The Lindsay Lohan maelstrom, pulling filmmakers into its currents


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As Lindsay Lohan’s tabloid troubles continue to create a vortex of disaster, there’s one type of personality dragged into Lohan’s troubles that doesn’t get much ink: the directors who’ve had to work with (or around) her.

Perhaps no one better embodies an instance of Lohan collateral damage than Chris Sivertson. A young genre director who showed nothing but promise after his gritty thriller ‘The Lost’ drew a slew of accolades a few years ago, Sivertson found himself in movie jail after the release of his next film, ‘I Know Who Killed Me,’ which starred Lohan.


You can’t blame studios for not wanting to give Sivertson another shot after ‘Killed Me,’ a muddled mush of a mystery about dark secrets, brutal beatings and identical twin sisters.

But you can’t blame Sivertson for the mush, either. Lohan, who actually played the two lead roles, built a veritable skyscraper of trouble on the set, with numerous stints in rehab and other breakdowns. A shoot that was supposed to take a little more than a month lasted four months. ‘Most days we wouldn’t know what happened [with her],’ Sivertson recalls. ‘We just found out that day.’ Forget quality cinema -- it was a Herculean challenge just to get the film made. ‘At some point it became ‘how can I complete the movie.’ That was my one and only goal: not to have it fall apart.’ (Sivertson’s general tenor, it should be noted, was that he sincerely liked Lohan and working with her and doesn’t want to point fingers at anyone but himself for the final product.)

For his climactic scene, in which Lohan’s characters figure prominently, Sivertson didn’t have the star on set. He tried to postpone the shoot but finally couldn’t delay it anymore. So he located his inner MacGyver: He shot the scene with a body double and then grafted on Lohan’s face in post-production.

Actor and Sivertson collaborator Marc Senter, who planned to spend just a weekend on set but got drawn into the drama, noted dryly: ‘It was an interesting experience’ (though he, too, says he genuinely likes Lohan and was touched one day when he walked into her trailer and found the actress watching Sivertson’s ‘The Lost’.

The director indeed got through it, but the movie, a mid-budget thriller, flopped, drawing poor reviews and grossing only $7 million.

Now Sivertson is trying to get back in the game. He’s written and is getting set to direct an independent drama called ‘Brawler,’ about the underground culture of fighting on shipping boats off the coast of New Orleans. Senter will star, as will a fighter-cum-actor named Nathan Grubbs. The story concerns two brothers, both fighters, of different temperaments and styles. Sivertson crafted the story out of the raw material of real-life fighters whom he’s spent months hanging out with on the Mississippi.

But after a Lohan-class disaster, it’s a twisty road to respectability. Unable to find a studio who was willing to make the movie or the money from an already strapped financing world, Sivertson, Senter and Grubbs rustled up money for the microbudget (it will cost less than $1 million) by going to some wealthy individuals in and around New Orleans.

The movie does seem to have the requisite commercial elements, with mixed martial arts and other types of stylized fighting only gaining in popularity with young audiences. And one gets a genuine sense of enthusiasm from everyone involved with the project. They’re getting to make a movie, and on their own terms. Still, had Lohan’s life taken a different turn, Sivertson’s career might have too.

So would the director have handled the Lohan situation differently, perhaps by not casting a potential source of trouble in the first place?
‘I look at an actor who’s had a difficult past on a case-by-case basis. A filmmaker just needs to sit down with them more than once and get to know what their goals and priorities are.’ One only hopes producers on Lohan’s new film make a similar calculus.

--Steven Zeitchik

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