What Really Happened To Lindsay Lohan, Part 1: American Princess

by Austin Dale
November 19, 2012 11:29 AM
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Lindsay Lohan, 2012
Lindsay Lohan, 2012
This is the first section of a multi-part series looking back over Lindsay Lohan's life and performances.

In "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," someone says to Lindsay Lohan, "It's a good thing you're gonna be an actress, because you haven't got any talent for reality."

We can't go a day without hearing about Lindsay Lohan. By all accounts, Lohan remains a minor actress. She has no major awards or nominations to her credit and only a few roles with longevity in popular consciousness. But we click on her name when we see it. We are still curious and we still care.

At this point, we think about Lindsay as the star of a story of failure spurred by bad behavior and a vicious tabloid culture. Her beauty has been worn by stress and self-abuse. Her reputation - not to mention her career - is tarnished beyond repair. She comes into the news every single day for something or other, and it's hardly ever good news. Blame it on her parents, blame it on drugs, or blame it on Lindsay: Years into adulthood, Lindsay still hasn't got anything together.

However, for the first time in years, Lindsay Lohan has movies in the can; not just one film, but several. She has the starring role in next year's "The Canyons," written by Bret Easton Ellis and directed by the great "American Gigolo" director Paul Schrader. She has a cameo in the next entry in the popular "Scary Movie" franchise. She will appear in "Love, Marilyn," a psuedo-documentary about Marilyn Monroe, in which Lohan will perform excerpts from her hero's diaries. And she is featured in a company of highly esteemed actors: Viola Davis, Glenn Close, Ellen Burstyn, and Paul Giamatti, among many others. 

This month, we will see her on cable, in a leading role. It couldn't be a bigger challenge. She's playing one of the most famous and beloved women in history: Dame Elizabeth Taylor, the eternal epitome of Hollywood stardom. Movie star biopics are no longer exclusively TV-movie territory and audiences, trained by recent exemplary impersonations in films like "The Aviator" and "My Week With Marilyn," expect a lot from actors who imitate the seemingly inimitable. Upon the announcement that the out-of-practice Lohan, whose only performances in years had been in court before judges, there was widespread derision. Early reviews are poor. Whether or not this will translate into viewers is anyone's guess. Even more unclear is whether she has actually pulled it off.

Lindsay Lohan as Liz Taylor
Lifetime Network Lindsay Lohan as Liz Taylor

Of course, Lindsay has a lot riding on these films. She hasn't had a break like this in years. It all comes down to us: The audience that has watched her crash and burn is expected to give Lindsay Lohan - a new, serious, grown-up version - a chance. Basically, she's hoping that I am not her last remaining fan, and I doubt I am.

Let's look back at Lindsay's life, her films and her headlines. Let's assemble her narrative, put some facts together, and try to figure out what Lindsay's chances are from here on out. It's hard to look past the tabloid brouhaha, but there's a case to be made that she wasn't just a movie star who messed up. She may not have any talent for reality, but there must be some reason you and I can't stop watching her.

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In 1986, Lindsay Lohan was born into what was, on its surface, the Long Island American Dream. A blonde bombshell with an NYU education and a dance resumé met the ambitious Golden Boy of the New York Stock Exchange who had become a very wealthy man by his early 20's. It was the Reagan 80's, and Michael Lohan's savvy brought him to power, influence, and cocaine, and according to Dina, he brought home abuse. The facts (and rumors) are complicated, but they add up to a portrait of a terribly dysfunctional upbringing: Lindsay was followed by three other children, the marriage went on and off, and by the time she was three, Michael was in prison for insider trading, his first of many convictions.

With Michael at the Stock Exchange during the day and doing cocaine on weekends, Dina was at home with the freckle-faced baby. Dina started to take Lindsay on the rounds, and during the years of Michael's time in jail, young Lindsay's career as a child Ford model became the family's second income source. "I was born into the business," Dina told the New York Daily News this year. "My mother was an entertainer. It was natural." Lindsay was in Gap ads, Bill Cosby's Jell-O commercials, and soap operas. Photogenic and enthusiastic, she probably never knew a time when her face wasn't on screens or in print. Lindsay has talked about being bullied at school about her incarcerated dad when she would return from working.

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