Sunday 21 January 2018

Mischa's mammy wars

'The OC' actress is suing her Irish mother over allegations of mis-managed earnings. But she's not the first star to fall out with her parents

Former 'The OC' actress Mischa Barton is taking her Irish-born mum Nuala to court over misappropriation of earnings.
Former 'The OC' actress Mischa Barton is taking her Irish-born mum Nuala to court over misappropriation of earnings.
Drew Barrymore
Frank Ocean
Ed Power

Ed Power

Mischa Barton woke this morning to find her name up in lights for the first time since she left The OC. Unfortunately, the reasons for her sudden ubiquity had little to do with her acting accomplishments. The news that she is to sue her mother/manager over allegedly misappropriated earnings has grabbed headlines and sent the internet into a tizzy, with commentators noting the recent downward trajectory of the former style icon's career.

As she faces into a media feeding frenzy, it is not unthinkable that Barton might find solace in memories of her idyllic childhood holidays in Ireland. Unlikely though it may seem, the Hollywood beauty's (now estranged) mum was born and raised in Newry, and Barton has maintained strong connections with the 'old sod'.

It was here that she chose to make a return to theatre in 2012, appearing on stage in Dublin, Cork and Belfast in a re-staging of Steel Magnolias. And it was in Ireland that some of her strongest formative recollections are rooted - in particular those carefree summers on her uncle's land in wildest Roscommon.

"Mischa Barton cutting turf? It might sound properly ridiculous to people but trust me, on my uncle's farm in Roscommon everybody pitched in," she told the Irish Independent in 2012. "We loved coming to the farm when we were kids. It was such a great escape and we were here pretty often."

During her extended stay for Steel Magnolias she gushed endlessly about the country, explaining how it spoke to her in a uniquely spiritual way. Admittedly, such romantic musings are standard from Irish-Americans getting in touch with their origins. In Barton's case, though, her passion for Ireland was forged from real experiences, rather than reminisces passed down at second or third remove.

"There's something about that place that just really touches the soul," she told the Belfast Telegraph, adding that she considered it an enormous honour to tread the boards of The Gaiety.

"To star in this play and to get the chance to act on stage at the Gaiety Theatre has been a dream come true for me. The Gaiety is such a beautiful place. It's wonderful to have been part of it, when so many great Irish actors have started out there."

"I have lots of second cousins and distant relatives," she went on to explain. "I used to come over to see my grandad and my great-uncle Joe Morgan.

"My grandad was around for a long time and he was a great man. He lived in Newry but also in Sion Mills, where he died. He came over to see me when I was in New York and LA. I even brought him to Fox [home of The OC]. He was a very proud grandaddy.

"I love holidaying over here. I come here pretty often, considering. I was here a few weeks ago and I just got straight in my car and went to Connemara."

How badly she could do with a restorative Irish holiday today.

In a tail-spin since exiting The OC in 2006, Barton has joined that unfortunate club of stars who have fallen out with their parents over the direction of their career. This is against the backdrop of her dimming profile in Hollywood.

Notoriously, she turned down a chance to reboot her career with a choice part in Gossip Girl. As a box-office proposition meanwhile she has proved a straight up disaster: her lavish 2007 costume drama Decameron, for instance, earned just $7 million on a budget of $38 million and was never released in the United States.

There have also been personal upsets. Also in 2007 she was found driving with marijuana on her person and charged operating a vehicle under the influence. Two years later, she was placed in 'involuntary psychiatric hold' at a facility in Los Angeles ("It was a full-on breakdown," she later told People magazine. "It was terrifying, straight out of Girl, Interrupted. Story of my life.").

In her deposition this week, Barton asserted that mum Nuala lied about how much she was earning from a film in 2013 and trousered the difference. She furthermore claims that her mother and father (an English foreign exchange whom Nuala met in London) "sit back expecting their daughter's hard work and dedication to her craft to support their lifestyle".

Heartbreaking though the particulars of her split from her mother may sound, the truth is that Hollywood stars have been having fractious break-ups with their parents since the dawn of the entertainment industry.

Beyonce notoriously sacked her manager father Mathew, whose early hustling contributed to the rise of her first group Destiny's Child (her decision to adopt her married name in the subsequently 'Mrs Carter' world tour, was interpreted as a nose-waggle at dad).

And Bey's troubles pale in comparison to the familial strife which other celebs have gone through. In 1993, Diff'rent Strokes actor Gary Coleman took his parents and ex-manager to court and was awarded $1.3 million, having claimed they had skimmed his earnings at the height of the show's popularity.

No less grisly was the example of Macaulay Culkin, the Home Alone star drawn into fractious custody dispute between his parents. During the court battle, a judge sanctioned the tapping of his movie earnings so that his mother and siblings could acquire an apartment in New York, thus staving off homelessness. When Culkin turned 15 his legal team sought for both parents to be removed as legal guardians (a case dropped after his mother ultimately won custody).

With the legal machinations just beginning to crank into gear, it seems unlikely Barton's case will be resolved sooner rather than later.

She may perhaps take comfort in the fact that bitter familial infighting is no novelty in Ireland. Such domestic dust-ups are literally as old as the green Roscommon fields she used to gaze upon as a kid.

The good news is that, when all of this is over, those fields will still be there, as unchanged and, to a sentimental American, beautiful as when she rambled among them as a wide-eyed seven-year-old.

Family dramas: The stars who fell out

Leighton Meester

In 2011, the Gossip Girl star filed a case against mother Constance over an allowance of $7,500 that the actress was paying her mum each month. The cash was supposed to go towards Constance's son's medical expenses - but Meester claimed she was lavishing it on Botox.

Drew Barrymore

Aged 15, the ET actress went to court seeking an 'emancipation' decree, meaning her parents would no longer be her legal guardians. Her wish was granted and she moved into an apartment and was free to chose whatever parts she wished. Her career quickly flourished.

The Situation

Owner of the most famous pecs in the world - or at least the most famous pecks on Jersey Shore - 'The Situation' (aka Mike Sorrentino) claimed his father was illegally profiting off his name and likeness. However, he agreed to drop the suit when dad said he would stop trying to cash in.

Kobe Bryant

The basketball star sued his parents to try to prevent them auctioning memorabilia worth more than $1 million. A settlement was reached by which mom and dad could auction six items - as opposed to the 60 they had initially put up for sale.

Frank Ocean

In a twist on convention, it was Ocean's father who took action against the rap star. "Father wanna sue me for a million. Like I owe him back child support," Ocean tweeted. It is believed the case was later dropped.

Irish Independent

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