When you work in Hollywood you get to "meet people you wouldn't normally meet in an office", producer and director Marcus Fox says of his illustrious 25-year career in Tinseltown
Originally from Dublin, Fox first gained an interest in acting at school when his teacher put him forward for a play without his knowledge.
“I thought I was the stand-in. I found out on opening night that I was the lead. It’s amazing how much confidence someone believing in you can give you. I’m very grateful to him for that.”
An audition for the Commitments, Alan Parker's 1991 classic followed. "I was down to the last three. I remember, in my youthful ignorance, showing up in a suit to impress the casting crew, and then I saw the other two lads dressed in more suitable Commitments attire – and they both got the parts."
Nonetheless, it sewed the seeds for his future career path.
A brief stint in Luxembourg in the early 1990s working in the hospitality industry brought about an opportunity to go the US east coast and Florida in 1995.
“Like many Irish people, I came over and did odd jobs and enjoyed being young. I eventually ended up in San Francisco. It was a great place to be during that time, with lots of Irish people around.”
Fox worked in the building trade, but an opportunity in TV was soon to come along. A job as a set production assistant on projects in San Francisco led to a job on MTV's Road Rules – a spin-off of the Real World, a hugely successful 1990s show.
“It was a very last-minute thing. I stood in for someone on set; the next day I was flying to the Caribbean. It can be that simple.”
Travel across the Caribbean, cruising along the African coast and traversing the US was part of the job description. “It was the ultimate busman’s holiday.”
In 2002, Fox got an opportunity with a brand new TV series being filmed in Los Angeles about rock star Ozzy Osbourne and his family. "It was the beginning of the celebrity reality TV phenomenon and the Osbournes was groundbreaking."
Fox worked as a co-ordinating producer on the show. “I was still living in San Francisco at the time, but used to drive 600km back on Friday evenings – for last orders at a friend’s bar on Haight Street.”
The show opened many doors for Fox, especially after winning an Emmy. "I started working on the Anna Nicole Show and various spin-offs as a co-executive producer."
LA was calling, and eventually Fox decided to move there. “I had a preconceived notion that I wouldn’t like it, but I met my wife here, and I also found that it’s not as plastic as I was lead to believe.”
Fox also launched his own company called iCandy TV, and directed the hugely successful reality TV show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica about pop star Jessica Simpson and her husband Nick Lachey.
Other shows on his resumé include Hollywood Trials and Destination Wild. Back home in Ireland, he made a documentary about big wave surfing pioneers called Waveriders in 2008, which won numerous awards including an Ifta.
In 2009, he executive produced a show called House of Jazmin, and in 2010 he created a show called Hardcore Pawn about a pawn shop. He's also worked on pilots with Kendall and Kylie Jenner, and spent the last two years on and off filming Paradise Run, a kids reality show filmed in Hawaii. "It was great because I bought the family over with me."
Great little theatre
Besides working on some of the biggest shows on American TV, Fox also co-founded LA’s Irish Film Festival.
“I discovered that there was nothing really in LA. I knew there was a great one in San Francisco, so I get involved with a friend and we found a great little theatre and brought some movies in.”
Fox says he never ran the event which takes place in October in Los Angeles, but is otherwise involved. He also MCed the Southern California Rose of Tralee, and was awarded honorary Irishman of the year in LA.
Fox says there is a good community of Irish people in Los Angeles, from megastars to jobbing actors. But everyone works so hard, you don’t get to “hang out”.
“There’s always this impression that it’s callous and dog eat dog, but it’s not that bad. I’ve managed to be freelance my entire career, and you get well paid here. Life is expensive, rents and real estate prices are sky high. It sounds glamorous, but the hours are long. Twelve hours is the norm, 16 isn’t unusual and often you work 20-hour days.”
In between you work from home or have some time off, which he spends with his two-year-old twins and a six-year-old.
“Obviously we’re very busy, but there are huge benefits.”
Then, of course, there’s the weather. “It’s hot here most of the year, even the winters are beautiful, so you don’t really miss life at home. As far as work in movies is concerned, LA is tough, but no tougher than anywhere else, and there is always room for talent over here.
“You miss the craic, but everyone misses that about Ireland. We’re unique like that. You won’t get it anywhere else, but if you’re raising a family and work in TV, this is the place to be.”