Every year for maybe the past decade, someone comes out with a profile on Lindsay Lohan, asking the question: Can she finally make a comeback?
Things were looking pretty good for the oft-troubled Mean Girls star during the first half of 2016. Lohan appeared to have finally pulled herself together. She had a new life in London and was madly in love with her billionaire Russian boyfriend, Egor Tarabasov. But shortly after her 30th birthday in July, things took a turn. She began posting Instagrams about her fiancé cheating on her, and neighbors shared a video of the actress crying out for help, claiming Tarabasov was strangling her. We were seeing shades of the old Lindsay. Had she just dashed her dreams of rising up from the ashes? Why is it that so many other stars are able to bounce back from disastrous scandals and make the world love them again, but Lohan can’t?
Yahoo Celebrity presented these questions to Jeetendr Sehdev, a celebrity branding authority and professor of marketing at the University of Southern California.
“The reason why she is struggling to come back around is because her personal life has pretty much overpowered her incredible talent in the media,” Sehdev said. “What she really needs to do is what other troubled actors, like Colin Farrell or Robert Downey Jr., have done so brilliantly: land a big, successful project.”
Scandal-plagued stars “definitely need some kind of vehicle — whether it’s a film or a new album, or a TV show — that is going to reposition them in the right way,” he explained. “And as a result, their brand is going to be reimagined among these audiences who see them as only being badly behaved people.”
Getting that first gig is the big challenge, of course. Lohan’s turns in Lifetime’s Liz & Dick and the Bret Easton Ellis disaster The Canyons didn’t exactly lift her out of this funk, but it might just be a slow climb back to show directors and producers that she’s trustworthy. Right now, those Hollywood insiders are reading the same gossip the rest of us are.
Completely dropping out of the public eye — the way Winona Ryder once did — won’t really help, Sehdev said. “What you’ve got to realize is that you have to demonstrate time and again to the industry that you are still very much in the game, and that this is something that still is very important to you.”
That doesn’t mean actors and musicians, like Justin Bieber and Britney Spears, have to look like saints all of a sudden., because people can smell that BS. “The authenticity detection is so high amongst audiences now,” Sehdev observed. “The prescription is not to cultivate a ‘good behavior’ image. I think the prescription is to get your act together and to show that you are once again a professional.
“In Hollywood, there is a surprisingly low bar,” he continued. “People are by no means expecting perfectly behaved talent.”
Here are 10 celebs who were able to rehabilitate their images. Lindsay, listen and learn.
Robert Downey Jr.
From 1996 to 2001, Downey gathered drug arrests like trophies — the most notorious being when he wandered into the bedroom of a neighbor’s 11-year-old son. In 2003, following a stint in court-ordered rehab, the future Iron Man turned to pal Mel Gibson for a role in The Singing Detective and slowly started to rebuild his career. In 2005 he married his second wife, Susan, with whom he now has two children, their son, Exton, and daughter, Avri. He also received a special gift on Christmas Eve 2015, when California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned him for his past drug offenses after a judge determined RDJ has since “lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character, and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen.”
Maybe it was lucky that Barrymore’s wild-child days came when she really was a child. The E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial star was partying at very grownup New York nightclubs, inspiring her family to lock her up in a reform boot camp when she was 13. Even after that, she still needed to get a few more rebellious teen years out of her system (posing for Playboy, flashing David Letterman). It was her role in 1995’s Boys on the Side that reminded everyone that she was a truly talented actress who had potential as an adult as well. However, it’s Adam Sandler who Barrymore — now a mom of two — credits for much of her success. She set up a meeting with the funny guy hoping she could convince him they should star in a movie together. Luckily, she did. The two went on to star in three films together, including 1998’s The Wedding Singer and 2004’s 50 First Dates. “He was hot s*** and he believed in me,” she writes of Sandler in her memoir Wildflower. “It’s a little bit of a love letter to him, because I have grown with this person.”
In the early years of the Irish actor’s career, it sometimes seemed as if he had more girlfriends than movie roles — after his brief marriage to Amelia Warner he was linked to everyone from Britney Spears to Carmen Electra. He has since attributed this fast-paced Lothario life to his alcoholism, something he sought to clean up when his first son, James, turned 2 in 2006. Now that he’s sober, Farrell, 40, has been racking up the roles and critical praise, most recently for this summer’s indie The Lobster.
Things weren’t looking so hot for Brit from the moment she divorced Kevin Federline in 2006. They got worse in the following two years, as she partied, got involved with controlling men, drove without a license, and finally wound up in a psychiatric hospital. Though her father, Jamie Spears, still has a conservatorship over her, that meltdown era became a minor blip before a slew of hits. Now, with her Las Vegas residency, she seems more like a settled-down mom than a star once on the brink of self-destruction.
As the singer grew into his adulthood, Bieber’s offenses started off just looking like those of a bratty teenager — throwing eggs at a neighbor’s house, spitting on passersby from his window, peeing in a mop bucket, visiting a Brazilian brothel — until he was arrested in Miami for drag-racing and DUI in 2014. He did a lot of apologizing, particularly leading up to his Comedy Central Roast, in March 2015, which all seemed to be part of his redemption tour. In November of that same year, he released Purpose, an album named for the fact that he had lost his sense of purpose for a while and was trying to get it back. Shockingly, it was actually good enough to make most people forget the preceding two years. Let’s just say it was his way of saying “sorry” to everyone.
Once best known for being Paris Hilton’s equally hard-partying BFF, Richie served an 82-minute sentence for her 2006 DUI, when she was stopped for driving her black Mercedes SUV the wrong way on an L.A. freeway. Though she’s since dabbled in more reality TV, it’s her fashion line House of Harlow that’s made her seem like a grounded, more mature person. Not to mention the “simple life” she leads with hubby Joel Madden and their two children, Harlow and Sparrow.
It looked like a clear case of another Disney star gone bad, who would never be heard from again, save for a few “Where are they now?” stories, when the High School Musical heartthrob completed a stint in rehab in 2013. He was just 25. In 2014, a sober Efron explained on the show Running Wild With Bear Grylls that he had come to depend on outside things to cope with his life in the spotlight. “You spend a lot of time in your house, going crazy, and pretty soon you need a social lubricant,” he said. “And once I needed that, it became to go anywhere.” Despite a few flops, Efron was able to shake off the personal drama and transform himself into an on-screen party boy in Neighbors and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. In 2017, he’ll show off his buff lifeguard body in the comedic reboot of Baywatch. These days, does anyone even remember that he went to rehab?
The coolest girl of the ’90s suddenly became a cautionary tale of the ’00s when Ryder was busted for shoplifting and prescription drug possession in 2001. She rapidly dropped out of public view for years, until slowly resurfacing with small parts in Black Swan and Star Trek Beyond. More recently, she’s made headlines for her role as the troubled mother of a missing boy in the new Netflix series Stranger Things.
Ryder’s fellow cult ’90s antihero was another teen star who refused to grow up. From the time he was a teenager, the star of movies such as Heathers and True Romance made headlines for his arrests for driving under the influence, drug possession, carrying an unlicensed gun in his luggage at JFK airport, and, after punching a girlfriend in the face in 1997, battery. Following a three-month jail sentence, Slater went to rehab and his career languished for years. Stints on Broadway, followed by roles in a handful of failed TV shows, kept him in the public eye. However, his role as Eliot’s father on USA’s Mr. Robot was his first critically acclaimed success in decades. Slater nabbed the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a TV Series in 2016. “I couldn’t be more grateful,” he said in his acceptance speech.
For a while there, everyone forgot about Lyonne’s great work in Slums of Beverly Hills, American Pie, and But I’m a Cheerleader. She was just the hot mess heroin addict who trashed Michael Rapaport’s apartment and, after missing several court dates, had a warrant issued for her arrest. She finally hit rock bottom in 2005, when she was admitted into the intensive care unit at Beth Israel Hospital in New York with a host of ailments, including hepatitis C. She stayed there for almost five months. After attending court-appointed rehab in 2006, Lyonne slowly began to turn her life around. Her good friend Chloë Sevigny encouraged her to audition for the off-Broadway play Two Thousand Years, which Lyonne credits with helping her get back on her feet. It’s ironic that her big comeback role was playing heroin addict Nichols on Orange Is the New Black.