking it upon yourselves to support, uplift, and bring comfort to those who have been harmed by a violent and toxic societal paradigm.”
Bay also responded to the situation with an Instagram post. He included a still photograph of Fox from her Transformers audition, her statement, and his own brief caption. He wrote, “Megan Fox wrote this today. This is a still from her audition taping 13 years ago.” He then made his stance on the matter clear.
“No. She is not washing a car, nor in a bikini, like the press have falsely said for many years,” stated Bay. He then hinted at further professional collaboration by writing, “And I personally think Megan is fantastic. I’m proud to have worked with her, and still am planning on working with her.”