It’s every parent’s nightmare. Mischa Barton, the British-born actress best known for playing troubled teenager Marissa Cooper in The OC, is suing her mother and former manager for allegedly exploiting her fame.
Barton, 29, has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles, claiming her mother Nuala Barton bullied her, withheld earnings without her knowledge and threw her out of her own $7.8m (£5.2m) Beverly Hills mansion. The lawsuit describes “the tragic tale of a greedy stage mother posing as a talent manager who, instead of acting in the best interest of her daughter/client, schemed to defraud her unsuspecting victim”.
The actress first gained attention in 1999, after appearing in two of the year’s most popular films – as a child actor in Notting Hill and The Sixth Sense, in which she played the ghost of a young girl. Barton claims she had entered a verbal contract with her mother when she was just eight, agreeing to pay her 10 per cent of her earnings as a management fee. But, the court documents claim, “While Barton was busy perfecting her craft and turning her acting dreams into reality, her mother... was secretly scheming to exploit Barton’s burgeoning career.”
The actress’s mother allegedly controlled her daughter’s finances and allotted her a “sporadic” allowance “at her sole discretion”.
Mrs Barton, the suit says, “had absolutely no experience or training” in management. In 2013, when the actress was still on good terms with her mother, she told People magazine that her parents had been “thrust into this situation that was completely foreign to them”, adding: “Nothing could prepare them to have their children jump into the overtly sexualised and crazy world of LA.”
In 2006, Mrs Barton allegedly urged her daughter to buy a sprawling, eight-bedroom home in Beverly Hills and then ensured she would own half of the property. She and her husband, Paul – Mischa’s father – now live in the mansion. “Barton is not welcome at the property,” the suit complains, adding that neither parent now works and that they instead “sit back expecting their daughter’s hard work and dedication to her craft to support their lifestyle”.
Barton was 17 when she began appearing in hit soap The OC, which ran from 2003 to 2006. Since its cancellation, she has mostly earned headlines for her off-screen difficulties. In 2007, she was arrested on suspicion of drunk-driving. Two years later, she was sectioned and sent to a psychiatric ward for four days after what she later described as “a full-on breakdown”.
Her mother, the suit contends, organised celebrity endorsements and product deals, including the launch of a Mischa Barton handbag line, without consulting or compensating her daughter.
She even allegedly lied to the actress about her earnings for the 2013 horror film The Hoarder, and forged her daughter’s signature on documents “so that she could pocket the difference... without Barton’s knowledge”.
“These revelations of exploitation and fraud, coupled with ongoing instances of bullying and verbal abuse, eventually led to the breakdown of Barton and Nuala’s personal and professional relationship,” claims the suit.
The actress is now under new management and demanding damages thought to be at least $25m – equivalent to three times what her mother allegedly withheld.Reuse content