The Big Picture

  • Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes practices can be morally corrupt, with the treatment of actors like Megan Fox revealing the industry’s misogyny.
  • Megan Fox’s portrayal in Michael Bay’s Transformers films was sexually exploitative, and she faced workplace dangers on set.
  • Fox’s controversial remarks about Bay led to her firing from the franchise, highlighting the power dynamics within the industry.


Despite the magic of filmmaking that Hollywood casts upon the industry, behind-the-scenes machinations of some of the most popular and renowned creations are often quite nefarious. As a commercial enterprise, protecting the bottom dollar leads to morally corrupt practices and rationales in Hollywood, starting from pre-production to distribution. Even as the media and public are expected to be more perceptive of unethical business strategies, the Hollywood system is still dominant and influential enough to bully their way toward their goals. Routinely, it is the movie stars on screen, the people that drive customers to theaters, who are most punished by murky practices. In the 21st century, one of the more unnerving controversies surrounding the treatment of an actor involves Megan Fox‘s fallout with director Michael Bay and the Transformers franchise.

transformers-2007-poster

Transformers

An ancient struggle between two Cybertronian races, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, comes to Earth, with a clue to the ultimate power held by a teenager.

Release Date
June 27, 2007

Cast
Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachael Taylor, Anthony Anderson

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
144

Main Genre
Action

Megan Fox’s Casting Process for ‘Transformers’ Was Complicated

Still a valuable commodity after the recent release of 2023’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Bay’s series adapted from the Hasbro toy brand and cartoon of the same name appeared to be an unlikely contender for a major blockbuster. The director, off the heels of heavily stylized hits that are unabashedly proud of pure spectacle such as Bad Boys, The Rock, and Armageddon, infused his juvenile and jingoistic sensibilities into his most mainstream bid. He succeeded in 2007, with the original Transformers spawning four additional sequels that he directed. Sure, the films were lambasted by critics and many viewers as the lowest common denominator of popcorn entertainment, but they were impactful and prone to receiving mass attention. The series elevated the stardom of Shia LaBeouf and announced the presence of a new celebrity icon and franchise queen in Megan Fox.

Fox, relatively unknown upon her casting as Mikaela Barnes, the love interest to series protagonist Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf), appeared in a brief uncredited cameo in Bad Boys II as a bikini-wearing dancer underneath a waterfall. She was 15 at the time of filming, and since it was illogical for her to sit at a bar as originally intended, Bay pivoted to have her act as a sexually suggestive object. The actor describes this instance as a “microcosm of how Bay’s mind works,” when interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel in 2009. When this anecdote resurfaced online in 2020, Fox would clarify that, despite how she was depicted in Bay’s films, she was never assaulted or preyed upon by the director.

Megan Fox’s correction of the record, which she expressed on Instagram, is also tied to her audition process for Transformers. Reports arose in 2009 that Fox was tasked to wash Bay’s car during her audition. She denied these allegations, stating that she was “at no point undressed or anything similar,” nor sexually exploited to a gratuitous degree. “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,” Fox further elaborates.

Michael Bay Fired Megan Fox From the Transformers Franchise

Even with Fox clarifying widely-believed rumors as erroneous, the star’s history as the co-lead of two Transformers films is complicated nonetheless. For one, despite the Transformers franchise’s direction under Michael Bay lasting until 2017, Fox only starred in the first two. She was fired from her role in the third installment, Dark of the Moon. Following the production of the reviled second film, Revenge of the Fallen, Fox commented on Bay’s tyrannical methods of directing. In an interview for Wonderland magazine in 2009, the same year as her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, Fox likened the director’s authoritarian, alpha-male style of filmmaking to Hitler. In addition to also comparing him to Napoleon, Fox states, “he wants to create this insane, infamous madman reputation.” She concludes that, while he is a “nightmare” to work with, he is a gentle and kind individual, but describes so with the backhanded label of Bay being “hopelessly awkward.”

There is no definitive answer as to why Fox was fired, but signs point to the actor’s biting remarks towards her director, with her remarks on late-night television only adding insult to injury. Deadline initially reported that Fox’s untimely departure was at the demand of Bay. Another wrinkle in this controversy involves Transformers producer and filmmaking legend, Steven Spielberg. According to Bay, in a story for GQ, Spielberg was outraged by Fox’s comments and proceeded to call for her dismissal. Bay claimed that he took no offense to Fox’s inflammatory remarks. Considering Spielberg’s background of Jewish faith and his sensitivity to anti-Semitism, this claim holds some credibility. Spielberg rejected this claim in an interview for Entertainment Weekly.

Michael Bay Sexualizes Megan Fox in the Transformers Movies

While comparing Bay to a notoriously ruthless and hateful dictator was perhaps uncalled for, even if it was intended in a jocular manner, Fox’s criticism of Bay’s behavior makes sense. From an outsider’s perspective, it is difficult to dismiss Bay’s exploitation of low-brow sexuality among his female stars. When speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Shia LaBeouf surmised that the director “films women in a way that appeals to a 16-year-old sexuality.” Fox, who was eventually replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whitely in the third installment, was immediately recognized as a sex symbol at the dawn of her career, which was undoubtedly aided by Bay’s films.

Megan Fox has opened up about her anxieties as a prominent figure of exposure in the public limelight and the mental anguish caused by the rampant misogyny in Hollywood. Her controversial Wonderland interview contains descriptions of Bay’s sexually-charged direction, where the actor claims that she was merely told to “be hot” and “just be sexy” in place of nuanced acting. Fox claimed that her fetishized appearance in the Transformers films was a product of satisfying Bay’s interests. She placated the director by gaining 8–10 pounds before filming, as Bay “doesn’t really like skinny actresses.” From her co-workers and relentless media exposure, Fox’s body image has been dissected and judged since the minute she became a household name.

The Transformers Movies Had a Dangerous Work Environment

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Furthermore, in addition to the exploitation of Fox’s sexuality, the set of the Transformers films was reportedly a dangerous work environment. “Shia and I almost die when we make a Transformers movie,” Fox stated during the Wonderland interview. “[Bay] has you do some really insane things that insurance would never let you do.” In a behind-the-scenes featurette for the original Transformers film, Bay was adamant about filming the climactic sequence in which Sam Witwicky is hanging off a skyscraper authentically without relying on CGI, an anomaly for a Michael Bay movie. LaBeouf, understandably, was apprehensive of this setup. A film scattered with excessive explosions for eye candy is sure enough going to perpetuate the hazardous filming conditions.

For many audiences, the Transformers franchise is considered downright awful and represents the nadir of creative storytelling. Not only, according to its critics, are the films averse to an ounce of intellectualism, and represent the soulless nature of corporate-backed entertainment, but there is a black cloud floating above this valley in the unresolved controversies surrounding the derisive comments made by Megan Fox and her treatment during production by Michael Bay.

Transformers is available to rent on Prime Video.

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