‘Canyons’ director on Lindsay Lohan: It’s the pills, not the booze

Lindsay Lohan, shown at the "Scary Movie 5" premiere in Hollywood in April, is "a cheap drunk" and prefers prescription pills, according to "The Canyons" director Paul Schrader.
(Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

So how hard was it working with Lindsay Lohan on the micro-budget indie thriller “The Canyons”?

Tales of discord from the set including the actress’ unexplained disappearances, refusal to disrobe for contractually obligated nude scenes, suggestion of A-list replacements for her D-list co-stars, an all-night partying session with Lady Gaga, and a mysterious $46,000 hotel and bar bill racked up at Chateau Marmont during production on “The Canyons” have become legion.

To hear it from director Paul Schrader -- who spoke to Movies Now in anticipation of a feature scheduled for this Sunday’s Calendar section -- working with Hollywood’s foremost Girl Interrupted was made most complicated by Lohan’s utter lack of impulse control. (The actress was released from 90 days of court-mandated “lockdown rehab” at Malibu’s Cliffside rehabilitation clinic Wednesday but subsequently chose to stay with a “sober coach” and could not be reached for comment by The Times.)

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“At the time we were working, she was not able to act in her own best interests – even when she perceived what they were and even when she wanted to,” said Schrader, the filmmaking force behind “American Gigolo” and the screenplays for such classic movies as “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” “But it’s a world she creates for herself.”

In “The Canyons,” Lohan portrays Tara, a failed Hollywood ingenue caught in a love triangle between her live-in boyfriend Christian (porn star James Deen), a sociopathic trust-fund kid producing a low-budget slasher movie, and Ryan (Canadian newcomer Nolan Funk), Tara’s secret ex whom Christian has cast as the lead in his film.

Although a comprehensive New York Times Magazine story earlier this year chronicled how Lohan was observed drinking during production on “The Canyons” (which arrives in limited release in New York and on VOD Friday and reaches Los Angeles theaters Aug. 9), Schrader disputes the notion that alcohol abuse presents a bigger danger to the actress’ self-interests -- instead, it’s the prescription medication, he says.

“She’s not an alcoholic. She is a cheap drunk,” Schrader said by phone from New York last week. “A couple of glasses of wine and she shows the effects. I honestly think it’s the Adderall. It’s the most abused drug for young girls in the country. It kills your appetite, allows you to stay up and hyper-concentrate.”

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(According to some reports, Lohan took the prescription drug for several years after being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when she was very young.)

Although he admits that working with Lohan was “chaotic” and the “Canyons” production was “pins and needles 24/7,” the actress was not the most difficult movie star with whom Schrader has ever worked. That honor belongs to his “Blue Collar” star Richard Pryor, who the director claims transformed every discussion of his character in the 1978 crime drama into a tension-fraught referendum on black-white race relations.

In the end, the experience of working with Lohan was not much worse than Schrader claims he expected from the beginning.

“I knew it was going to be a psychodrama,” the director said. “Lindsay does live in a world of created drama; she seems to live in a cone of crisis. A lot of it is unnecessary. You want to say to Lindsay, ‘Why are we in this emotional upheaval?’ More than once I said to her, ‘It really must be hard to be you.’”


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Twitter: @__chrislee