In the early 2000s, Mischa Barton was one of the hottest stars on the Hollywood scene. Thanks to the success of the Fox teen drama The O.C., the young actress was instantly thrust into the paparazzi-filled spotlight when she was just 17 years old.
But after leaving the hit show in 2006, Barton became a tabloid target and struggled to recapture her previous level of acting success. Here’s what Mischa Barton is up to today.
Mischa Barton Got Her Start Early On
Born in London, England, on January 24, 1986, Barton moved to the United States when she was five and grew up in New York City. She began acting at the age of eight, appearing in off-Broadway shows and eventually landing small roles in successful feature films like Notting Hill and The Sixth Sense.
But once Barton was cast as the troubled Marissa Cooper on the hit teen drama The O.C., her career exploded.
But in the finale of The O.C.’s third season, Marissa Cooper was killed off. While rumors led some fans to believe that Barton was fired from the show, it was actually the actress’s decision to leave.
“Halfway through season two I would say, when we started doubling up on episodes and shooting [became] so much harder, and again a lot of that was too much for me,” she explained in an interview with E! News. “I didn’t know where the character was going. I look back on it pretty fondly, but there’s stuff I think people did wrong and the way they handled it. So, I just didn’t feel I could keep going.”
Mischa Barton Got Torn Apart By The Media
Barton’s departure from the show did nothing to minimize her visibility, though she never reclaimed her previous level of career success.
The young star became prime tabloid fodder after being involved in several unfortunate incidents in 2007, including a hospitalization and a DUI arrest. Over the next few years, the paparazzi continued to hound her as she gained unwanted attention for things like a trip to the psych ward, a failed TV comeback, and even her fluctuating weight.
“It was stupid because you couldn’t do right or wrong. It was like, you’re either too thin and then you put on five pounds: ‘Oh, she’s too fat—she’s got to lose weight,’” Barton told The Guardian in 2021. “At a certain point, I think that’s when you just shut off. You just learn to disconnect from it.”
Barton Joined The First Season Of ‘The Hills: New Beginnings’
In 2019, Barton tried to reignite her TV career by joining the cast of The Hills: New Beginnings. Minus Lauren Conrad, the show featured most of the cast from the original reality series, including Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt, Brody Jenner, and Audrina Patridge.
While Barton was not featured in the first incarnation of The Hills, The O.C. had inspired its mother show, Laguna Beach. Making her part of the reboot was meant to be a clever nod to this connection.
Unfortunately, the idea didn’t really work and Barton was not invited back for season two.
According to The Hills star Brody Jenner, the actress was out of place with the rest of the cast. “Bringing Mischa on to begin with was just, it was sort of awkward,” he told the New York Daily News. “All the people that we film with now are people that we’ve grown up with and we know each other. We’re all really close friends. … So I just think it was maybe uncomfortable for her too, you know?”
But Barton’s brief stint on the reality show did reveal her desire to get back into acting, as the cameras followed her working hard to prepare for an indie-film audition.
“It’s my first audition in a while,” she explained. “I’m going to have to win a lot of people over again. And it definitely comes down to putting in the work.”
It seems Barton’s hard work paid off—in December 2021, she announced she had wrapped filming on a movie called Invitation to a Murder.
Growing Up In The Public Eye Gave Her PTSD
Coping with fame at such a young age was not easy for Barton. In a poignant op-ed she penned for Harper’s Bazaar, she described how being a paparazzi magnet impacted her mental health.
“What happened gave me PTSD,” she wrote. “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.”
The Lost and Delirious actress also stressed how important it is for her to share her experiences today, so she can help other young women who may be struggling in Hollywood or in the world in general.
“I’m not just a headline, I am a woman, a human being and I have a story to tell,” she said. “I can’t stay quiet anymore, because these things are still happening—the exploitation of young girls, to people of colour, to all women, sexualised while being picked apart and shamed for being alive in their own bodies. If my story can help even one young girl stand up for herself and not let the world tear them down, then all of this will be worth it.”