September 2008 By Philip Berk
Matthew Fox has never forgiven me and The Hollywood Foreign Press for failing to recognize his work in the film We Are Marshall
He had traveled 10,000 miles (From Australia to New York) to do a last minute press conference for the film and expected Golden Globe nominations to follow.
When it didn’t, he turned down a chance to be a presenter at the Awards show and hasn’t spoken to me since.
Of course no one else thought much of the film, but try to convince Matthew.
And yet he’s always been someone I’ve not only admired but we once had a most cordial relationship.
And what’s there not to like.
He lives in Hawaii with his wife of seventeen years (she’s not in he business) and their two children.
He may be one of the best looking guys around, but you won’t find the tabloids writing about him.
The first time I interviewed him he was part of the Party of Five ensemble, but completely upstaged by then teenage heartthrob Scott Wolf.
He struggled with that demon for five years
But then when Lost became the worldwide television hit he had his revenge.
Not that he was looking for one, although there certainly was no love lost between the two of them.
I traveled to Hawaii to interview him the first season of Lost, reminding him that when his costars on Party of Five were getting all the attention, he seemed resigned to playing second fiddle. “There are more important values than being competitive” he had told me.
But now, suddenly, he’s the hottest star on television.
Does he still feel the same?
“I did feel that way on Party of Five because I’d had my daughter at the time, and it was really important to me to keep some sort of a balance in my life. Acting is very important to me, and I approach it with incredible intensity and passion, but being a father and how I judge myself as a father in the end, is the ultimate way I will test myself. After Party of Five it was a good thing for me to just do nothing for a while. I did some theatre work and a series called Haunted which got canceled, but I was very proud of it. After that I felt I should take another bit of time off and reconnect with my family and kids. At that point I had a son as well so I started looking again, and Lost came around which was so incredibly exciting from the moment I read the script. What really attracted me was the ensemble nature of the piece. With Haunted I was the single lead and every bit of the story was told through this character’s experience which meant I was working so hard I wouldn’t see my kids for six or seven days at a time because I’d be coming home so late at night. With Lost it was something where I knew I would have more balance in my life, be able to do something I was crazy about and also spend time with my children and my wife.”
And it’s worked out just as you planned?
“I have all the time off I want, and I spend it with my kids. We’re doing a lot of things in the water. It’s just fantastic. After living in Los Angeles nine years it was really starting to get on my nerves how little space we had especially after the kids came along. I’m originally from Wyoming where I grew up with limitless amount of space, and that’s really freeing for kids. In Hawaii we’ve got this great spread right on the water. I can watch my kids jog across this amazing lawn with palm trees right on the water. I don’t have to worry. It’s really beautiful for me.”
What can you tell us about your wife Margherita?
“She was born and raised in Venice, Italy. I met her when she was nineteen years old in New York. She could barely speak English and we fell madly in love. We spend a lot of time in Italy. All her family still lives there, and since we started having kids, it’s very important to us at least once a year to get over there for about a month and make sure those relationships are maintained. It’s a great country. I love Italy.”
Anything more you can say?
“If you can generalize about any people, I’d say Italians are very superstitious. At least I’ve found that with Margherita. For instance she won’t cut her hair unless it’s a full moon. ‘There’s something about the full moon being a good time to cut your hair. It’ll grow better if the moon is full.’ I love that about her and enjoy discovering those things with her. I myself am not very superstitious. I’m pretty logical and scientific.”
How did they meet?
“We were introduced by a friend of mine who she had met. She thought we’d hit it off.”
Anything about Hawaii you like or dislike?
“Obviously, the landscape is beautiful; but there are obstacles. The weather is trying at times. We get rained out a lot, which affects our shooting schedule. Things take longer because we have to stop production. Also the summer is long, and It can be incredibly hot, a lot of dehydration.”
Two years later again I visit him in Hawaii.
How is he settling down? Is it true he’s bought a home in Honolulu?
“No, we still own our home in California, and I own a place in Wyoming as well, but we’re renting here even though it’s been our home for the past couple of years. The kids are going to school here, and we spend most of our time here, eight and a half months a year, and then we’re on hiatus for three months.”
That past summer he had worked instead of spending quality time with the family.
“I actually did two feature films over the summer. I worked non stop and brought my family with me on certain sections, but we did spend two three weeks apart, which was really hard. We don’t spend very much time away from each other, but doing movies is a little bit different.”
What movies were they?
“We Were Marshall which we shot in West Virginia and Atlanta, Georgia, and Vantage Point which we shot in Mexico City.”
Was that something he felt compelled to do?
“Look, it’s exciting getting these opportunities. They were incredible experiences, and I enjoyed working with great directors and actors I’ve admired. I look forward to these projects, but at the same time I really enjoy working on Lost.”
But wasn’t there a time you relished that downtime with your family?
“My wife and I talked about it a lot. We knew it was going to be a very difficult summer. It’s the first time in all these years that I’ve chosen to work over the hiatus. I basically worked the entire three months six days a week . We knew it was going to be grueling, and we knew we’d have to spend some time apart, but my wife is very supportive of the choices that I’ve made. She’s a big part of that actually. She pre-reads scripts. I really trust her very, very much. She has no schooling in that, but she has an incredible instinct for the truth and for things that affect her; so we’re excited about these opportunities. We knew it was going to be a tough summer, but it turned out really fantastic. The kids were amazing. They traveled for two months. They came to Georgia for the first movie for three weeks, and then they came to Mexico City for three weeks for the Vanishing Point. In between they went to Italy for a month. Then they were off to Hawaii so they had a ball.”
How old are they now?
“My daughter’s nine and my little boy is five.”
Do they speak Italian?
“They speak Italian thanks to my wife. That’s been difficult for her, to be the only source of Italian in their lives, but that one time a year that we do get back to Italy they pick it up quickly, and two weeks into their stay my daughter’s demanding Margherita speak only Italian to her.”
A few months later (it’s at the New York junket for We Are Marshall) he’s looking extremely well rested considering he’s been traveling for 20 hours.
Playing a coach in We Are Marshall did it remind him of the time when he played football?
“I was a little nostalgic getting on the field.”
What was your own relationship to the sport when you played?
“I was very competitive. All the sports I participated in I played with a lot of conviction. I gave everything I had to it. I don’t think I was necessarily the most talented athlete, but I made up for it with a lot of hard work and hustle.”
How did you handle loss?
“I’ve never been a terribly good loser. I got better as I got older. When I was young I always wanted to win. I was very competitive. I grew up with two brothers and that obviously complicates things.”
So how did you cope?
“There was definitely some anger involved, frustration. After that I would cool down. I always tried to turn that into just working harder, practicing harder, working on the weaknesses in my game whether it be basketball or football, just trying to improve myself as a player. I really liked team sports a lot. I have been asked a lot about my time at Columbia (University) where in my senior year I played on the team that ended the longest losing streak in NCAA history. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re on a team where you get your ass kicked.”
Coming from Wyoming, how did you adjust to the Big Apple?
“That was a huge transition for me. If you know what Crowheart, Wyoming, looked like when I grew up, and then to find myself in New York City. It’s two opposite ends of the spectrum. I guess I’ve always been attracted to extremes.”
So what can you say about Vantage Point?
“It’s a contemporary action thriller. It’s about a kidnapping attempt on the President of the United States in a square in Barcelona, Spain. The movie takes place in twenty minutes of time, but you see the same twenty minutes of events through seven different perspectives, and through each perspective you learn more about what actually happened, as more is revealed. It’s really a movie about perspective and how different things can appear depending on the eye of the beholder. It’s directed by Peter Travis who’s just phenomenal. He directed a movie called Omagh which was about the Omagh bombings in Ireland. We have a great cast, Dennis Quaid, William Hurt, Forrest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver, and some really phenomenal Spanish actors. I really had a good time making it.”
Did he always want to be an actor?
“Not at all. When I went to Columbia University in New York City, I was there to study economics. I got my degree in economics, but then after I graduated I realized the business world was not for me, and someone suggesting modeling. I started studying acting and the first thing that I got was Party of Five, which kept me employed for a long time.”
What’s the craziest thing he ever read about himself in the tabloids?
“That I had lifted a tow truck off a tow truck operator. The tow truck had fallen on him, and I had helped rescue him from underneath the tow truck. And there was not one speck of truth to it. And then the next week I had been pulled over on Sunset for soliciting prostitutes. And I wasn’t even in Los Angeles at the time”
(Of course there is a Sunset Beach in Hawaii.)
Over the years he’s preserved his image as the ideal family man, but in a recent interview in Men’s Journal he revealed his darker side. He smokes cigarettes and once in a while marijuana (“but not in front of the kids,”) he drinks (“I enjoy social boozing”) and he has a brutal, base, and violent nature (“Margherita knows it exists in me. We both have hot tempers. We do our share of yelling and screaming. Our fights are very intense, and we lay it all out.”)
My questions to him are much more benign.
Besides the unpredictable weather, is there anything else he doesn’t like about Hawaii?
“I guess the traffic. I have a very hard time with traffic in general, so I couldn’t wait to leave Los Angeles, only to discover there is as much traffic in Hawaii as in L.A. But it makes perfect sense when you realize there is only one road that goes around the island, and everybody getting anywhere has to use it. I guess I miss Wyoming where you never get stuck in traffic.”
So what’s there to like?
“Well it’s a really sexy place, honestly. For me growing up in Wyoming, whenever I come to a tropical, balmy, very humid, warm-water place, and your wife is running around in shorts with no underwear, it really kind of gets me a little nuts. It’s a sexy place if you know what I mean,” he jokes.
But you’re a cowboy at heart, aren’t you?
“Being born and raised, spending my first eighteen years of my life, in Wyoming, I really feel that’s where I feel the most connected, and as much as I love Hawaii — it’s fantastic, beautiful — still I feel closer to Wyoming, that kind of wide open spaces, very isolated expansive landscape. That’s where I can hear myself and feel like I’m hearing myself clearer than anywhere in the world.”
Hawaii bans nude bathing but you’re known for skinny dip in the ocean.
Is it true the producers warned you about that?
Feigning ignorance he responds, “They didn’t say anything to me.”
After a moment’s reflection he adds, “They’re not going to keep me from taking my pants off.”
So you still do it?
“Of course. If I’m going to go swimming in the ocean especially at night. But I don’t skinny dip during the day.”