Acting from the age of eight British-born Mischa Barton moved to America and made her international breakthrough in the television series The O.C. She has since starred in a wide variety of movies including Notting Hill, St. Trinian’s and Homecoming.
In my teens I felt like one of The Beatles.
I was sixteen when I joined the cast of The O.C. and it was a huge global hit in more than fifty countries. Wherever I went in the world I’d be recognised. In 2003 it was like the first wave of what we know as modern celebrity culture. In my mid-teens I had to learn to surf that unbelievably huge wave. It was like being caught up in a kind of crazed hysteria. Celebrities were considered fair game and everything was blown completely out of proportion.
Source: Mail Online
Britweek in Los Angeles begins with a launch party on April 23rd and continues until May 5th. www.britweek.org
Sometimes the paparazzi go way too far.
When I first became successful I was followed everywhere. There was literally no hiding place in the entire world. The paparazzi would go to any lengths to get a photo. One time they actually let the air down in my car tyres so I had no way of escaping from them. The attention I get is still crazy but I’ve finally found a few secret places in the world where nobody can find me if I’m craving privacy
I was a painfully shy kid.
You’d always find me hiding behind my mother’s skirt. I always felt on the periphery of things, never fitting in. Being around grown ups was torture for me. I wasn’t at all popular at school. I was this geeky little English girl at a New York school and so I got teased a lot. When I started acting, the attention was mortifying but it forced me to come out of myself. It was a very gradual process of coming out of my own skin. Theatre forced me to be a different person. It made me feel bold. I was being directed by hugely talented, very wise grown ups and so I had to learn to become comfortable with that.
I’ve always refused to be labelled.
As soon as I had some success with The O.C., people felt the need to put me in a box. So I became one of The It Girls as though I was some Californian rich girl who’d just rolled up and blagged the parts rather than someone who had worked hard from the age of eight. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve got loyal fans who can see right through that nonsense and appreciate me for who I am.
I’ve had to make my mistakes in public.
In 2007 and 2009 I hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I was going through the kind of difficult transition that most child actors have to deal with at some point. To make the leap and become a grown-up actor, there’s a big readjustment needed. Without realising, you can go off the rails. Most people endure their growing pains in private. I had to deal with the camera on me at all times. For a while, the sensational headlines overshadowed my work and that was frustrating. Now, when I meet strangers at airports or in shopping malls, they want to talk about my films, rather than the reasons I made newspaper headlines. That’s just how it should be.
My life is less about emotional extremes these days.
It’s fantastically more measured and balanced. That makes everything easier to deal with. I’m a lot more selective about the work I take on and more cautious about the amount of work I take on. Generally I’m more careful about what I get myself into. These days I’m a lot clearer about what I want. I feel like I’ve already crammed a lot into my life. I don’t feel the urge to make up for lost time by jumping out of planes or embracing danger in any way.
I’d have made a great psychiatrist.
From an early age I was fascinated in psychology and read every book on the subject I could lay my hands on. If the acting hadn’t taken off I’d have gone on to study it properly and probably have made it my profession. I’ve always been fascinated in what makes people tick. Human nature is endlessly interesting and always surprising.
My roots are very definitely Irish.
My mother is Irish and I’ve still got loads of second cousins out there. The older I get the more I recognise the Irish in me. I realised that when I went there to perform Steel Magnolias on stage in 2012. I started to realise that maybe my sense of humour is a little Irish in that it doesn’t always come from the most expected place, that sort of thing. I can sit in an Irish bar with a pint of Guinness and feel completely at home.
London has a big place in my heart.
I spent the first six years of my life in Hammersmith. Coming back to London is always a kick for me. I was over here for London 2012 and the spirit in the city at that time was completely intoxicating. It was London at its best. Wherever I am in England I pick up the local accents very quickly. If I’m in the East End I find myself talking Cockney. In Liverpool I’m a Scouser after a few minutes.
I’m an ego-free zone.
At least I’d like to think so. From an early age I saw how people could be affected by fame. It would go to their heads and they would take themselves so seriously. I made up my mind to always have a sense of humour about myself and keep my ego reined in at all times. When I stop to think about it I realise that I’m shockingly different to most actors.
Sometimes people provide you with enough wisdom to last a lifetime.
Richard Attenborough was one of those people. He directed me in 2007’s Closing The Ring. I’ve worked with many magnetic people in my career and Sir Richard is probably the wisest of them all. He took me on right after I’d left The O.C. We met at the Beverley Hills Hotel and mainly talked about our families, very personal stuff. By the end of lunch we were both crying. He cast me in the lead. Every day on set with him was a gift. He directed me in a way that I felt safe and I felt I could be whoever I wanted to be in the moment. I’ve worked with many great directors but he is the godfather of them all.
I wish my generation was more fired up.
The recession has hit hard, jobs are hard to come by and it amazes me that young people aren’t prepared to speak out about injustices like they have done in previous generations. I think it’s got a lot to do with the fact that so many people are stuck online so much of the time. It’s all about instant gratification now rather than getting worked up about what the government is doing to their lives. It needs to change.
I think about retirement all the time.
I love my job and I feel lucky to do what I do. But sometimes the outside pressures do feel overwhelming and it gets me thinking how nice it would be to walk away from it all and live quietly and peacefully in some cottage in the middle of nowhere. Then I look at all the exciting projects I’ve got lined up and realize that my best work is ahead of me. So you’re not likely to get rid of me quite so soon.
Britweek in Los Angeles begins with a launch party on April 23rd and continues until May 5th. Britweek.org