Uncut Gems breakout Julia Fox on scoring winning chemistry with Adam Sandler
Julia Fox has been told that she should be an actress all her life, but she never considered it until an encounter five years ago with director Josh Safdie, who was working with his brother, Benny, on a script titled Uncut Gems. “He had already written the character of Julia and just hadn’t put a face to the name, and I think that when he met me it just kind of clicked for him,” Fox tells EW. “He was like, ‘I can’t see anybody else playing this role better than you.’ And he was right.”
A longtime fixture of the New York nightlife scene, Fox, 29, is a self-described artist and creative who “likes to make my own visions come to life,” including a 2017 art show called “R.I.P. Julia Fox” that featured paintings made with her own blood. “I’ve always been kind of eclectic,” says Fox, hence why she viewed acting as “just another thing that I could try.”
While the Safdies were long locked in on Fox to play the young mistress of gambling addict Howard Ratner, their 10-year mission to cast Adam Sandler was finally successful, and that meant more attention and involvement from higher-ups, who wanted a name actress for the role. More 300 actresses would be thrown into the mix, with Fox then needing to audition via a screen test with Sandler.
“You meet him and you feel like you’ve known him forever,” Fox says of the legendary comic actor, who is garnering awards buzz for his dramatic turn in the film. As part of the chemistry read, the Safdies took Sandler and Fox to Barneys, where they’d film a scene of Howard and Julia arguing over which dress he’d buy her. “The onscreen chemistry was there, and it felt very natural, fluid, and organic — and it was undeniable,” Fox says. “I think that when they went and auditioned other people, they just kept coming back to my screen test.”
Clearly not lacking for confidence, Fox still admits that she couldn’t help but feel the nerves when the time came to officially begin her acting debut. “I got to set and I was saying to myself, ‘What if I tricked all these people thinking I can act and that test was just a fluke?’” she says. “After the first day, I definitely felt so much better, because I nailed it.”
With the character both sharing Fox’s name and “clicking” for the Safdies upon meeting her, it’s easy to wonder how much of the Julia on screen is the real-life Julia. “There were some parallels between her and I, and that’s because when I got on board I kind of tweaked a few things, and I wanted her to be as authentic as possible and just be a New York girl: independent, strong, loyal, which are all characteristics that I possess,” says Fox. “But in real-life would I date someone like Howard? No.”
Despite her lack of interest in finding her own Howard, Fox loved the “ride-or-die mentality” between the characters, who seem to weather every storm, whether it involves wives, opals, or the Weeknd (who plays himself in the film). “They were a team and they’re just always there for each other,” Fox says. “He takes care of her; he’s her family. Even though he makes messes, he always cleans them up, and he supports her and he’s obsessed with her — and she loves him too. I think that she’s the only person that he can be vulnerable and honest with, like when he breaks down and he’s crying, he would never be that with anybody else. So they have this understanding and they’re really committed to each other, and they both need each other.”
And Fox is committed to this new world. When asked whether she wants to keep acting, she declares, “I want to be in Hollywood.” Hollywood will surely want her around, considering that Uncut Gems is earning rave reviews and breaking box office records. “For my first role, I’m going to remember it forever as this incredible, positive experience, and just a miracle,” Fox says. “The stars aligned, and it was perfect.”
Uncut Gems is out now in New York and Los Angeles, and will open nationwide Dec. 25.