Passion Play, a drama written and directed by Mitch Glazer in which Fox plays a circus performer who sprouts wings in puberty, is by far the most serious movie of her career, and Fox is entirely cognizant of the impact that even a decent performance will have on the public perception of her. She is working hard to overcome the anxiety that she says hinders her work. “My main weakness is nerves,” she says, taking a long sip of her tea. “I have no confidence, and because of that I’m always second-guessing myself. That allows you to be false, and you can’t do that. You have to be honest; you gotta believe what you’re about to say. So once I get through the nerves, if ever, and sometimes it does happen, that’s when I’m able to have genuine moments.” Fox says she rarely goes on the Internet, not out of disinterest but out of fear about what she will find there; she knows what the critics have written about her past work with and without animatronic machines. She is quick to offer that she doesn’t believe acting is her biggest talent; she says she’s “marginally talented at a lot of things.” Yet she’s allowing herself to hope, albeit cautiously, that Passion Play will cast her in a different light, that her vulnerability in this role will strike a chord with audiences. “It’s not something they see often,” she acknowledges.
For someone who has pursued acting so aggressively—when she was 15 she convinced her mother to take her to pilot-season auditions in L.A.—Fox’s matter-of-factness about her own skills is confusing: Is the self-criticism a means of cutting critics off at the pass or of tamping down expectations? “There’s a million people I could name who are more deserving of the parts that I get and the life that I’m living,” she says. Asked if she’s envious of anyone in Hollywood, Fox raises her eyebrows, as if the answer to this question is obvious. “Everybody, maybe? Anyone who’s got any sort of legitimate accolades.”
These are the kinds of things some young women—women who might relate to Fox when she says self-loathing has been a part of her since childhood—would hash out over a couple of glasses of wine on a girlfriend’s couch. But Fox says she doesn’t have close female friends, save for one from high school, who still lives in Florida and is a mother now (Fox is also on good terms with her own, look-alike mother, who is 56, and, the actress proudly notes, is dating a man 16 years her junior). “I don’t trust people in this industry, but I especially don’t trust girls in this industry, because it’s incredibly competitive, and I’m just not interested,” she says. Her friend from Florida is different: “She’s not judgmental; she’s really accepting; she’s not competitive.” Because Fox is objectively beautiful in an industry that values a specific type of beauty above everything else, including talent, and because she has capitalized on that beauty, she seems to think that women nearly universally resent her. But if Fox misses those female connections, she isn’t about to say so—which probably alienates her even further. “I really enjoy my time alone,” she insists. “I need it. It makes me so happy to have silence and to be able to just do exactly what I want.”