She was in high demand, snowballing on a clear path towards child stardom, and unsurprisingly, along the way, Lindsay became very good at acting. While Lindsay's new performance in "The Canyons" was being shot this year, Bret Easton Ellis tweeted: "The main thing I've learned about people who become actors: They become actors because they don't want to be themselves." Think about it: At age 11, Lindsay Lohan was a bullied child with a tumultuous home life. At 12, she was one of the world's most famous child actors.
In 1998, Lindsay she beat out 4,000 other girls for the role every child actress must have badly wanted. Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, the team who assembled Disney's remake of "The Parent Trap," were sold on Lindsay 30 seconds into her screen test. It is - by far - the most difficult role in the film, and it remains possibly the most challenging role Lohan has been given. It is actually two roles, something that became a hallmark of Lohan's later work: Lindsay plays Hallie, the daughter of a wealthy, handsome Napa vineyard owner, and Annie, the wealthy daughter of an wealthy, famous wedding dress designer. They meet at camp, realize they are the twin daughters of divorcées, swap places, conspire to reunite their parents, etc.
Why, exactly, is Lindsay Lohan so good in "The Parent Trap"? I think it's because the film carries so many parallels to her young life. The film's basic premise is shocking in its blatant familial dysfunction: The girls are sheltered from all information about their other parents and their counterparts, being raised by the household help because their parents are upwardly mobile. The story of separated sisters wasn't all that far from Lindsay's own life, either. Her father was unfaithful to Dina, and he had at least one other secret child. Last week on the UK chat show Trisha, Michael Lohan took a paternity test that proved he'd fathered a love child that would have been growing up during the making of "The Parent Trap." I don't know if Lindsay knew about this at the time - I wouldn't be surprised if she did - but the similarity is too striking not to mention.
Either way, watch Lindsay's original screen tests for the role: here and here. She was lucky, I suppose, to be given sides for the two scenes that would have, at the time, required the least imagination: Annie-as-Hallie talking about the dad-daughter relationship, and Annie finding out she and Hallie are twins. She shows no nerves or self-consciousness, and she has a professional focus. Notice, for example, how she puts her head down and steps out of character (and accent) at the end of the second scene, erupting into a proud smile. It's exemplary, professional, and poignant child acting.
When she actually won the role and was signed to a three-picture deal with Disney, I imagine her confidence grew even further, because the assurance she shows in the screen tests grows tenfold in the film itself. In the behind the scenes material, Lindsay disregards the difficulty of the role, and is elated to be on set with her Momager - Lindsay's word, not mine - in tow. She seems to relish her luck and is already making plans to move onto a major career: "I want to go to college like Jodie Foster," she says, fully aware of the impending make-it-or-break-it realities of transitioning into adult roles. But even during the production of the film, Lindsay couldn't get away from her family troubles. While she was shooting in Napa, Michael violated his probation, flew out to California, and was put in prison for another year.
And why do we keep coming back to "The Parent Trap"? You can't peruse Tumblr without coming upon one of its GIF-able moments, often accompanied by jokes at Lindsay's expense. It remains one of the best-loved films from my generation's upbringing; ask any of us.
The answer comes from its studio. Disney, the owner of the only princess-related media franchise, is the origin of American conceptions of princesses and royalty, and though none of the characters in "The Parent Trap" are royals, there are countless references to the crown. In the film, Regrave acting royalty Natasha Richardson is a visual copy of Princess Diana, with her cropped blonde hair and miniskirts. The divorcées met on board the Queen Elizabeth II ocean liner. There is a (breathtakingly awful) deleted scene in which Hallie meets the Queen. Lohan is still referred to as a Disney princess by the press. (Note the recent SNL skit "The Real Housewives of Disney.") "The Parent Trap" made Lindsay Lohan an American princess with its symbolic combination of the English throne and the American dream, represented by the vineyard.
We grew up wanting to be Lindsay, but we didn't know about what she had been through by the time she gave her debut performances. Her abilities came out of financial and emotional necessities that ought never be placed upon a child. Her stardom came because she relished the opportunity to get a new mother and a new father.
With "The Parent Trap," Lindsay's coronation was complete, but as any princess will tell you, the job security doesn't solve anything.
Check back tomorrow for part 2.