Julia Fox and Tommy Dorfman Talk Fame, Codependency, and Motherhood
It may seem as if Julia Fox appeared out of nowhere, but before she turned heads in the Safdie brothers’ manic thriller Uncut Gems, the 31-year-old was already a known entity in New York City. Fox, who moved there when she was a child, is distinctly a product of the city, the type of person who both shapes and is shaped by it. She has been a clothing designer, a model, a painter, a photographer, and even, at one time, a dominatrix. Now, she is a professional actor, most recently joining the starry ensemble in Steven Soderbergh’s latest caper, No Sudden Move. Fox, who stars opposite Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, and Jon Hamm in the Detroit-set thriller, shot the film when she was six months pregnant with her first child, Valentino. She initially worried that her son might slow her momentum—she’s also launching a podcast and working on a book—but, as she tells her friend, the actor Tommy Dorfman, the exact opposite has happened.
JULIA FOX: I was thinking about you last night, Tommy. You are so brave and such a fucking classy lady. You make people feel good. You make people feel at ease and accepted and warm and welcome. I don’t know if it’s because you’re a Southern belle, but it’s so refreshing.
TOMMY DORFMAN: My parents are so hospitable. It’s in my DNA. I remember when I was newly sober, my ex and I were living in a one-bedroom apartment in Clinton Hill, and if there was a person who was homeless that I met through sobriety, they would come and live with us for three or four weeks. I was always doing that. I don’t know why.
FOX: The world really needs more people like that.
DORFMAN: I think part of it is being generous and welcoming, and the other part is incredibly selfish because I don’t want to be alone, ever. Do you ever want to be alone?
FOX: I used to be a codependent mess. If I was hanging out, and I knew the person had to be somewhere at 5 p.m., at 3 p.m. I would start panicking. It was so dark. I got so over being like that, because you get tied to people who aren’t even good people.
DORFMAN: My experiences with you in the early days were so fundamental. We didn’t spend a lot of time together, but it helped me come out of my skin during that time. It was a time when I didn’t want to be social. I felt like the ugliest, grossest, and saddest. When we met, I was 21 and confused about what my life was.
FOX: Working at the shop. I would see you and I loved you.
DORFMAN: I loved you guys, but I was so intimidated. It was realy hard for me to be social, and you guys are still, I think, the epitome of New York cool.
FOX: Then you disappeared, and a few years later you popped up and you’re famous and on TV. I was like, “Is that Tommy?” I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Of course something like that would happen for her because she’s an amazing, magnetic, gentle, good person.”
DORFMAN: Watching you be a single parent and co-parent with your community that’s been there for so long is incredibly inspiring to me. What do you think is the biggest change in your life, now that you have a baby?
FOX: It’s like taking a comb through your whole life and anything extra and unnecessary falls to the wayside. It’s really, really nice. I value my time so much more because I have so little of it. It’s very humbling to know that this little baby is the boss of me. He decides what we do all the time. It does come very naturally to me because I’ve always had this maternal instinct of, you know, taking in stragglers off the street. But there are times where it’s like, damn, I wish I had a homegirl that has a baby as well. It would be nice, but I’m the first in my friend group to have a baby, and I don’t see any of them having one soon.
DORFMAN: It must have been hard to have a kid in a pandemic.
FOX: In a way, it was an ideal time, because I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. There were times where it got lonely, especially because I was pregnant when people were still really scared, and no one was leaving the house. I got a dog, too, and the dog really helped. But I really had a lot of energy focused inward, and it was very calm. I think that’s why Valentino is such a chill baby.
DORFMAN: Valentino’s so fucking chill.
FOX: I’m obsessed.
DORFMAN: What’s Steven Soderbergh like compared to the Safdies? FOX: He’s like a mad scientist. He’s just the master. He knows what he wants and he’s so crafty. He’s holding the camera, he’s directing, he’s doing the lighting. It’s incredible. We would be shooting, and I’d do one take, and he’d be like, “Okay, we got it.” And I’d be like, “Are you sure?”
DORFMAN: With Uncut Gems, it probably seemed to some people like you came out of nowhere. I can understand that the experience of that kind of attention is quite jarring, especially when it happens so quickly.
FOX: I already had people that would come up to me on the street. I had that experience for many years. I think that’s what prepared me for when it became really big, and I can tell you, I’m so unfazed by it. It’s why timing in life is so important. If I had gotten that level of fame at 20 or 21, I don’t think I’d be alive today. It happened at such a time where I’m so comfortable with myself. I’ve never looked around and thought, “Oh my god, celebrities.” I’m never starstruck. At least very rarely. When I saw Jerry Springer at Cipriani I fucking almost died.
DORFMAN: If we share anything, it’s the quality of feeling accomplished, but never feeling successful. I’m like, “Wow, yes, I accomplished that thing. That was cute. Moving on.”
FOX: I know! It’s like, when will I ever be satisfied? When will it be enough? I think that’s what makes successful people. You’re always striving for more. I’m grateful I’m in this position, but I don’t want to linger in it. I can’t get comfortable. I need to keep my eye on it and not forget why I started. I can’t forget who I am and the messages that I want to spread, because it’s easy to.
DORFMAN: What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the last year?
FOX: If it doesn’t serve you just let it go. Don’t try to make things work that are not working. Don’t fight nature. Don’t fight the universe. You are not the master creator. Just surrender to the fact that sometimes it isn’t really working. It doesn’t mean that you failed. It just means you’re smart enough to realize that there’s something else out there for you, whether that be in work or in friendship or in romance. That’s something I’m learning. By doing so, you open up your life and world to positive things.
DORFMAN: Are there any filmmakers you’d love to work with?
FOX: This question is always so hard because I can’t think of one person I wouldn’t want to work with. I really do just want to experience everyone and everything. I’m actually doing a movie in October with a female director. I’ve been in movies that were so macho and male-dominated, so I’m really excited to do a softer movie and see if people are still into me.
DORFMAN: They’ll be more in love with you. You’ve always been a filmmaker in a way. The other night you said, “I have 20 things I’m producing.”
FOX: Well, I’m working on a book proposal right now. It’s like a memoir and it goes really deep. I could totally see it being a movie down the line or even a TV show. I just signed a Spotify deal to do a podcast with my friend Nikita Cash called Forbidden Fruit, where we’ll talk like wild people and tell crazy stories. It’s going to be entertaining. But one thing I really want to be doing is television. I’m a TV girl. I love TV shows, so I’m hoping that saying it out loud into the universe and putting it down on paper, that someone will read it and give me a fucking job on a television show.
DORFMAN: Putting it out there! I want to work with the Safdies, and I want to do an indie where we’re all living in a house together in North Carolina.
FOX: As you come into your own and evolve into the woman that you are, I think those things will come. And what’s the point of having nice things and having opportunities if you can’t share them with the people you love? Most of the fun is collaborating professionally with your friends.
DORFMAN: You and I are really multidisciplinary—you do like 17 different things.
FOX: Exactly. In certain ways, I was very precocious and grew up really fast, but in a lot of other ways I was a late bloomer. It took me so long to find out what I wanted to do. But at least I didn’t like staying still. Some people are paralyzed, and they’re like, “Maybe it’ll come to me one day.” I was actively trying to be like, “Maybe it’s fashion, maybe it’s writing.” I was always trying. Now I think I really found what I love to do because mostly I just love disassociating. That’s what I love about acting. You can let loose and be somebody else and pop out for a little bit.
DORFMAN: I love that you can start your life over basically anytime. Being trans is such an ultimate reset, but being a mom is also the ultimate reset, right?
FOX: Absolutely. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I really wish I did it sooner. I wish I hadn’t listened to society. So many people told me all these things that were going to happen, and after Valentino was born, I had a moment of like, “Oh my god, what if all these things are true? What if my life is over?” One thing I was so afraid of was, “I’m not going to be an artist anymore. I’m only going to care about my child and that’s it.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, I’m much more focused because of my child. He’s only reinforced who I already am. He didn’t take anything away from me. He just made me more comfortable being me.
DORFMAN: You’ve mentioned maybe moving to L.A. What do you think you’re going to miss the most about New York, if you move?
FOX: I love New York fashion. You really see these young people pulling it together and making it work. I’ll miss being able to walk around. There’s the serendipitous nature of New York where you can walk down the street and bump into someone. They might take you somewhere else, and then you’re there. That’s very beautiful—the unexpected surprises.
Makeup: Merrell Hollis at Crowd Management
Hair: Dylan Chavles at Ma+ Talent
Manicure: Leanne Woodley at She Likes Cutie
Photography Assistant: Jordan Zuppa
Photography Assistant: Jimmy Kim
Styling Assistant: Jaidev Alvarez
Tailor: Maria del Greco at Lars Nord Studio
Production: Courtney Kissane
Production Assistant: Michael Oliver