Popularity is relative, and especially in the digital age. You could have hundreds of thousands of followers online, but be completely unknown in the streets — massively famous on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, but lack any kind of real, authentic cool in person. For our new series, Coolest Person in the Room, New York-based photographer Megan Walschlager pinpoints all the people whose energy is contagious regardless of their following count or celebrity. Meet Julia Fox, the native New Yorker, modern renaissance woman and breakout actress you need to know.
Tell me about your day job.
I don't really have a day job, I haven't in a long time. I've gotten fired from any job I've ever had, so I basically just do everything for myself. Right now, I guess I'm kind of veering into acting, by accident. I really like it and I think I'm good at it and I hope I can do more stuff like that. My real passion, though, is directing and producing.
I have one short film under my belt, which we just submitted to festivals. Basically, I went to Reno knowing I wanted to make a short film, just not knowing exactly what. And then I met all these young girls between the ages of 13-15 and I knew they were stars; I knew they would be my stars, I just didn't know for what. After speaking with the guardians, I found out how child sex trafficking and kidnappings are so frequent there that they don't even report them anymore, so I knew that I could draw attention to this cause I'm passionate about.
And this is your short film called Fantasy Girls?
Yes. I hope I can do more things like that and give people a voice using mine, while also raising awareness for causes that I think are really important and special — and doing it in an artistic way so people will be into it and it will get more attention that way.
You also have your new film Uncut Gems coming out. Tell me about how you got into acting.
I had been friends with the Safdie brothers for many years, and Josh particularly was very enamored by me — he always knew he wanted to do something with me.
Yeah, I read your part was sort of written for you.
Yeah, I'm the only cast member that was never interchanged. Everyone else was swapped out, but I'm the only one that stayed the same. I did have to fight for it, though. Sure it was written with me in mind, but I definitely had to prove to the big studios and Scott Rudin that I could do this.
Do you have previous acting experience?
No, but I do think I am an actress of life, so I've kind of always put on a show. Or pretended to be normal. Or pretended to be okay when I wasn't. My first experience in acting was probably in high school. My after school job was a dominatrix, so you know, it was fantasy role play. And it's legal. There's no nudity, no penetration. It was all just role play. So I would have to go into a room with a stranger and put on this act like, "I'm gonna dominate you!" I was thrown into that as a teenager, so I'm good under pressure and I can read someone and know what it is that they want. I pick up subtle cues very well and pay attention to detail.
What I find really cool and interesting about you is that you've done a lot of things that aren't really in the same realm and you've been pretty successful with all of them.
I've had the luxury of being able to change my mind. Of course, I did that with the help of a lot of people. Specifically my ex-boyfriend who really opened so many doors for me and just believed in me the most and if it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't even be here and I wouldn't be the person I am and I wouldn't have inspired this role. I definitely owe him a lot — he was like an angel, a saving grace.
I kind of am somewhat of a renaissance woman. I have many, many interests. I feel like when you're a creative, you can express that through so many mediums. Acting just happens to be what it is right now, but it's been fashion, it's been art, it's been photography, it's been writing, it's been directing. If you have it in you, it's gonna come out with whatever someone puts in front of you.
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What is your relationship with nightlife like?
I know you grew up in New York and compared it to the film Kids-
It was worse than that [Laughs].
Are you going out right now?
Not at all [Laughs]. Growing up in New York, you start going out really young. I was 14 years old in clubs, you know? By the time I was 18, I was tired. It just got boring and repetitive. I already knew what the night would be like — it just wasn't fulfilling to me anymore. It was this really cheap thrill that I had become immune to. So, no I really never go out unless it's an event or I have to. I do enjoy myself. Sometimes I really have to push myself to socialize because I can tend to be reclusive and do the isolation thing, but I do love interacting and meeting cool people. I just find that anyone I've ever met at a club never really stayed in my life or impacted me in anyway. It's always been the people I met in the day.
I actually used to be part owner and investor of a nightclub, so I actually went out a lot during that time, but that just ended disastrously. After that, I was turned off by nightlife. I also feel like nightlife isn't what it used to be. It's a different vibe.
What is inspiring you right now?
Right now my life is literally 24/7 Uncut Gems and that is constantly on the forefront of my mind, but I do have so many scripts and I just can't wait to get the right people in front of me to push it on to me.
Like scripts you've written?
Yeah, so many. I would love to direct a TV show or a movie. And the people that have read them think they're really good, so hopefully once I get an agent I'll encounter someone that believes in me in that way. That's the dream: to have a TV show on Netflix or something.
Is it harder to live in New York as an actress, or would you ever want to move to LA?
I hope to move to LA. I've been wanting to move to LA for years. It's just so hard as a New Yorker, you're so accustomed to everything being at arms reach. And it's hard to leave. I always feel like I find myself back here by accident. But I do think moving to LA is gonna be way more convenient, especially when I start doing jobs out there.
Although, you know, A24 is based in New York and I feel like there's more stuff happening in New York now. But, I just think LA is the place to be for that. Everyone is in the entertainment industry. You walk into a cafe and there's like 20 people working on scripts. That vibe is just so prominent there.
What do you think are some of the coolest places in New York?
The diamond district is really cool. And I feel like it's one of those neighborhoods in New York that has stayed the same. I love the culture there and my husband's always there for something, so I love going there. I feel like that's the only authentic place left here. I used to love Cafe Orlin, but it closed. It sucks I feel like all the landmarks from my childhood aren't there anymore. It's not like if you're from a small town and that diner has been there for 30 years. It's kind of hard to find that.
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That being said, do you think LA is more romantic in that sense?
Yeah, it totally is. I love how vast it is and how every neighborhood has cool little gems. Like Koreatown has so many fun bars. And Jumbo's Clown Room — it's kind of like a strip club, but it's very indie and the girls aren't you're typical strippers, they kind of just look like regular girls. And there's all those weird motels. Location scouting in LA is so fun.
I think I also see LA through rose-colored glasses because I've romanticized it so much. I love Old Hollywood, Sunset Strip, Guns N' Roses, the porn industry — how it's all built on porn money. It's so different from the stuck up, stuffiness of New York. I feel like New York is a lot more sophisticated, but more stuck in its ways, whereas LA is constantly evolving to get to the next level. I feel like they're just more on it. New York is old money and LA is new money. I like the new money. I wanna be over there, I think it's more fun.
They also have the house parties over there that I think are so fun. You can't have a house party in New York, that will get busted at 11. People come [to New York[ to get inspiration. I get my inspiration everywhere but here. I think because I grew up here and to me it's kind of tainted, you know?
What is your creative process like when you're writing a script or something?
It's really weird because I do not control it at all. It'll come to me and completely take over my whole entire life. It's almost like this high that I get and I'll bang out the script in a day. I never have to come back to it. Like if I leave it, I won't ever come back to it. It has to be completely in that moment. And that's kind of what it is: I'll just get the inspiration and this urge and this itch. And that's with anything I've ever done. I'll put it together in the shortest amount of time. Like a matter of days. I'll have it all together.
I've also read that you've done a couple road trips across the US. What do you like about exploring like that?
I love the West. That's another thing I love about LA is that it's so perfectly placed. It's nice to drive for days straight and not hit one toll booth. It's just untouched land, perfectly preserved. You can see the history in the rocks, the terrain tells a story that I love to fantasize about — like the people who first settled there and the ghost towns and the gold mining towns. I love that history that I feel like here has been kind of wiped away. Here is also so congested. There's just so many more people. Driving through the East Coast or like the eastern part of the Midwest, it's just not that pretty.
So basically that came about after I left New York. I had a nervous breakdown slash spiritual awakening. It wasn't that I ran away, it was like I was running towards something else. I've been happy since then. And that's when I [ended] the fashion line. I was like, "I can't do this anymore, it's just not fulfilling." And I just bought a shitty car and picked up a friend that I hadn't seen in years, but that I knew would be down and we just embarked on this trip. We ended up on the Bayou of Louisiana. We got a little crazy down there.
What I was so enamored by on the Bayou, was there's just not that many people and you're kind of isolated in the middle of nowhere. Like I lived on a marina that stretched out into the Gulf of Mexico. One road in, one road out, no neighbors, in a house on stilts. It would sway in the water and when there were hurricanes it felt like it was gonna fly off into the ocean. It was all new to me because I had always been such a city girl. To me, Manhattan had always been the center of the world, then Miami for vacation and LA for work. I had never really considered that there's a whole country to be seen. Then once I got a taste I wanted to see everything. I've almost been to every state, which is cool.
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Do you have favorite states that you experienced?
New Mexico is beautiful and enchanted. Maybe because of the Native American culture, but it's very spiritual and special. Arizona I really like. Nevada is really beautiful. That little cluster right there I love. Colorado, of course. The Dakotas are really pretty. I still haven't gone to Montana, but I hear that's really beautiful.
How do you know, or decide to move on to your next project? Like you said with your fashion line, which was successful.
It wasn't a sad moment because I knew that there was more. I always strive for more. I'm never satisfied. Once I conquer something, I'm like, "Okay, what else can I conquer?" That's the way I've always been. I get bored of something and then it's not fulfilling and then I have to go find something else to fill the void.
What is next for you? You said bringing your scripts to life.
Yeah, and more acting. I'm waiting to find the right agents who are gonna be the perfect fit for me and then I guess we'll start talking about my options. But right now — until like February or March — everything is Uncut Gems. There's more screenings, then there's the premiere and I'm doing a lot of press for it. Right now I'm 100% Uncut Gems and I'm basking in it. I'm almost dreading when it's going to be over because it's been such a high, and it's getting really great reviews.
It feels like everything I ever worked for was leading up to this moment, and this is my big reveal. I did things that were successful, but they were at a much smaller scale. And it was always having to do everything on my own and proving to everyone that I was worthy, and getting people to take me seriously. Whereas now I have a team of people that are pushing for me and believe in me and that's amazing. It feels really good.
Photography: Megan Walschlager