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the star market

The Star Market: What Is Professional Provocateur Megan Fox’s Valuation in Hollywood?

A tattooed sexpot with the mouth of a Gallagher brother, Megan Fox might have been born to be famous on the Internet. But while her current round of blog-baiting interviews and underwear ads is still driving as many page views as ever, her online success has never translated at the box office. Opening to toxic reviews today is her badly buzzed comic-book Western Jonah Hex, in which she stars opposite Josh Brolin's scar-faced cowboy as Lilah, a gold-hearted, derringer-wielding prostitute. Studio insiders worry that Hex's first-weekend take may not crack $9 million, which would make for Fox's second major disappointment after last year's Jennifer's Body. So, following her recent dismissal from Transformers 3, one of the most lucrative franchises in movie history, where would another flop leave her?

Vulture examined Fox's career arc, box-office history, and several slideshow photo galleries, then asked agents, managers, and publicists for their candid assessments of the actress. Below, our exhaustive analysis of her future prospects: If Megan Fox were a stock, should you buy, sell, or hold?

Fox became far more famous for what she said and looked like than for any of her movies. The Internet lit up when news spread that she employed a hand double to obscure her stubby thumbs (nobody's perfect!) in a cell-phone ad, but nobody went to see her intended breakout role in Jennifer’s Body (which only grossed $16 million). And then she lost the only vehicle that was assured of getting people to pay to see her. After she compared Bay to Hitler, three alleged Transformers crew members called her rude and “dumb as a rock” on Bay’s website. In March, she was fired from Transformers 3, with the director hilariously claiming that casting a new love interest for LaBeouf "makes more sense for the story."

Fox became far more famous for what she said and looked like than for any of her movies. The Internet lit up when news spread that she employed a hand double to obscure her stubby thumbs (nobody's perfect!) in a cell-phone ad, but nobody went to see her intended breakout role in Jennifer’s Body (which only grossed $16 million). And then she lost the only vehicle that was assured of getting people to pay to see her. After she compared Bay to Hitler, three alleged Transformers crew members called her rude and “dumb as a rock” on Bay’s website. In March, she was fired from Transformers 3, with the director hilariously claiming that casting a new love interest for LaBeouf "makes more sense for the story."

PAST EARNINGS:

Transformers (2007): $100,000

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009): $800,000

Jennifer’s Body (2009): $400,000

PEERS: While Fox’s visibility is far above the average young female actress, it is very low ranked when it comes to castability. One need only look at her replacement for Transformers 3 to get a sense of how she’s viewed: Before getting the role, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's most notable acting role was as "Woman in Underpants" in Michael Bay's own Victoria's Secret commercial.

Transformers 3 (2011): $2.2 million (pre-negotiated, though not paid after she was fired in May)

PEERS: While Fox’s visibility is far above the average young female actress, it is very low ranked when it comes to castability. One need only look at her replacement for Transformers 3 to get a sense of how she’s viewed: Before getting the role, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's most notable acting role was as "Woman in Underpants" in Michael Bay's own Victoria's Secret commercial.

MARKET VALUE: She still has value in the tabloids: She recently was all over the papers for announcing her re-engagement to Brian Austin Green. And yet beyond any wedding, her schedule is remarkably open. Fox has only two films on her docket right now; there’s this fall’s Passion Play, in which she plays a winged circus freak who falls for Mickey Rourke’s troubled trumpet player, and she’s attached to the indie thriller Unseen, directed by music-video veteran Sanji Senaka, wherein she’ll play a pregnant hostage who falls in love with her captor.

WHAT HOLLYWOOD THINKS: One agent says that “there’s very few second chances for women,” especially one with “limited chops as an actress, so if that’s not working, then what?” The rep adds, “All that said, she could be Pamela Anderson.” A publicist tells us that, "She sells magazines because of what she says. But she doesn’t sell movie tickets,” and cites an Angelina Jolie analogy. “You look back to her with her vial of [Billy Bob Thornton's] blood and the crazy tattoos. She had the acting chops and an Oscar, and even she couldn't keep it up. If Fox is going to be in good films, she can still turn this around with a change in her approach to PR. But it’s not going to matter if there’s bad product, and that's all there seems to be for now. Maybe she and Brian Austin Green should adopt ten children and go to work for the U.N., because I am out of answers."

THE ANALYSIS: Fox badly needs a hit, and Jonah Hex isn’t going to be it. And even though she only appears in the film for fifteen minutes, she’s being used to promote it, so she’ll shoulder some of the blame. Since the Transformers franchise isn’t going to suffer without her, it’s up to Fox to prove her worth, and it’s a brave studio that lets her bend over a motorcycle in their blockbuster when the jean shorts would fit equally well on someone less prone to controversy.

There’s always the classy indie-salvation route, but Fox has never been cited for her acting abilities, and small distributors won’t want to risk her off-message interviews derailing their delicate project. And she can’t quite embrace her inner (or outer) sexpot in service of the above agent’s recommended Pam Anderson route, because Fox is the anti-Pam. Anderson was all sex, all the time (even committing to a sex tape), while Fox’s appeal is all about simultaneously exaggerating her sexuality and then downplaying it as just Hollywood silliness. While Fox’s PR strategy made her a star, it’s also the very thing that has severely limited her future.

BOTTOM LINE: Magazines and blogs like this one might suffer without her. But Hollywood likely won’t.

BUY/SELL/HOLD: Sell!

Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images