Julia Fox plus Adam Sandler isn’t the most intuitive pairing. The Uncut Gems actors, both native New Yorkers, occupy opposite corners of the cultural zeitgeist — he the Netflix-binging masses of the mainstream, and she the city kid contingency of the art and fashion worlds. Yet, somehow, the chemistry just works.
Fox plays Julia in Benny and Josh Safdie’s visually stunning stress dream of a film. It’s a role that was quite literally written for her (the Safdies are longtime friends of hers), despite her lack of experience or technical training. But that’s not to say Fox doesn’t have practice in performance. She’s dabbled in the performance arts as an afterschool dominatrix, Playboy model, and the subject of her own art exhibition-cum-funeral (“R.I.P. Julia Fox”).
Uncut Gems is Fox’s first feature film, but she walks into our photo studio with the confidence of someone well-versed in the press circuit — in fact, she even seems a little bored? Maybe that’s just Fox. She tells me she’s found her calling in acting with the sort of assuredness of someone solving two plus two — it’s just a presentation of facts.
From our brief time together, I gather that Fox isn’t the type of person to fill lulls in conversation with small talk. She’s not afraid of cutting to the point, nor is she in a hurry to do so. Like her character in Uncut Gems, Fox has no qualms about saying exactly what she means, whether that’s calling the fashion world “pretentious” or admitting that she was starstruck after running into Jerry Springer at Cipriani.
Read on below as Fox discusses her transition to Hollywood, working with Sandler, and playing “Staten Island Barbie” to Pete Davidson’s Ken.
InStyle: So, this character was written for you. Did it feel like you were playing a version of yourself?
Julia Fox: Yeah, like maybe a younger version of myself, like the 2012 version of myself, which makes sense because the movie’s set in 2012. But also I think that Julia kind of represents any 20-something-year-old girl from New York — strong, independent, resilient, loyal, and she just gets her job done no matter what the circumstances may be.
2012 is kind of a weird time because it doesn’t feel like it was super long ago, but when you look at the fashion, it feels really dated. Is there anything in terms of fashion that you miss from that time?
No. I think it was probably the worst time for fashion.
Is there anything you’re really glad people aren’t wearing anymore?
I was going to say a waist belt, but I’m wearing one right now. [Laughs]
Before you started acting, you were also a fashion designer …
I’ve done a lot of different things. I was kind of trying to figure out what my passion was, but I wasn’t just sitting around waiting for an epiphany. I would just try things. I liked [designing], but it just wasn’t fulfilling, you know? And I’ve done a lot of other things too, and I loved it in the moment, but then it became kind of dull and I just needed to go find the next thrill. And I definitely think that acting, directing, producing, writing is exactly where I want to be. I want to be in Hollywood and I want to make movies. I’ve found my calling. I think I was meant to do this.
As for your former fashion line, Franziska Fox, do you personally still connect to that aesthetic?
Yeah, definitely. I like cut-outs, I love knitwear. I just love things that make you feel good. I love looking sexy.
What do you gravitate toward when you’re looking for a red carpet outfit?
I like to be as outrageous as possible. I really like to push the boundaries and then I’ll have a whole team of people saying like, “Absolutely not, you cannot wear that.” So I try to go as wild as I can, but sometimes I have to tone it down.
What’s an outfit that got shut down?
A catsuit, a lace catsuit, which is pretty much all see-through. They said no.
So we were just discussing how you’ve worked in so many different creative realms. You were also a visual artist. How do the fashion and art worlds compare to Hollywood? Does it feel like a big departure?
Kind of, because I feel like fashion and art is much more New York, and movies and Hollywood is L.A. And I feel like in L.A. the sky’s the limit, you know, with movies. And I just love storytelling and I love cinema. I don’t know, I feel like the art world in New York is a little stale. Fashion is a little bit pretentious. Whereas I feel like movies are just fun. That’s just my perspective, based off my experiences, obviously everyone has different experiences.
Did the fact that Uncut Gems is set in New York sort of help you feel more comfortable in this new industry?
Yeah, definitely. And that I had already been friends with the directors and already knew a lot of the people. I kind of just felt like I was making a movie with my friends.
So this is your first feature film and your co-star Adam Sandler is probably one of the most prolific actors of our generation. Did he help you navigate the industry at all?
Not really. Like he’s not the type to be like, “This is what you have to do, this is how you do it.” I would kind of just observe and watch and learn and I’m pretty good at absorbing information and I’m pretty good on the spot. I’m good under pressure, so it came very naturally. He was obviously a great mentor.
Were you a fan of his before you began shooting?
Yeah, I mean it’s like who isn’t a fan of Sandler? Or even if you say you’re not, you are because you grew up watching him. So to me, he’s always kind of been this god-like figure, like not even a man. He’s a myth, you know? And then to meet him and see what an amazing man he is — such an amazing father and husband, actor, an amazing friend and just amazing person.
So this is the most stressful movie I’ve ever seen in my life. Did watching it stress you out?
It did, it really did.
How do you handle stress in your own life?
I don’t really get that stressed out anymore because I just don’t think about it. I just can’t. I’m like, “Don’t think, just do.” I just do what I’m supposed to do.
But when I do get stressed out, I tend to eat a lot and then I’ll just be like, “No, I’m not stressed,” And I’m like 10 pounds heavier than I was a week ago. But yeah, I wish I could say that I meditated or did yoga or something, but no, I just sit with it. I always tell myself, “You know, nothing is permanent. However I may be feeling right now, it’s not how I’m going to feel forever and it’ll pass.” And I feel like I’ve been through enough in my life where it’s like, if I could get over that, I’m resilient enough where I don’t get as stressed out or anxious as I used to.
Your performance in Uncut Gems and the movie itself already has a ton of buzz and the film hasn’t even come out yet. Are you nervous about the exposure that you’re going to have once it’s released?
Well sometimes I get nervous [about] all the haters and getting negativity thrown at me, which I hope doesn’t happen. I’ve always tended to attract a lot of haters for some reason, but I haven’t in a really long time so I hope that people are just going to be positive and happy for me and not like jealous or anything.
So you were Barbie to Pete Davidson’s Ken in that now infamous Paper magazine spread shot by Tommy Dorfman. How did you get involved in that?
I’ve been friends with Tommy Dorfman for a really long time. We knew each other when we were both just nobodies. [Laughs] They worked in a store and my office was across the street and we would have lunch from time to time. And then one day they were just super famous and I was like, “Oh my God, how did that happen?” It’s crazy. I’m so proud of them … really an angel. And they texted me and were like, “I can’t think of a better Staten Island Barbie than you.” And I was like, “I will take that as the best compliment ever — I am in!” And yeah, that was really fun. Pete is sweet.
Did you know Pete already, since he’s a city kid, too?
No. Staten Island is like a different world. If you’re from Staten Island, you’re like not from New York, you’re from Staten Island.
So on the topic of gems, what’s the most meaningful piece of jewelry that you own?
Probably my engagement ring. The stone is an Alexandrite and it’s one of the most precious ones, and it’s really cool because it shines different colors under different lights. So like under artificial light it’s more purple, under a black light it’s hot pink, outside it’s like a blue-green in daylight. I love it. It’s like everyone has a diamond. I’ve had diamonds, so I wanted something super rare.
How would you describe your personal style?
I like a lot of leather, black leather. I like a boot with a heel. Kind of ‘90s but not too much where it’s like ironic. It’s just chill. I love leather trench coats … I would say [my style is] pretty easy, relaxed. Like I don’t really go all out, and I’m not trendy. I don’t jump on trends and then go buy like the new hot thing. I’m pretty comfortable and like just keeping it simple.
What did your childhood bedroom look like?
I shared a room with my brother in a really small apartment in the city. It was terrible, but luckily I was never home, I was always at my friends’ houses. It was a bunkbed. I remember the ceiling was painted with clouds, that was really nice. That’s all I remember. Just a bunkbed and clouds.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
If you could only watch three movies for the rest of your life, which three would you choose?
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, and Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation.
Who have you been the most starstruck to meet?
Well, I didn’t meet him, but when I saw Jerry Springer at Cipriani I freaked out.
What’s something you wish more people knew about you?
That I love to write. I’m a good writer.
Are you working on any screenplays right now?
I have so many that I’m sitting on. And I want to act a little bit more and learn. and then when I’m confident enough, I’m definitely going to get the wheels in motion on those and see what I can come up with.
Photographs by BriAnne Wills. Art direction and production by Kelly Chiello.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.