Huffington Post blogger Scott Mendelson wrote an intriguing analysis of the Megan Fox/Michael Bay dust up which may or may not have been the catalyst for Fox’s departure from the successful Transformers franchise. Buried in the largely astute criticisms of Fox’s appeal and backlash from said appeal was this gem:
But the sheer outpouring of joy that greeted the allegation that Fox had been canned for trashing Michael Bay in public was more than a bit obnoxious. The same geeks and entertainment columnists who called co-star Shia LeBeouf honest and gutsy for criticizing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) were basically applauding the idea that Fox had been fired for basically doing the same thing. Why do so many people hate Megan Fox? Who do they even care?
Mendelson’s article positions directors Michael Bay, Michael Mann (Heat, The Insider, Collateral) and James “More Water! Less Water!” Cameron as fellow travelers in on-set verbal nastiness. Based on what I have researched and read on all three, I will not dispute Mendelson’s point. I will, however, respectfully move Cameron (seriously, folks, I am NOT a Cameron apologist) into the column of film director jackassery occupied by such luminaries as Ridley “Blood Runner” Scott, Stanley “If you can’t understand them [women] just don’t cast them,” Kubrick and Joel “I know you didn’t put your hands on me, bathrobe wearing assclown!” Schumacher, who have scorn heaped upon them over the way in which they handle (read: smack down) on-set dissent. That said, Scott, Kubrick and Schumacher a have reputation for being much more “equal opportunity” in their distribution of said smack downs. In Schumacher’s case much of his attributed “jerkiness”, when viewed through the lens of his open homosexuality, scans as a problematic attempt at a “tone” argument. For the record, Schumacher’s days of helming big budget pictures pretty much vanished after all the controversy surrounding the Batman franchise.
Digression noted; let’s move on to the Michaels. Michael Mann isn’t really on the radar at the moment and it seems his rumored perfectionism is at odds with the sausage factory (not a pun) Hollywood favors these days. Mann doesn’t seem particularly interested in reboots or sequels–the current love of Hollywood’s life–and after the disappointing Miami Vice (Jamie Foxx as Tubbs? Seriously?) I’m not in a hurry to see another Mann film.
This leaves Michael Bay. In my opinion, The Rock is the only film of his worth watching, and it has little to do with Bay and everything to do with Sean Connery and Ed Harris. While Megan Fox’s assertion Bay’s films aren’t acting showcases isn’t entirely without merit–particularly as it relates to femalecentric roles–I don’t think she’s necessarily the actor to make that claim. Since Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, action films have done much better at balancing the kabooms and the performances. In The Rock Harris and Connery lend their gravitas to a film that would have been pretty unwatchable without them.
Bay, when interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter, responded to Fox’s criticisms of the relevance of acting chops as it relates to his films with this:
Well, that’s Megan Fox for you. She says some very ridiculous things because she’s 23 years old and she still has a lot of growing to do. You roll your eyes when you see statements like that and think, “Okay Megan, you can do whatever you want. I got it.” But I 100% disagree with her. Nic Cage wasn’t a big actor when I cast him, nor was Ben Affleck before I put him in “Armageddon.” Shia LaBeouf wasn’t a big movie star before he did “Transformers”—and then he exploded. Not to mention Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, from “Bad Boys.” Nobody in the world knew about Megan Fox until I found her and put her in “Transformers.” I like to think that I’ve had some luck in building actors’ careers with my films. (source)
Note the presence of sexist framing and male privilege. Note the lack of other female actors mentioned in the SEA of male actors, which, by the way, were definitely on the Hollywood radar or possessed heavy connections to the industry at the time they were cast in Bay’s films. Smith and Lawrence had established careers in music and comedy respectively. Both were also stars of popular television shows. In addition to starring in 80s “unknown” films such as Peggy Sue Got Married and Moonstruck, Nic Cage is a member of the influential Coppola dynasty, which includes Auntie Talia “Adrian” Shire (Francis Ford’s sister), cousins Sofia Coppola and Bored to Death’s Jason Schwartzman (son of Shire). And those are just the Coppolas I can name off the top of my head. There are certainly many others. And good for them. However, my point is that in addition to being a douche, Bay isn’t even factually accurate. His statements demonstrate an impressive level of cheek, torpedoing his own claims and further supporting Fox’s assertions. Is it possible to frame Bay as a credible source when it seems he’s not well versed in the work history of his top talent?
Far be it from peons to disagree with Michael Bay when it comes to Megan Fox — after all, few in Hollywood have better BabeDar than he does — but Nicolas Cage? Apparently Bay had forgotten that Nic Cage had already worked with esteemed directors like Francis Ford Coppola, David Lynch, Norman Jewison, and the Coen Brothers before Bay discovered him. (source)
Do these critics not get the channels showing countless reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Martin on cable? In fairness to Bay, he was hard at work perfecting his douchebaggery–I mean craft–in such cinema classics as Playboy Video Centerfold: Kerri Kendall, so maybe he didn’t have time to catch Cage in his critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning performance in Leaving Las Vegas.
The way I see it, Megan Fox–who’s shaping up to be this generation’s Sean Young–provides another example of what happens to females who refuse to be silenced when emotionally victimized by powerful male filmmakers. While I have my own beef with the way in which Fox is positioned in the media, I don’t co-sign the derailing of careers or trashing of another female because she’s conventionally hot or makes a lot of wonky statements–some of which need serious unpacking and sadly, some of which ring true for women, be they inside or outside the “industry.”