Lindsay Lohan no-show at Venice Film Festival premiere of The Canyons

'Today, I am a free man,' says exasperated director Paul Schrader

She is the Disney child actress who has been in and out of rehabilitation throughout her adult life. Lindsay Lohan’s non-appearance at the 70th Venice Film Festival, where she was expected to walk the red carpet for her new film The Canyons, was therefore only a mild surprise to festival organsiers.

For the director, it was actually a relief. “Today, I am a free man,” an exasperated Paul Schrader said after the latest no-show from his film’s leading lady. Lohan had been due on the Venice Lido for the Italian premiere of the film but was nowhere to be seen as Schrader and his other key collaborators turned up for their press conference.

“For the last 16 months, I have been a hostage by my own choosing to a very talented but unpredictable actress,” Schrader said of Lohan, who is also credited as a co-producer on the movie. “She was supposed to be here today. She said she would be here but she is not.”

Largely thanks to Lohan’s presence, the straight-to-video erotic thriller has become a cultural phenomenon in the US. The film, shot for a reported budget of $150,000, has been gleefully panned by many reviewers. Making it has also clearly driven the battle hardened Schrader to distraction.

“Some fear Lohan will end him,” the New York Times had reported from the set of the film. “There have been house arrests, car crashes and ingested white powders. His own daughter begs him not to use her. A casting-director friend stops the conversation whenever he mentions her name.”

Speaking in Venice, Schrader refused to answer questions about Lohan’s private life but he made it very clear that the young American actress was not easy to work with.

Lohan, Schrader revealed, takes method acting to extremes. “Lindsay is a fearless actress. One of her problems is that she has a very hard time faking things. So she gets herself up into the moment in a way that is exhausting for her and for people around her.” Schrader also compared Lohan to Marilyn Monroe, “not as an actress, because they are completely different, but as someone who really has a hard time separating the professional and the private.”

However, the director paid tribute to the way Lohan “played it tough” in certain scenes. The Canyons pairs Lohan with porn star James Deen in his first mainstream movie. It was scripted by Bret Easton Ellis. She plays a self-obsessed young actress in a relationship with a devious movie producer (Deen), who is both unfaithful to her and intensely jealous at the idea she may be cheating on him. Even before its Venice premiere, The Canyons has been shown in the US on video-on-demand and on iTunes. Speaking in Venice, the filmmakers complained about the film’s hostile reception in the States and the way it was reviewed “up against movies like Wolverine”.

Bret Easton Ellis said the characters were never intended to be sympathetic. “The sense of enervation... is a reflection off where these characters are,” the author said. “For some people, that makes the movie slow at times. They react to it in a way they don’t react to a more conventionally thought out movie with more “human” characters.” He went to to say that The Canyons was intended “as a cold dead film about cold dead people”.

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