Inside Amanda Bynes' Career-Ending Meltdown: 'I Don't Love Acting Anymore'
This story first appeared in the Oct. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Amanda Bynes was trying to make a change. In August 2008, the former teen star parted ways with her talent agency CAA and began making the rounds at several others that were vying to represent the actress. Coming off of the 2007 hit Hairspray and a handful of modestly successful teen comedies, Bynes was widely coveted by agencies that saw a lot of upside in the former Nickelodeon television star. But, according to a high-level agency source who was present at one of the meetings Bynes took with her father in tow, the then-22-year-old actress was deeply frustrated with her lot in Hollywood.
"Everybody had her as a goody-goody. She couldn't break out of that genre," this executive says. "Her frustration was, 'I could have played this role; I could have played that role. I'm not getting the Lindsay Lohan roles.' "
Back then, Bynes and Lohan, born just months apart, were indeed charting different career paths, with Lohan landing parts in adult fare like Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion. But the young women also were viewed very differently by the public. By the summer of 2008, Lohan had been arrested a handful of times on drunk driving and drug possession charges, while Bynes' reputation -- at least in the media -- was largely untarnished.
Four years later, the actress finally might be getting her wish: comparisons to Lohan. But this has nothing to do with Bynes' filmography and everything to do with her unraveling personal life.
Since an early April 2012 arrest for drunk driving and an alleged hit-and-run a few days later, the one-time star appears to have become unhinged. In addition to her legal troubles -- she has twice been cited for driving on a suspended license and in August was involved in another alleged hit-and-run -- the actress' recent erratic behavior has alarmed industry observers. In September alone, she was reported to have locked herself in the dressing room of the West Hollywood boutique Kin for two hours, was thrown out of an Equinox in West Hollywood after removing her shirt and exercising in a strapless push-up bra, was photographed smoking an unknown substance in her car and shut herself in New York's Little Cupcake Bakeshop's bathroom for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Bynes reiterated to People on Sept. 20 a claim that she first made in 2010: "I am retired as an actor."
The strange chain of events has shocked Hollywood players because, for much of her career, Bynes seemed a model citizen. "I am as surprised as anyone would be after working with her and having such a positive experience," says David Robinson, president of Morgan Creek Productions, who was a producer on Bynes' 2007 teen comedy Sydney White. "She was always on time, worked hard and was great with the crew and the cast."
Indeed, the young actress had a sterling reputation in Hollywood until, according to sources, she was unable to capitalize on the opportunity she'd long waited for -- an adult role in the 2011 prurient comedy Hall Pass. It was her departure from the project -- after arriving to the shoot unprepared -- that either was symptomatic of or the beginning of her precipitous decline, say sources.
Wrapped up in the wayward actress' messy fall is an implicit question: Who, if anyone, is responsible for protecting young actors as they transition into adulthood? It's an age-old Hollywood issue, but one that the Bynes situation has magnified. Many industry sources say that, in addition to an actor's parents, it falls to his or her representation -- the agent, manager, publicist and attorney -- to intervene when serious personal issues like drug abuse materialize, even if such effort isn't part of the job description. "Absolutely it's their responsibility, and they know it," says writer-director Paul Schrader, who helmed the forthcoming Lohan starrer The Canyons. "Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't let them do their job. It's not for lack of trying that intervention fails."
Hollywood, of course, has produced countless young stars who have melted down after struggling with issues such as substance abuse. The Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland famously grappled with drug and alcohol problems starting in her 20s, as did Drew Barrymore, Corey Feldman and Todd Bridges before turning things around. And still others, including the late Corey Haim and Dana Plato, never overcame their demons. Traditionally, it has not been the role of talent agents and other representatives to guide the personal lives of clients, even if some young actors live alone and unsupervised far earlier than "regular" children; from the beginning, many agents make it clear they manage careers and not datebooks.
And so several sources note that it isn't always easy to make that difficult call and confront a client. Some representatives wind up enabling rather than shepherding their clients, out of fear of losing a breadwinner. "When you get involved, you have to be ready for the repercussions," says a talent agent who has been present for an intervention with a wayward starlet. "There is a moral bridge you get to: What's more important, the representation of a client or the health and welfare of a human being?"
But these days, Bynes no longer has representation after parting ways in the past few years with CAA's Jason Heyman, attorney David Feldman and publicist Melissa Raubvogel. And serious issues beyond career management loom. Bynes has an Oct. 29 trial date in a case stemming from the DUI arrest; she has pleaded not guilty. On Sept. 27 she also pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run -- a pretrial hearing is scheduled for Oct. 19 -- and faces up to a year in jail if convicted on both counts.
After roughly two years out of the limelight, Bynes seemingly popped up out of nowhere when she was arrested April 6 in West Hollywood for driving under the influence and sideswiping an L.A. County Sheriff's Department cruiser with her black BMW 5-series. The arrest produced her now-infamous jailhouse-booking photograph -- in which she vacantly stared out from a mop of dirty pink hair. And in June, she tweeted that President Obama should "fire the cop who arrested" her because she does not drink or "hit and run." The only Bynes tweet that ever received so much attention was her June 2010 announcement that she was quitting acting. Her explanation? "If I don't love something anymore I stop doing it," she wrote. "I don't love acting anymore so I've stopped doing it."
That declaration capped a more than decadelong career that began early, and with great promise. Bynes grew up the youngest of three children in suburban Thousand Oaks, Calif., about an hour from Los Angeles, and was raised by parents Rick, a former dentist, and Lynn, a former office manager. Bynes, then 7 or 8, was discovered in 1994 at a Los Angeles children's comedy camp that her parents enrolled her in, leading to a job on Nickelodeon's sketch comedy show All That, according to a glowing 2002 profile of the young actress in The New York Times, which noted her "gift for physical comedy" and "remarkably self-possessed" nature. Bynes performed on All That from 1996 until 2002 while also starring in Nickelodeon's The Amanda Show starting in 1999, making her the network's biggest star.
But by 16, Bynes, who graduated from Thousand Oaks High School's independent study program in 2004, already was showing signs that she was tiring of teen fare. "I knew I didn't want to be a Nickelodeon kid when I was 30,'' she said in the Times profile. That year, Bynes left Nickelodeon and toplined her first movie, the $15 million teen comedy Big Fat Liar. The movie was a modest hit, grossing $53 million worldwide. She also landed a starring role on The WB's What I Like About You opposite Jennie Garth. A source from the now-defunct network says that Bynes was well behaved during the sitcom's 2002-2006 run. "Amanda was textbook great," this person says. "She didn't act like a star, didn't have an entourage, didn't need the biggest trailer."
Bynes also lent her voice to Fox's animated feature Robots (2005) and starred in What a Girl Wants (2003), She's the Man (2006) and the musical Hairspray (2007). "She was completely professional and very sweet," says Jennifer Gibgot, an executive producer on Hairspray. "We thought of her as a young Lucille Ball." Bynes' success during this era landed her on Forbes' 2007 list of Hollywood's top young earners, on which she placed No. 5 -- two spots behind Lohan -- with estimated annual earnings of $2.5 million.
Even though Bynes had fashioned a lucrative career and was a model citizen on film sets, privately she was unhappy with the direction of her work. According to sources, she chafed at her image as an innocent teen star and began working to distance herself from it. A fall 2007 "Got Milk?" print ad touted her transformation: "Metamorphosis. What's changed since The Amanda Show? Me." Less than a year later, Bynes departed CAA and signed with William Morris' Theresa Peters in August 2008. But Peters left WMA a few months later for UTA, and Bynes eventually returned to CAA and Heyman in September 2009. Once there, she proceeded to make moves that indicated a new direction. She posed for the cover of the February 2010 issue of Maxim, sporting a navel ring and lingerie next to the headline "grown up & uncovered." In the Maxim story, Bynes, 23 at the time, said that when her parents asked if she'd be filming "sexy movies," the actress told them, "If they're done the right way, then maybe!" That same month, Bynes got her wish. Well, almost.