LOST AND FOUND. After finishing six seasons of playing Dr. Jack Shephard on the megahit TV series Lost, Matthew Fox is moving to the big screen permanently. His next film, Alex Cross, has him taking on a role he has never portrayed before – a psychotic serial killer. He talked to Ronald Liem about transforming himself for the part, the island life and the joys of fatherhood.
Unless you were living on a desert island for the last 8 years, you either watched Lost or at least heard about it incessantly everywhere, from the Internet to around the office watercooler. The sci-fi drama about a group of castaways stuck on a mysterious tropical island lasted for six highly successful seasons and saw it’s much celebrated and debated finale in 2010. At the center of the show’s large ensemble cast was Matthew Fox, playing the serie’s lead, Dr. Jack Shepard.
Since the show ended, Fox has moved his family from their home in Hawaii, where Lost was shot, to a new house in Oregon. During that time, he also decided to make a conscious move away from TV towards an exclusively film based career. He already has three movies coming out in the next eight months or so – The Emperor, World War Z and Alex Cross, which comes out this October.
In Alex Cross, Fox plays a killer named Picasso who is a cross between a special forces commando, an MMA fighter and Hannibal Lecter. Picasso matches wits with the film’s titular detective, who is played by Tyler Perry. It is a very different kind of role for Fox, and one which exemplifies the new direction his life has taken post-Lost.
Ronald Liem: Lost was a huge hit for six seasons. Can you tell us a bit about what it was like working on the show and living in Hawaii for six years?
Matthew Fox: It was a great experience and a really wonderful chapter in our lives. It was also really wonderful for our two young children, who aren’t so young anymore. We really enjoyed the six years that we spent there. Working on the show was fantastic. I really enjoyed the story and the character that I played on the show. I thought that I was given a really good opportunity to work on a role that was very complex, which gave me the chance to do a lot of different things. It was a fantastic experience all around.
Ronald Liem: So would you say you enjoyed living the island lifestyle?
Matthew Fox: I enjoyed it very much for the first couple of years. But, you know, I was raised in the mountains and I really love four seasonal climates and wide open spaces. So Hawaii became a little bit constricting for me, personally, so I was ready to move on to a different environment when the show was finished.
Ronald Liem: My 14-year-old cousin told me she just finished watching all six seasons of Lost, so it looks like you still have new fans catching on to the show.
Matthew Fox: Oh that’s great. You know, my daughter is actually 15 and she’s watching it with her friends right now. We wouldn’t have let the kids watch it before because we thought they were a little too young, but now that my daughter is 15 she is watching it with her friends and enjoying it a great deal. I think it’s the kind of show that will keep getting discovered by new generations of young people who are going to find it on DVD and that’s really cool.
Ronald Liem: In previous interviews you said that Lost would be the last thing you would ever do on television. Was there something about the show that put you off from TV?
Matthew Fox: No, not at all. I mean, I have said that [I wouldn’t do TV anymore] but it’s not because of anything I have against TV. I think some of the very best writing is happening on television and it’s a fantastic medium for storytelling. The reason I said that is because I just want more flexibility in my life. I’ve done two television shows and I spent 12 years of my life working on those two projects for six-year periods of time. It’s a very demanding venture and you know exactly what you’re going to be doing for the next six years. You know what you’re going to be doing for anywhere from 7 to 9 months of the year and all of that time is going to be focused on that one project, that one role, that one story. And at this point in my life, I’m just looking to have more personal flexibility in terms of when I’m working and when I’m not.
Ronald Liem: I saw you perform in Neil LaBute’s In a Forest, Dark and Deep in London last year. So is that why you jumped to the theater? Because of the flexibility?
Matthew Fox: Well that and I had always dreamed of doing a play in the West End of London. I mean, it has such a fantastic history for theater and a very intelligent theater going audience. Londoners even subscribe to their favorite theaters and see everything that’s produced there. It was always sort of a romantic notion of mine to do a play there one day. Plus, I’m a huge fan of Neil LaBute and this was his newest play, which made it even more exciting since it had never been produced before. It was a really wonderful experience that I greatly enjoyed.
Ronald Liem: Did you have any jitters about performing in front of a live audience every night?
Matthew Fox: It was a total thrill. I did 106 performances of that play and I enjoyed every single one of them.
Shirt and tie, by Emporio Armani
Ronald Liem: So now that you have worked in TV, theater and film, would you say that you have a favorite medium?
Matthew Fox: I just like to be involved with groups of people trying to tell a good story. It really doesn’t matter to me what the medium is. I look at film and television as the same thing essentially. It really just comes down to how big the screen is because the process is pretty much the same. But when you’re talking about theater versus film, they’re both very different animals and they take different kinds of energy. I like both a great deal.
Ronald Liem: Let’s talk about your new film Alex Cross, which is coming out next October. I’ve only seen the trailer but it looks like quite a bold role for you. What can you tell us about your character in the film?
Matthew Fox: Well he’s an assassin but he’s really more of a serial killer. I mean, this is a guy who really just enjoys the process of killing. It seemed like a really flashy role and when Robert Cohen actually told me about the project, I was still in London doing the play. I’m a big fan of Rob’s— we had met earlier on another project that never ended up getting made. But we hit it off and we really liked each other so we felt like we should work together at some point. So when he called me and told me about this project and what the role was, I told him I would read the script as soon as possible, which I did. I knew it would be a huge challenge for me but I really enjoy that part of acting. I enjoy challenging myself and trying to reach for things that I know are going to be difficult. I was excited to give that type of role a shot and to see what kind of character I could create. I felt that it would require me to change the way I look quite a bit. Because of the way I imagined [Picasso’s] philosophical take on the world and the way he rationalizes his behavior, I felt it would require so much energy that it would turn him into something like that naturally.
Ronald Liem: How difficult was it to prepare yourself for this role? I mean, physically, it looks like you really transformed yourself.
Matthew Fox: I lost 35 pounds, which was difficult, but I had really expert help. I met a man in London who had done this for several people — helping them radically change their look for a specific role. We got together and he asked me what I imagined the character looking like. Afterward, he came back with a strategically laid out workout plan that involved us training together on top of a structured nutritional plan. I was very disciplined, I never cheated and I worked really hard on it. Some of the first images that were leaked from the movie made me very happy because I felt like I had re-created the image I had in my mind of what the character would look like.
Ronald Liem: Who would you say has played the biggest influence on your career so far? In terms of, for example, the decisions you have made regarding the projects you have chosen.
Matthew Fox: That would have to be my wife and best friend in the whole world Margherita. She helps me a great deal and we are very much a team when it comes to that kind of thing. I really trust her taste and her sense of truth. She’s a very strong critic and she’s hard to please. I trust her when we are reading scripts and I always take her opinions very seriously.
Ronald Liem: You are known for being a family man. A lot of our readers aren’t married yet, so could you share with us some of your thoughts on what fatherhood is like and what one can expect from it?
Matthew Fox: Well it’s the greatest thing in the world, but it’s also the biggest responsibility that anyone could ever undertake. Bringing children into the world is a big decision. My wife and I waited for a long time and were together for many years before we started having children. We very much wanted to have a strong foundation in place before we started expanding our family. But once you have kids you basically see the world through their eyes. It makes you feel sort of new and scared and vulnerable all over again, which is actually a wonderful thing.
Ronald Liem: When you take on a role in a film like Alex Cross, do you ever think about the fact that your kids are one day going to watch it?
Matthew Fox: Actually my daughter is very excited to see it right now. It did manage to, one way or another, get a PG-13 rating, so my daughter is adamant that she’s going to go see it with her friends on opening night. She’s 15 now, and both my kids have a really strong understanding of the concept that I basically pretend for a living. So you know, if they see me pretending I’m a bad guy, they know it’s just that, pretending. So yeah, she’s very excited to see it and I’m curious to see what she thinks about it.
Ronald Liem: What would you say is your current state of mind?
Matthew Fox: I’m a little anxious right now because I’m going to be traveling a lot soon. I have three films coming out over the next eight months, which means a lot of traveling, moving around and doing press while staying in hotels. I’m usually a little anxious about that stuff because it’s always kind of a whirlwind and it takes me away from my family. But at the moment, I could not be happier with where we are now in Oregon, settled into this home that my wife and I spent three years building. We are very happy here and so I’d say I’m in a very good state of mind.
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Lisette Mora & Adam DeNino