The real reason Megan Fox was fired from the Transformers franchise

It became clear that Paramount planned on taking its blockbuster Transformers franchise in a new, far more subtle direction from the moment the trailer for 2018's Bumblebee dropped. "The trailer leaves behind the Michael Bay-isms of the previous installments and instead offers sense of earnestness," The Hollywood Reporter noted. The critics overwhelmingly approved of this more contained approach to a Transformers movie (per Rotten Tomatoes), but forgetting the Bay days won't be easy — just ask Megan Fox.

The Tennessee-born model-turned-actress played Mikaela Banes in 2007's Transformers and the first sequel in the long-running franchise, 2009's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The following year, she was fired and replaced with inexperienced British model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (via The Guardian). The war of words that followed did irreparable damage to Fox's reputation and her career suffered as a result. She was still able to make a living as an actress, but her days on the A-list were well and truly over.

Fox was being hailed as the new Angelina Jolie at the time (via The Telegraph), though her stock fell dramatically in the wake of her very public departure from the Transformers franchise. But what really went down behind the scenes? Did Fox deserve to be let go, or was she treated harshly by Hollywood? Here's the real reason she was fired.

She compared the director to Adolf Hitler

Ask your average film fan why Megan Fox was fired from the Transformers franchise and they'll probably tell you it had something to do with Hitler. While that answer would technically be correct, there was a lot more to the whole affair than just Fox's ill-fated interview with Wonderland magazine in 2009, but her words were certainly a huge factor. Asked what her favorite and least favorite things about working with Transformers director Michael Bay were during the interview, Fox didn't hold back:

"He's like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad man reputation," she said. "He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is." As if comparing Bay to the infamous Nazi dictator and mass murderer wasn't enough, Fox then went on to reveal that the director routinely put her and her co-star Shia LaBeouf in danger on the set. "Shia and I almost die when we make a Transformers movie," the actress claimed. "He has you do some really insane things that insurance would never let you do."

Fox did try to sugarcoat her comments by saying that she found his "hopelessly awkward" personality and lack of "social skills" to be "endearing" at times, but she couldn't stress enough how terrible Bay was to work with. "He's vulnerable and fragile in real life and then on set he's a tyrant," she said.

Did Steven Spielberg make Bay fire her?

Megan Fox's comments inevitably caused quite the stir, forcing Michael Bay and Paramount to respond. While the studio's answer was to quietly sever ties with the actress, Bay decided that he would reply to Fox's interview with one of his own. In a GQ exclusive, the director questioned his former leading lady's devotion to the franchise, but the biggest reveal was that producer Steven Spielberg actually ordered her firing.

"She was in a different world, on her BlackBerry," Bay told the men's mag. "You gotta stay focused. And you know, the Hitler thing. Steven [Spielberg] said, 'Fire her right now.'" The fact that Spielberg had been the one to swing the axe made just as many headlines as the original Hitler comments themselves, though the veteran director later denied any involvement.

When the Schindler's List director spoke with Entertainment Weekly in 2011, the mag asked if there was any truth to Bay's version of events, and he quickly set the record straight. "That's not true," Spielberg insisted, shaking his head as he answered. "That didn't happen." No one person has ever claimed responsibility for Fox's removal, but Deadline's sources at Paramount told the Hollywood trade that it was "ultimately" Bay's decision.

Michael Bay accused her of being lazy

If Steven Spielberg didn't throw her under the bus because of her Hitler comment, was there another reason for Megan Fox being fired? According to Michael Bay and certain members of the Transformers cast and crew, there were multiple reasons. When he put his side of the story across via GQ, Bay revealed that he wasn't actually offended by the Hitler comparison, but he did go on to call Fox out for being lazy, suggesting that she didn't have the stomach for Hollywood.

"I wasn't hurt, because I know that's just Megan," Bay said. "Megan loves to get a response. And she does it in kind of the wrong way. I'm sorry, Megan. I'm sorry I made you work twelve hours. I'm sorry that I'm making you show up on time. Movies are not always warm and fuzzy." Fox's co-star Shia LaBeouf sang a similar tune when he spoke to Hero Complex (via IndieWire), claiming that the director was just doing his job and Fox needed to grow thicker skin.

"When Mike would ask her to do specific things, there was no time for fluffy talk," LaBeouf said. "We're on the run. And the one thing Mike lacks is tact. There's no time for 'I would like you to just arch your back 70 degrees.'" The actor's comments didn't go over very well with IndieWire, who claimed that LaBeouf had revealed "just how oblivious, uneducated and unpleasant" he really was.

She was never "comfortable" with Michael Bay's style

Shia LaBeouf's "fluffy talk" comment was arguably the most sexist thing he said during his Hero Complex interview (via IndieWire), but in truth the young actor came out with a number of offensive comments that day. LaBeouf (who starred as Sam Witwicky in the first three Transformers movies) made it clear which side he'd taken in the Bay-Fox beef. "Mike films women in a way that appeals to a 16-year-old sexuality," LaBeouf said. "It's summer. It's Michael's style. And I think [Fox] never got comfortable with it. This is a girl who was taken from complete obscurity and placed in a sex-driven role in front of the whole world and told she was the sexiest woman in America, and she had a hard time accepting it." 

LaBeouf essentially admitted that Fox was only in the Transformers movies as eye candy, which was made even more evident when she was replaced by an unknown British model. The Guardian was quick to point out that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley had "no apparent acting experience whatsoever" when she unexpectedly landed a starring role in 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but modeling experience mattered more. "Rosie comes with this Victoria's Secret background, and she's comfortable with it, so she can get down with Mike's way of working and it makes the whole set vibe very different," LaBeouf explained.

She went against the captain

Shia LaBeouf's Hero Complex interview (via IndieWire) may have been full of controversial opinions on women in film (he called Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's character a "maternal, loving type" who was more into the "domestic, eggs-in-the-morning kind of a thing"), but he was actually way more critical of Fox when he spoke to GQ following her Hitler comments. "Criticism is one thing, then there's public name-calling, which turns into high school bashing, which you can't do," LaBeouf said. "She started s***-talking our captain."

Ironically, LaBeouf would soon become guilty of the exact same thing. In 2016, the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull star revealed that he hated working with Steven Spielberg, suggesting that the Hollywood great had lost his touch. "You're not meeting the Spielberg you dream of," the actor told Variety. "You're meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career. He's less a director than he is a f****** company."

LaBeouf went on to admit that the only movie he made with Spielberg that he actually liked was the first Transformers movie, but a few years later he was bashing the Transformers franchise, too. "My hang-up with those films was that they felt irrelevant," LaBeouf told Esquire in 2018. "They felt dated as f***... It's very hard to keep doing what you're doing when you feel like it's the antithesis of your purpose on this planet." Hypocrisy? You decide.

She didn't understand the Transformers movies

If the star of the movie doesn't know what's going on, then how are audiences meant to understand it? This thought clearly didn't go through Megan Fox's mind when she was interviewed by CBS's Harry Smith during the promotional run for 2009's Revenge of the Fallen. After implying that watching the sequel in IMAX might give you a "migraine" or even a "brain aneurysm", Fox admitted that she had to clue what the film was even about.

"I'm in the movie and I read the script and I watched the movie, and I still didn't know what was happening," she said. "If you haven't read the script and you go and you see it and you understand it, you may be a genius." Fox also gave viewers mixed messages in a separate interview when she said that "people are well aware that this is not a movie about acting." 

Quite understandably, Michael Bay wasn't too pleased with her less-than-ringing endorsement. The highly outspoken filmmaker fired back with some comments of his own after being made aware of Fox's words. "Well, that's Megan Fox for you," Bay replied (via Cosmopolitan). "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.'"

The screenwriter said Fox didn't want to be there

It wasn't just Michael Bay and Shia LaBeouf that blabbed to GQ about Fox's attitude on set. Screenwriter Ehren Kruger told the magazine that by the end Fox was only there in body, not in spirit. "She was there for rehearsals, but she seemed like an actress who didn't want to be a part of it," Kruger explained. "She was saying she wanted to [be there], but she wasn't acting like it."

The general consensus among the cast and crew was that Fox ought to have been more grateful for the opportunity Bay presented her with Transformers, and nobody held that opinion more firmly than the director himself. After hearing that Fox was bad-mouthing his Transformers movies in the media, Bay reeled off a list of actors whose careers he claims to have launched.

"Nic Cage wasn't a big actor when I cast him, nor was Ben Affleck before I put him in Armageddon," Bay said (via Cosmopolitan). "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."

The crew attacked Fox in an open letter

By his standards, MIchael Bay was relatively contained when discussing his rocky relationship with Megan Fox, but the same cannot be said for the Transformers crew. Responding to Fox's inflammatory Hitler comments, three members of Bay's long-time crew released an open letter backing the director and trashing the actress. The letter went way beyond anything that had been said at that point, comparing Fox to a "porn star," an "unfriendly b***h," and "dumb-as-a-rock."

"She's as about ungracious a person as you can ever fathom," the letter read (via Deadline). "She shows little interest in the crew members around her. We work to make her look good in every way, but she's absolutely never appreciative of anyone's hard work. Never a thank you. All the crew members have stopped saying 'Hi' to Ms. Princess because she never says hello back." Yikes! It seems as though Fox didn't have many friends on set, but was this letter really called for? According to Bay, it wasn't.

The director released a statement of his own saying that he couldn't condone the crew's scathing open letter, but neither could he condone Fox's "outlandish" quotes. "Her crazy quips are part of her crazy charm," Bay said (via Deadline). "The fact of the matter [is] I still love working with her, and I know we still get along. I even expect more crazy quotes from her on Transformers 3." Of course, Fox never made it to Transformers 3.

Did Bay orchestrate the crew letter?

Michael Bay might have spoken out (via Deadline) against the hateful letter released by the Transformers crew, but there are those who believe that the director actually orchestrated the whole thing. The fact that the letter came via Bay's own website raised a few eyebrows, and according to the Daily Beast, "two sources close to the production" were able to confirm that Bay "enlisted" the crew members in question.

"Michael Bay degraded Megan Fox then tried to sabotage her career," the article alleges. "As Hollywood reckons with the unchecked misogyny that has cost multiple actresses their careers, Michael Bay's treatment of a young Megan Fox deserves extra scrutiny." The Daily Beast's investigation into the pair's professional relationship stretches back to the first time they worked together, and it doesn't make good reading for fans of Bay.

"I had just turned 15 and I was an extra in Bad Boys II," Fox said during a 2009 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! "He approved it, and they said, you know, Michael, she's 15 so you can't sit her at the bar and she can't have a drink in her hand, so his solution to that problem was to then have me dancing underneath a waterfall getting soaking wet. ... At 15, I was in 10th grade. So that's sort of a microcosm of how Bay's mind works."

Fox refused to apologize

When Megan Fox's departure from the Transformers franchise became official, her team was quick to issue a statement that claimed she'd left on her own terms. "It was her decision not to return," a spokesperson for the actress said. "She wishes the franchise the best." This was contrary to a story by Deadline's Nikki Finke, the reporter who discovered that Fox wouldn't be returning as Mikaela Banes. "This new statement from Megan Fox's PR flack about why the actress won't be appearing in Transformers 3 is absolutely untrue," Finke said. "I stand by my scoop that Paramount and Michael Bay kicked her to the curb by not picking up her option to do the threequel."

Fox later admitted that she did in fact get booted off the franchise, opening up about the whole episode during her 2017 interview with Cosmopolitan. "That was absolutely the low point of my career," she told the mag. "But without 'that thing' I wouldn't have learned as quickly as I did." The young actress was taught a harsh lesson about life in Hollywood after she allowed stubbornness to get the better of her. "All I had to do was apologise, and I refused," she revealed. "I was so self-righteous at 23, I couldn't see [that] it was for the greater good. I really thought I was Joan of Arc."

Getting fired allowed Fox to grow spiritually

Things got hard for Fox after she was fired in 2010. That same year she set out to prove she could still front a big movie with Jonah Hex, but the comic book adaptation was a super-sized flop, torn apart by critics (it has an embarrassing low 12 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and grossing just $11 million worldwide on a reported $47 million production budget. This followed 2009's Jennifer's Body, which barely broke even domestically.

Fox still managed to find work in the years that followed but she was relegated from the A-list, forced to pick up supporting parts in movies like rom-con ensemble Friends with Kids and Judd Apatow's This is 40. Apatow and Michael Bay are an entirely different breed of filmmaker, yet Fox's body was still used as a selling point by the studio (via IndieWire). 

It was a dark time for the actress, but when it dawned on her that she was the architect of her own downfall she was finally able to move forward. "That darkness that descended caused enormous and brisk spiritual growth," Fox told Cosmopolitan. "Once I realised I [had] brought it on myself, it was an invaluable learning experience, looking back on it."

Fox and Bay are now BFFs

In 2013, Megan Fox's feud with Michael Bay officially ended when he cast her as reporter April O'Neil in Paramount's live-action reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. "We are bringing Megan Fox back into the family," Bay, a producer on the project, confirmed in a blog post (via The Guardian). Their reunion proved a profitable one. 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made almost half a billion dollars worldwide, however, the 2016 sequel Out of the Shadows only managed half that amount, and at a cost of $135 million dollars before marketing, that return represented a failure.

According to Variety, the studio began developing a third installment in June 2018, with Bay back as producer. It's unclear whether or not Fox will be returning (it's being described as another reboot), but even if she doesn't, she remains in a good place with her former Transformers boss. In fact, she revealed on a November 2018 episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen that the pair had become "BFFs" after she reached out to apologize.

"I was young when a lot of that was happening, and I was really self-righteous in my anger," Fox said. "I thought I was right to speak the way that I spoke. As I got a little older, I understood regardless of whatever my issues were, they should always have remained private. You should never blast someone like that in public." It seems all is well that ends well.