Lindsay Lohan had just been fired again, and she wasn't taking the news well.
"She was really hurt about it, and I felt terrible," said David Michaels, who was set to direct her in a movie called "The Other Side."
Michaels made the call to his 23-year-old would-be leading lady earlier this spring after investors in the film balked at Lohan's most recent tabloid misadventures.
"The budget on the film had been increased from $15 [million] to $20 million, and when the producers were going out for that kind of money, they were finding financiers and distributors asking, 'Is she really going to draw people to a theater? Is the money going to be covered?'" Michaels said in a recent telephone interview. "It certainly had to do with the six- to eight-month period after we signed her, that her image did not get any better....
"Everyone seems to be all about finding what's wrong with her, and no one seemingly is really reaching out to her and offering her a path to reclaiming what she once had."
What she once had, of course, was promise. A decade ago, Lohan was considered one of the most talented young actresses of her generation. Her performances in teen comedies such as "The Parent Trap" and "Freaky Friday" earned her comparisons to the likes of Jodie Foster. "Her talent was undeniable," said Mark Waters, who directed Lohan in 2003's "Freaky Friday" and 2004's "Mean Girls." "I would set out the most difficult obstacle course for her for a scene, and she'd nail it like a floor routine. She was that good."
Since her feature film debut at 11, however, Lohan has increasingly been recognized not for her movie performances but for behavior ranging from drug abuse and eating disorders to failed stints in rehab and, most recently, possible probation violations in relation to a 2007 DUI charge.
Her conduct has pummeled her reputation and her career. Those who finance and make movies, wary of her physical and mental health and skeptical of her ability to show up to work on time, if at all, appear increasingly hesitant to risk their money on such a repeat offender. And although readers may devour tales of her off-screen escapades on celebrity websites and in tabloid magazines, they seem less willing these days to drop $10 for a ticket to one of her movies.
Lohan has not appeared on the big screen since 2007, when her thriller "I Know Who Killed Me," in which she had a dual role as a stripper and a torture victim, flopped. Her 2009 comedy "Labor Pains" failed to get a domestic movie distributor and debuted on the cable channel ABC Family. She has a small part in the upcoming "Machete," and after being fired from "The Other Side," she was cast as the late porn star Linda Lovelace in a biopic called "Inferno," which has not begun filming.
And yet, there's nothing Hollywood loves more than a good comeback story. Lohan has the sympathy of filmmakers and business partners (like those she works with on her fashion line, 6126) who say she'd readily be accepted back into the film world, much like former substance abusers Robert Downey Jr. and Mickey Rourke, if she could somehow defeat her demons.
But that would require a sense of purpose and discipline that, if a recent jaunt to the Cannes Film Festival is any indication, may still be absent.
When she flew to Cannes in May, she was supposed to be promoting "Inferno," and, according to director Matthew Wilder, Lohan did have meetings with foreign sales executives and others "who, after having met her, put up money" for the film.
Yet the images that emerged from France were more suited to TMZ than the trade papers. One night, there she was stumbling off a yacht; on another, she posed for a photo next to what looked like a mirror plate covered with white powder.
Back in the States, a Beverly Hills judge reprimanded her for going to Cannes and missing a probation hearing related to an August 2007 case, when she pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug charges and no contest to three driving charges. (Lohan claimed her passport was stolen and said she was unable to get back in time for the court date). As a result, she was forced to post $100,000 in bail and wear a clumsy ankle bracelet that monitors her alcohol consumption.
Only a couple of weeks later, during a party after the MTV Movie Awards, her bracelet was set off. She's due back in court on Tuesday, when she may face up to a year in jail if she is found guilty of violating her probation.
As her bail bondsman was delivering an additional $100,000 to the court in early June as a result of the ankle bracelet violation, Lohan took to her Twitter account to deny she'd consumed alcohol.
"This is all because of a FALSE accusation by tabloids& paparazzi& it is [expletive] digusting. [sic] I've been more than I'm compliance &feeling great"
Through her manager, Lohan declined numerous requests to be interviewed for this story, and publicly purports to be — at least via Twitter — healthy and happy.