Mischa Barton’s life as a young actress was a difficult one.
The star of “The O.C.” recently spoke with Harper’s Bazaar U.K. about her rise to fame, which included being sexualized from a very young age.
“My film debut, ‘Lawn Dogs’, explored themes of child molestation, and – while the crew did everything to ensure that I wasn’t exposed to the realities of what all that meant – when I did press for the film, it became clear that it was very mature content,” she recalled.
“Two years later, I did ‘Pups’ with Burt Reynolds. Lead roles in coming-of-age films are always directly tied to sex and sexuality, and this was a prime example,” Barton said. “It was for ‘Pups’ that I had my first kiss on screen and in real life, in front of an entire crew. My character had her first period in one scene, something I hadn’t even experienced in life yet. The movie blew up in Asia, and I became a strange sex symbol over there. I was 13.”
The 35-year-old also opened up about the pressure she felt to have sex for the first time: “Even being a virgin at the time in that context made me feel like a fraud. Here, I was playing a confident character [in ‘The O.C.’] who was fast and loose and yet I was still a virgin.
“The kids in the show were quintessential rich, privileged American teenagers drinking, taking drugs, and of course having sex. I knew it was important to get this thing – my virginity – that was looming over me, the elephant in the room if you will, out of the way,” she added. “I started to really worry that I couldn’t play this character if I didn’t hurry up and mature a little. Did I ever feel pressured to have sex with someone? Well, after being pursued by older men in their 30s, I eventually did the deed.”
Becoming famous on “The O.C.” also meant dealing with the paparazzi, which she tried as much as possible to avoid.
“The more I shied away, the more frenzied the paparazzi became. It became too much to read about myself every day and to have these publications laugh at my pain. It’s something I don’t think anybody would be able to get away with to that extent now, not even close. I didn’t want to leave the house,” Barton said. “But even if I had wanted to, it wouldn’t have been safe because of the dangerous situations that the paparazzi created. They chased my car. They tried to climb over the walls to my house. They’d track my phone and my car. They’d make deals with restaurants so that when I went to one, someone would notify them. They’d buy cell phones for the homeless, instructing them to call as soon as they saw me walking down the street. I was stalked. They’d shoot directly into my home to the extent where I couldn’t even open my blinds. It was lockdown before there was a name for it.”
She added, “What happened gave me PTSD. In the years afterwards, cameras would bother me; any noises that sounded like a shutter would give me a panic attack and make me extremely paranoid. I‘d have full-blown panic attacks. I went to very dark places.”