Casting Lindsay Lohan in a film should be a no-brainer. The 20-year-old star of Georgia Rule and Mean Girls is immensely likable onscreen, a pretty girl-next-door with an impish smile, a good singing voice and a loyal young female fan base. Unlike her sometime pal Paris Hilton, Lohan has talents beyond shopping, posing and landing the cover of US Weekly she can actually act. There's just one little problem: Lindsay.
Like so many actors before her Robert Downey Jr., River Phoenix, Christian Slater, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe Lohan is as self-destructive as she is gifted. She crashed her Mercedes on Sunset Boulevard on Memorial Day weekend, got arrested for a DUI, was photographed slumped in a car in a stupor, and checked into her second rehab stint in four months. The once lovable (and bankable) child star looked as if she was finally trading the vivacity that first won over audiences in 1998's The Parent Trap for vapidity.
"If she becomes injured physically and mentally then she loses her sparkle," says James Robinson, the Georgia Rule producer who last summer fired off a blistering memo when Lohan's late-night partying and days off for "exhaustion and dehydration" caused costly delays on set. At the time, Robinson told Lohan she had "acted like a spoiled child... alienated many of [her] co-workers and endangered the quality of this picture."
"After I called her down for her behavior, she shaped up," says Robinson. In part, he credits the family-like atmosphere created by director Garry Marshall and co-stars Jane Fonda and Felicity Huffman. "She felt loved, important." But when filming ended, so did the ad hoc family, and Lohan, whose real parents occasionally pop up in mug shots (Dad) and red carpet events (Mom), resumed partying.
By January, Lohan had entered her first rehab facility and started attending AA meetings. But she still made time to film a thriller called I Know Who Killed Me, due in theaters July 27, in which she alternately writhes on a stripper pole and is tortured, and also to hit L.A.'s nightclubs with friends. Marketing and publicity plans for that film are tentatively moving ahead, although it's not clear when Lohan will leave her newest home, the Promises residential treatment center in Malibu, Calif. This week Lohan was to have begun filming Poor Things, a comedy with Shirley MacLaine. MacLaine and producer Rob Hickman issued a statement that, at Lohan's request, "We are trying to rearrange the shooting schedule to facilitate her working at the end of the shoot to coincide with the completion of her rehabilitation. We wish her love and the blending of mind, body and spirit."
In the meantime, Lohan's sway with audiences is waning, says Steve Levitt, president of Marketing Evaluations Inc./The Q Scores Company, a firm which evaluates celebrities for marketers. "This is a sad case of a young celebrity who can't get out of her own way and is losing her appeal," says Levitt. In a February 2007 study, Lohan's negative ratings among consumers were four times her positive ones. For a star most beloved by young girls, the bad girl behavior turns off parents, as well as potential business partners. "Really, who wants to take a chance?" says Levitt.
As Lohan spirals, filmmakers have plenty of other solid starlets to choose from, like the swan-necked sweet girl Anne Hathaway, pretty pirate Keira Knightley and thinking man's bombshell Scarlett Johansson, none of whom have ever been hospitalized for "exhaustion."
Robinson, however, says he would cast Lohan again if he were making Georgia Rule tomorrow. "She's one of the most talented actresses I've ever worked with," says Robinson, who has also produced films starring Angelina Jolie, Laura Linney and Courteney Cox. "I think she's just a very lonely girl."