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Mischa Barton – The Full Interview.
You have an upcoming historical film, which will pique our readers’ interest – Bhopal: Prayer for Rain. How did this role come about, tell us about it?
I play an 80s photographer girl—it’s set in the 80s—and she’s out there taking pictures of other things, and then this insane disaster happens.
They just approached me. It was Martin Sheen, and it was in India and it sounded fascinating. It was a very heartwrenching movie. Just the experience of going to India and everything—which was life-changing for me—I’m so glad I did it. That’s why I was just, like, I think I have to do that. It wasn’t a huge role, but it was just a really lucky role to get to do for a lot of reasons.
When should we expect to see it released?
Who knows? The last rumor I heard from someone—people always come up and tell you rumors about things like that in this industry—was that it upset a lot of people. Martin Sheen plays a real life man who was held responsible for [the disaster]. A lot of Indians were very upset by it. I think maybe they thought it was too soon. I don’t know, but I heard that that was what held it up too. I really have no idea what to say on that one.
Tell our readers about your upcoming role in the re-make of the Japanese horror film, Apartment 1303 in 3D.
There was a lot of creative difference on that. I’m really proud of the way I did my character, like strong, tough. But I’ll be interested to see, to be honest, the way they do the 3D and everything else. They fired the director very early on, Daniel Fridell, who was the whole reason that I partook in the whole thing. They fired him, and some other guy who’s never directed before directed [the film]. So it’ll be really interesting to see how it turns out. Honestly, I think it could have been amazing; it could have been really next-level. We’ll see how it turns out, but I like the character I play, Lara Slate. She’s a really, really cool girl. She’s very tough and boyish, and now that I’m older, I have a lot of that dude thing in me, where I was a lot more delicate when I was young. It’s one of the first roles I’ve gotten to play where I was straight tough female, like, don’t mess with me. That, I was really into. She’s pretty ghetto, that character. I based her very loosely on the girl from Fish Tank, which I think is an incredible film. I’ll be interested to see what they do with it.
What about horror films draws you?
I think I’ve had enough of them for the moment…I was obsessed. I literally became obsessed with that genre. I can’t tell you. Because I never watched it when I was younger; it used to be way too terrifying for me. And then suddenly I got really into all this automatic writing, paranormal shit; real stories of people who have been haunted. And in my own family, my father tends to be very sensitive to that stuff. I don’t know why; a switch flicked, and I really wanted to do these creepy movies for a minute. It’s just an interesting thing. But I think I’ve gone through my little phase, for the moment. When they’re done really well, I love them. Some of my favorite movies, like Rosemary’s Baby, I just love them; I find them fascinatingly good films. But it’s definitely a very draining genre to film. It’s not lighthearted. You don’t go home at the end of the day and feel like, light and fluffy, I’m gonna get in bed and watch some television. It really wears on you to think about what these people go through and how much pain there can be in the world, and how much evil there can be.
You play Sofia Monet.
And this is much more of a love story. 1303 is horror.
But it still has some supernatural elements.
Well, she follows him into the afterlife. It’s a little more Eternal Sunshine-y. She dies for him; it’s definitely interesting. But it’s really about their eternal love and them falling in love with each other. Ryan’s [Eggold] a great actor.
So if you could play any role in any production ever made, what would it be?
That’s always so complicated for me. You know whom I’ve always loved—it just pops into my head—there’s that character Astrid, that protagonist Astrid in White Oleander. Alison Lohman played her back in the day. That’s an incredible book. I’m all about strong, interesting female leads. I mean, I like classic pieces. There are of course, the Ophelias. That’s the piece that I chose to read in the end of RADA [Royal Academy of Dramatic Art]; I was Ophelia. But it’s hard. There are so many different eras and types of characters you could play. From a Great Gatsby-esque-type vibe to 70s rock chic, you know, like, an ingénue. I’m pretty open really. I don’t lock myself in…because you can’t anymore, honestly. I used to do that, when I was younger. I used to be, like, I’m waiting for a role that’s more like this. There’s just so much out there.
Are there any interesting film, theater or TV projects you’re thinking about doing?
Yes, there are a few I am thinking about doing. There is one that’s very trippy and music-oriented… Yes, there are a few projects that I could potentially be doing, but again, I don’t lock myself into anything yet. We’ll see how it goes. I’m opening a store in London this year; I’ll be over there. Maybe I’ll do theater before the year is out. I really don’t know.
So tell me about Mischa’s Place, which you just launched.
It’s a handbag line. That’s one of them that I’ve had for many years, four years.
What inspired you to do that?
Licensing agreement. Somebody came to me and was like, would you design handbags. It was a British-based company, and I actually felt that it was really cool and creative and fun. After the first few seasons, it was a success, and it was doing well in department stores and people wanted it, Asoles picked it up. It grew. I enjoyed it; I thought it was a cool product, something I could easily back. Now it’s just grown and grown. We finally did a capsule collection of clothing, and people again seem to love that.
What was it like to win the Style icon of the year award from Karl Lagerfeld?
That was awesome. It’s a real accolade for me, in a weird way, because I do love my fashion; I do really look up to stylish women. A lot of actresses are, like, ‘oh well, I only wear…’; ‘I won’t put that on’; ‘what is that? That’s Vuitton? What is Vuitton?’ A lot of actresses are like that. I actually grew up in New York around fashion. I take pride in fashion. I really like it. I understand that it’s an art form. It’s a design. It’s a mood that you feel when you put it on. It’s also just so beautiful, couture. How could you not love it, in a way? You look at that jacket today, and it’s like, that jacket’s fucking amazing. It’s not practical, but it’s art. That’s what I really love about it.
So you’re opening up a store in London this spring?
End of May. It’s just for the handbags. And I’m doing makeup as well, which I’m really proud of. The makeup is really great—that’s to round out the store— because the idea behind the store was sort of a 70s Biba-esque thing. I wanted it to be almost a vibe, a hangout. People seem to get a very specific vibe from me, just because I know what I like and what I don’t like. That’s the way my taste goes: it’s either yes or no. There’s very rarely a middle ground with me, where I’m like, ‘oh, it’s okay’. My dream for it was to be a hangout, an idea, a feeling. Back in London, in the day, you used to walk into Biba and buy anything, incense, because you loved the company and that’s what you could afford; to, you know, work your way up to this coat that you adored. Eventually, they even sold baked beans in a can. That’s obviously not where we’re headed but— (laughs) designer baked beans, maybe I should, my favorite food is Ambrosia Creamed Rice—I just wanted it to be something that was indicative of my style and taste and made kids feel good about themselves. It makes you feel good about yourself if you can be a part of the company and part of the vibe.
So it’s more of a lifestyle?
And it’s affordable.
What inspirations did you draw from when designing your new line?
Well, a lot of my mother’s generation, mixed with practical basics. But right now, this is the beginning of the collection: first first first collection. So it’s hard when you start out in the very beginning; you kinda just have to do the dresses and then some leggings and t-shirts and, like, little skirts. Now I’m designing spring and summer ’13. It’s different; it’s more interesting. We’ll get into a groove, it’s so complicated when you first start. There’s a lot of luck involved in what you get back when you’re working all the way in China, and so it’s hard to make those changes. And I’m really hands-on; it’s not like I’m filtering this out to some other kids who are doing it for me. And eventually, I’d like to have pieces made here in Los Angeles; I’d like to have pieces locally made, as well. But I love our factories, which we’ve visited. We’ve all been out to the factories, seen them. It’s just so far and so complicated; it’s so much work. I couldn’t do it without the team of people who help me, but also I’m not willing to just totally delegate it. I have to have a say in it.
In what direction do you see fashion going?
I don’t know, honestly. I hate a lot of it. There’s no cohesion; it’s very confusing to me.
Well, you’re known for the 60s, 70s, Bohemian style.
I was for a long time. Now, I almost despise it, to be honest. There’s a part of me that resents it. When I see kids in headbands at Coachella—I don’t mean it in a mean way—but I’m like, it isn’t our generation. I was just growing as a girl and as a person, and it was indicative of the type of music I was listening to. So when I found the Grateful Dead and the Doors and the Birds, I just started dressing like that because those were the album covers that were in front of me. Now that I’m into Adam and the Ants and Bowie—it’s like we’re older—it changes you, and it changes the way you dress as well; I’ve always been a bit of a chameleon. What I really think looks good on girls and what my phase now is like—I’ve tended to narrow my whole color palette down to tan, black, white, and some blue and gold, and that’s pretty much it. And grey, which is easy. I’ve gone off of the really super colorful—like, trust me, I own a lot of it, and I love it, and it’s great when you’re on vacation and it’s a sunny day—but in general, jeans and boots and t-shirts suit me just fine.
What current fashion icons do you look toward for inspiration?
When I was growing up, it was more the Marianne Faithfulls and Anita Pallenbergs and that situation. I still think they were some of the most stylish women that ever lived. It may have crossed over more into the Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot—that situation.
What about now? Is there anyone out there currently you admire?
Well, I don’t read gossip mags, and I don’t follow fashion, so it’s really hard for me to say.
It sounds like your fashion is more of an expression of yourself, of what your surroundings are at the moment.
Yeah, it really is.
Compared to most actors, your philanthropic résumé is very impressive. To name a few causes you support: global warming, women’s cancer research, skin cancer prevention, Lupus cure research, advocacy for children of impoverished nations, the list goes on. What drives you to give so much of yourself to so many different causes?
I get so much out of it that it doesn’t even feel like that. It feels almost selfish doing it. When I was in Africa, I got to do all this work with Save the Children, and then when I was in India, I did some work with them there, with Muslim girls living in India. Honestly, it’s just so rewarding. Here in LA, I volunteer a lot. A lot a lot. South Central. Dream Center. Everything from, like, cleaning up peoples’ homes to helping kids in inner city programs and going down and talking to them, and playing basketball with them, and making arts and crafts. It’s really better for me because it’s real people. It seems voyeuristic and weird, but it’s the real world.
What was your first experience giving back?
I think it came with the fame of The O.C. We would be involved with so many charities. Make a Wish Foundation kids would come to set. People talked to you about their charities like Parkinson’s, Leukemia victims. You end up visiting a lot of hospitals; you’re put in a lot of situations where you can give back, and if you choose to—I don’t understand why you would choose not to—then it just happens naturally. That’s how it happened. These people approach you, you’re on a hit show, you’re able to make a difference. And really, you’re expected to.
What organizations are you currently involved with?
Save the Children. Climate Star. The Dream Center, a little bit, here in Los Angeles.
Tell me about Climate Star.
It’s just about awareness and making people understand what we’re doing to our planet and how much longer we have left for the planet if we keep going the way we’re going. They do all sorts of campaigns, and they’re cool. They’re really out there, really grassroots.
So what’s next for Mischa Barton? What’s the short-term future hold for you?
Well, I’m off to England soon, so I’m kind of just enjoying these few weeks. I was just at Coachella; I did a photo shoot today, one the day before yesterday, I’ve got one on Saturday, and then on Monday, I get to do Noel Gallagher’s video, which I’m really excited about. I’m such a Noel fan that I’m really so happy they asked me to do it. So that should be fun. It’s quite a fun few weeks until I go back. We do some scripts and stuff, but then I’m just getting ready to go to London to get this store together. It’s not even empty yet. We’re gonna watch it get put together. Going to Dubai, Stockholm, and Kazakhstan.
What are those trips for?
Press appearances. Mostly, the clothing line is being bought in a lot of places. It’s really popular in Dubai. It does very well there. My presence just helps. And plus, it’s a great trip, and I love to travel. I never really turn down experiences like that.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully, chillin’ (laughs). I see myself getting-ready-for-kids time, almost. It’s a confusing thought. I wouldn’t say it’s something that’s really on my mind too much because it’s not. I still feel very young and very career-driven. I’m just like my big sister who’s still, at 33, not even thought about having a child; she’s so career-driven. But I can see myself with another home, probably in England.
Ever return to New York; light up the stage on Broadway?
Yes, maybe, I’d like that.
By: Tristan Bultman