Why do we keep trying to save the career of Lindsay Lohan? In “Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan In Your Movie,” New York Times Magazine reporter Stephen Rodrick presents an epic account of the making of the low-budget film noir The Canyons. The film is a collaboration of Hollywood has-beens struggling to get back in the game. It’s penned by 1980s It-novelist Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Taxi Driver writer Paul Schrader, and starring Lohan, the lapsed child actress coasting by on prurient interest in her court appearances and sincere appeals to her star “potential.” Lohan still has the talent to make it as an actress, the theory goes, if only she could get it together enough to hit her mark.
But logistics are a challenge for Lohan, and much of The Canyons’ production, as detailed by Rodrick, is spent discerning her whereabouts. Lohan fails to appear on set, blaming a sleeping pill consumed at 3 a.m. Lohan is so hungover after the interference of a hard-partying Lady Gaga that she summons her personal doctor to administer an excuse to leave (“inner ear infection”). Lohan shows up, but only under the threat of being replaced by an unnamed Parisian actress. Lohan recruits a posse of assistants to help her escape her handlers. Lohan locks herself into a closet and screams objections to her porn star co-star, James Deen. Lohan drunk-drives away into the night.
Still, Schrader believes that he can coax a winning performance out of Lohan if only he could catch her at the right moment. “We don’t have to save her,” he says at one point. “We just have to get her through three weeks in July.” Rodrick himself, in a break from documenting the actress’s many professional failures, tells Lohan that he believes she still has a “gift” and that “it shouldn’t be squandered.”
This is the myth of Lindsay Lohan—that she is gifted with a special talent that is hers to employ if she so chooses. Sure, a child actor—Lohan debuted in Disney’s remake of The Parent Trap at age 11—can get by being talented and cute. A teen actress—Lohan broke out in Tina Fey’s Mean Girls at age 17—can survive being talented and pretty. (And was she really so great in that movie?) But a 26-year-old actress can’t just show up and dispense her “gifts.” Performing is a skill, and Lohan does not exercise it.
While her more successful peers have been busy working hard at their craft, Lohan has spent the better part of the last decade starring in paparazzi accounts of her own misbehavior. At first, we were captivated by this downfall—good girl gone bad! But now we are tired of that storyline, and we’re impatient for the comeback portion of her life story to kick in. But that miraculous return would require Lohan to exit the spotlight long enough to actually put in the work of being an actress. By that point, I’m not sure anyone would remember why we cared. And even if we did still care, who is to say she’s still any good?