TORONTO - The first thing Megan Fox asks me before we begin our interview is, "How are you? How is your kitty?"
That might have made me an unbiased Fox fan for life. It was an earlier conversation with her publicist that let Fox know about my four-month old rascal (Phoenix for those keeping track at home) who I'd be seeing in three days after deciding to depart the 2011 Toronto Film Festival a day early. Fox wasn't trying to win points with a member or the press, however, she's a huge animal lover. Currently, she has three dogs, a cat and two birds that she's caring for. But, her current housing arrangement is a far cry from her previous home.
"At one point when we lived in a different house, it was set up differently," Fox recalls. "We had seven dogs at one point, three cats. We’ve always had two birds. I had a pig at one point. Piggy Smalls."
How did the "Transformers" star find herself with so many creatures under her care? Like many, the admitted "sucker for animals" just can't see a cute dog or cat that's homeless.
"I can’t drive by an animal adoption and not stop and take someone home with me, something home with me," Fox says. "So, I adopt them like crazy. Brian [Austin Green] won’t let me stop anymore at shelters or at adoptions because I always leave with at least one animal because I feel like I can find them parents [or] homes and at least I feel like I know that they’re safe. I have to be careful with that. I could be one of those people on 'Animal Hoarders' if I’m not careful."
While some animal adoptive groups should no doubt be calling Fox up to sign her up as a national spokeswoman the real point of our conversation this day was to discuss her role in the new comedy "Friends with Kids" which debuted at this year's festival. The Jennifer Westfeldt comedy is a romantic comedy (in the best sense) about two Manhattan friends (Westfeldt and Adam Scott) who aren't adjusting well to how their best friends have changed after having kids. The two decide that the best way to go about it is not to be married when you have one and then take their own advice. Fox plays a Broadway dancer who ends up dating Scott's character after he's become a single dad. The comedy, which was just picked up by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions for a 2012 release, also stars Jon Hamm (Westfeldt's significant other), Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd and Ed Burns.
In an earlier interview, Hamm volunteered that one of the reasons he and Westfeldt approached Fox wasn't just because she fit the part, but because she was actually one of their neighbors. And while that was convenient, Fox, like most actors, responded to the material.
"You read a lot of scripts in this industry and most of them are sort of terrible," Fox admits. "And [Westfeldt] is a really great smart writer and I loved the script. I met with Jen and we talked for a few hours and I liked her and she liked me. We just sort of moved forward from there."
Shooting an indie in 22 days isn't easy for anyone and Fox recognized how much Westfeldt had on her plate as a director, producer and one of the film's main stars.
"I think she did a tremendous job with the responsibility that she had and the weight that was on her shoulders to sort of pull this off because it’s extremely difficult to be an actress, first of all, because there’s so much more pressure on women just because of how you need to look and this, that, and the other thing," Fox says. "And also to be producing, directing, and have written the script and want to make sure that what she wrote comes to life on film. I mean, I don’t know how she did it, but she did and she pulled it off really well. I admire her for that because I get overwhelmed just going to work as a supporting character [and] acting."
Fox has been quite funny when given the opportunity ("Jennifer's Body," "Saturday Night Live"), but "Friends" is the beginning of what has turned into a year of shooting comedies for the 25-year-old. She appears in the Sacha Baron Cohen flick "The Dictator" and just finished production on Judd Apatow's "This is Forty." When asked if it was specifically hard to sit through some of the funny roundtable scenes in "Friends" with improv masters such as Wiig, Scott and Rudolph, she admitted she had a "hard time getting through" sometimes.
"Like anything that Chris O’Dowd was in I really had a hard time not laughing because he makes me cry he’s so funny," Fox says. "I worked with him on Judd’s movie also and he’s so hysterical. And I don’t think Adam would consider himself a comedian, but he’s very funny and very witty and very dry. I had fun playing off of actors like Adam. We went off book a lot and, of course, that didn’t end up in the movie because that wasn’t part of the script and her script is brilliant. But I love working with people who are like that, who are good with sort of improving and ad-libbing stuff."
In a rare move for an Apatow film, "This is Forty" isn't slated to hit theaters till Christmas 2012. The director has tried to keep as much of it a secret, but the fact it features the return of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) from "Knocked Up" has had movie fans buzzing.
"I don’t know that I’m able to really tell you anything," Fox admits. "I mean, I’m on lockdown with the information. But I do have -- the cast of this movie is outrageous, the people that Judd has in the movie. It’s mind-blowing. He has Albert Brooks and he has Jason Segal and Chris O’Dowd and he has these just comedic geniuses in his movie. And my favorite seen actually is one that I did with Chris and Jason. I mean, I haven’t seen it, but just making it was the most fun I’ve had at work in a long time."
"This is 40" involved an in-depth rehearsal process that Fox also became a big fan of.
"[Judd] sets up the camera, then the cast sort of gets together and he’ll say, 'Alright, but at one point we kind of want you guys to be in a scene in this sort of place and this is the idea of what we want to happen. O.K., go.' And then we will start talking and we’ll make a scene out of it. He picks what he likes and what he doesn’t like and then they expand on the things that they do like and sort of make scenes that way," Fox explains. "By the time we came to shooting I was more accustomed to his process, but I love it. I think it’s fun. It just feels very alive. It never gets stale because it’s constantly changing, growing and morphing. You never know what he’s going to yell out at you. I loved it."
The question for someone looking at Fox's career has to be, "Where will she land?" A serious dramatic role didn't work with last year's festival entry "Passion Play" and jumping onto "Jonah Hex" and "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People" were calculated risks that went very wrong. And yet, Fox is one of the most recognizable women in the world, but seemingly now shut out of major studio action films after Michael Bay somehow convinced the press that it was his choice she didn't return for the third "Transformers" (it was hers). For Fox, it's just a bump in the road. She's just gonna keep on taking the interesting projects that come her way.
"I don’t think I ever pondered like whether I would keep going or not," Fox says of her acting career. I’ve been making one or two movies a year every year since I was 19. And the ones that hit big, hit big and the ones that don’t, don’t. And I’m already onto the next."
"Friends with Kids" should hit theaters sometime in 2012. To read HitFix's review of the comedy, click here.
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow Gregory Ellwood on twitter @HitFixGregory.
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