The 19-year-old Long Island native has reigned as queen of the teen movie scene for the past seven years, starring in a string of family-friendly hits like “Mean Girls,” “Freaky Friday” and “The Parent Trap.” Her choice of more grown-up roles in Robert Altman’s upcoming film, “Prairie Home Companion,” and Donald Petrie’s latest comedy, “Just My Luck,” however, is causing speculation Lohan is eager to shed her youthful image on the big screen. But the legions of girls who idolize her need not worry. The actress recently told reporters in Los Angeles she wants to play all kinds of parts and assured she has no intention of limiting herself to depicting only adult characters.
“‘Just My Luck’ is a bit more mature,” the paparazzi-plagued actress conceded. “That’s a bit different. It’s really ironic. I play a publicist in the movies, but that is a full-on romantic comedy, so that is kind of a step up from (the family film,) ‘Herbie.'”
“I’m not saying I won’t go back (to playing teens,)” Lohan continued. “I feel like the point where I’m losing my virginity in a movie will be the point where it is hard to go back. But any movie that I do that is going to be more serious is going to be something that won’t appeal to younger kids anyway, so I don’t want to cancel myself out because I am aware of the fan-base I’ve amassed over the years, which I am extremely thankful for. My sister is one of those people, so I don’t want to do a movie that she is going to want to see with her friends that is completely out of line.”
The recent winner of an MTV movie award for best actress began her career in TV commercials and print ads at the tender age of three and was working regularly on the daytime soap opera, “Another World,” by age 10. She made her first film, “The Parent Trap” two years later and has starred in six movies since then. Acknowledging the fact that many juvenile actors fail to make the transition to adult roles, Lohan said she hopes to join the handful of successful former child stars still working today.
“I want people to look at me as they look at the Natalie Portmans and Kirsten Dunsts and those girls,” she confided. “I want to be respected like that. I want people to see me as a serious actress and know that this is my craft and this is what I do.”
Lohan admitted that getting an early start on her career has helped her develop instincts and skills for acting, which allow her to move easily in and out of character, as opposed to letting the person she is playing take over her life.
“I don’t really think about it, is the thing. I just go with what I feel. When I’m on the set, I’m kind of all over the place,” she confessed. “I’m always thinking about 20 different things. When I really take the time to kind of just get into character and focus is when there is a scene where I have to be really emotional because I don’t get to do that that much in the movies I have done and I want to do more of. But, I’ll be on the cell phone talking to my friend or my mom until we roll and then I’ll jump back on.”
Asked if she found kinship with her “Herbie” co-star, Matt Dillon, a 41-year-old actor who began his career when he was 15, Lohan laughed and said “The Outsiders” and “Crash” star was much more serious on set than she was.
“Matt is focused and intense, so it teaches me that I want to me more like that and it’s nice to be around people like that because you learn so much,” she noted.
A follow-up to the 1969 Disney classic, “Herbie The Love Bug” and its numerous sequels, the G-rated “Herbie: Fully Loaded” stars Lohan as Maggie, the daughter of legendary NASCAR driver Ray Peyton, played by Michael Keaton. With her dreams of carrying on the Peyton legacy thwarted by her overprotective dad, Maggie heads off to the junkyard to find the perfect car to take her to her safe, new job at ESPN. Although she has something a little sportier in mind, it is a spunky, though battered 1960s-era VW bug that catches her eye. After taking it home and souping it up, Maggie and the charmed vehicle known as Herbie embark on a quest to prove to the world they are winners.
“I had known of Herbie, but as a kid I hadn’t seen the movie,” Lohan said of the first “Herbie” flick. “And I didn’t want to watch it before I started this because I didn’t want the pressure — like I did when I made “Freaky Friday” — of the expectations people might have of the original, and so I watched it in the middle of making the movie and ours is fairly different. It’s updated, but it still has elements of the original.”
Next up for Lohan is a role in “A Prairie Home Companion,” which is based on Garrison Keillor’s radio series and co-stars Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson and Kevin Kline.
“I feel like she is still a teenager, in a sense,” Lohan said of the young woman she plays in that film. “The characters that I’ve played aren’t that much different than me.
“They are younger girls coming into their womanhood and learning about themselves and discovering what they want to do in their lives and following through with their goals and aspirations, which is kind of what I’ve been doing, too, which is why doing a movie with Robert Altman will be a nice change for me — just to work with a great ensemble cast, in a smaller movie, just with great actors,” she explained. “Michael Keaton and Matt Dillon are great actors, too, don’t get me wrong, but I want to find things like that. Everyone looks for that stretch, eventually, a kind of edgier piece.”
Lohan’s pretty face, bubbly personality and meteoric rise to the top of Hollywood’s A-list have made her a target for tabloids in recent years. Talking about how tired she is of the constant swarm of photographers that follows her every move and the gossipy magazines that trumpet each event in her life from changes in her hair color to breakups with her boyfriends to the legal exploits of her relatives, the actress and recording artist revealed she is learning to cope with the downside of celebrity.
“So much gets said and there’s not much I can do at this point any more,” Lohan sighed. “I feel like the more I kind of defend myself, the more they say. I’m just such an easy target, I guess. I don’t know why I’m so interesting. I can’t say I’m not different than anyone else, but I don’t really do anything crazy.”
That said, the redheaded cutie, who recently went blonde for a role, insisted the good parts of her job outweigh the bad and stressed she has no intention of letting the media scare her away from a career she finds thrilling and satisfying.
“I have a lot of responsibilities and this is what I’ve worked for my whole life,” she said. “There is such an obsession with people buying these tabloids and feeding into it that people that don’t know me, personally, are going to assume that’s what’s real and that’s what’s true. I’ve learned to brush it off and ignore it. It’s all been a learning experience.”
“Herbie: Fully Loaded” is in theaters now.