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September 8, 2008

You Don't Mess With the Lohan

lindsay lohan

Photo Credit: Mark Abrahams

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Despite the apparently acute ADD, Lohan seems keenly aware of the fact that she's starting a new chapter — that she knows how much she stands to lose and that life has given her another chance. After a rebuke from a producer of her 2007 movie Georgia Rule for partying too much, after concern that she might be deemed uninsurable by Hollywood, she's methodically rebuilding her career, giving her all to a first-time film director, Lara Shapiro, for the low-budget Labor Pains, working on a danceable, R&B-type follow-up to her second album, A Little More Personal (Raw), and submitting to the family-friendly small screen, in a guest spot on Ugly Betty. It's a page out of the career-rehab playbook of Robert Downey Jr., whose return from the dark side started with a recurring role on Ally McBeal. (No word yet on whether guest spots on How I Met Your Mother can save Britney Spears.)

"He's an amazing actor," Lohan says of Downey. "Look at people like that who have gone through shit and had to work that much harder to get to where they are now." Lying on the bed in her trailer now, atop a pink comforter, looking at me through narrowed go-go-girl eyes beneath a thick canopy of fake lashes, Lohan says, "I've learned. I'll never go back. And it's not a never-say-never type thing — it's just, I know. I know."

If Lohan is any closer to attaining that elusive, soul-saving thing, perspective, it owes in large part to the shrewd, protective Muro, a 13-year ovarian-cancer survivor, who recently took over management duties from Lohan's mother. "When I open the window and breathe in the air, that's a good day," Muro tells me. "All this crap doesn't matter. Life is much bigger than that. I share my perspective with her, and I don't think anyone else has really done that." But Muro is also strategic — for instance, welcoming paparazzi shots of Lohan on the set, working (as opposed to tumbling out of a club). As such, whenever Lohan is called to the set, she dutifully does the pap walk — texting feverishly behind a curtain of hair, while grungy lensmen scamper alongside. It's a smart move, reminding the world that Lohan actually has a job, as her considerable talent is the one thing that can redeem her. Playing a secretary who's pretending to be pregnant so she won't get fired, Lohan puts a fresh, funny spin on her lines during each of the dozen or so takes — she's just a pro. "Lindsay has incredible comedic instincts," says Shapiro. "She's such a natural, and it's amazing to watch her bring things to life. The lightness and quickness she brings is just really fun to watch." As for the legendary Lohan baggage she also brings, Shapiro says, "I don't really worry about stuff like that. She's here, she's on time, she's ready. I'm focused on what's happening in front of the camera, and she's been great."

Whereas Lohan used to live in hotels — "I didn't want to be alone, so whatever I needed I could just go downstairs and there were people there" — she now recognizes the unhealthiness of that. "It wasn't a way of life," she says. "Not very consistent." Whereas she once owned a pair of puppies, like every other high-gloss attention-seeker in Hollywood, she now admits she "got them on a whim — I wasn't in the right headspace" to take care of them (so she gave them to her mother). Whereas the petulant, postadolescent, hungover Lohan could single-handedly roil a movie set with a grimace, she now accepts the responsibility that comes with being a star of her wattage. "It's a lot of pressure, because everyone's depending on you," Lohan says. "And your mood, when you go on set, everybody feels it. On a day when you're tired, it's important to just say good morning to everyone so they're kind of aware that it's gonna be a good day. Jamie Lee Curtis" — her Freaky Friday costar — "told me that."

Problem is, when you're Lindsay Lohan, the drama tends to roll in by the hour. "There was this one day when something happened with my dad, and my best friend's grandmother passed away, and I was upset, and everyone [on set] kind of changed, and I felt it," she says. Later, back in her trailer, she pulled herself together. "But it's hard, because, then, when do you feel?"

The thing that happened with her dad, Michael Lohan, the former felon who careens in and out of Lindsay's life, leaving a trail of tabloid sludge — that would be the revelation that he might have another daughter, now 13, the result of a fling with a Montana massage therapist. "I don't know what's going on with it," Lohan says, wearily. "I haven't asked him any questions. Apparently we've been in the dark for so many years. We've gone through enough with him. Enough is enough." As a result, she's shutting down communication with Dad for a bit — "until he decides to be a grown-up."

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