Lindsay Lohan New York Mag
Credit: Bert Stern for New York Mag

Paul Schrader, director of The Canyons, Lindsay Lohan’s upcoming “comeback” project, has taken to to discuss his troubled starlet and compare her to another troubled starlet Lohan regularly aspires to emulate: Marilyn Monroe.

With quotes such as, “I think Lohan has more natural acting talent than Monroe did,” it’s easy to roll your eyes, but Schrader’s essay about the differences of being über-famous 50 years ago and now is quite compelling. The director discusses how both Lohan and Monroe “exist in the space between actors and celebrities, people whose professional and personal performances are more or less indistinguishable. Entertainers understand the distinction. To be successful, a performer controls the balance between the professional and personal, that is, he or she makes it seem like the professional is personal. It is the lack of this control that gives performers like Monroe and Lohan (and others) their unique attraction. We sense that the actress is not performing, that we are watching life itself. We call them ‘troubled,’ ‘tormented,’ ‘train wrecks’ — but we can’t turn away. We can’t stop watching. They get under our skin in a way that controlled performers can’t.”

Schrader explains how Lohan, now paid for appearances, tips, and tweets, is famous in a way Monroe “could only dream about.” After writing that he regularly told Lohan, “It must be exhausting to be you,” he concludes that, while difficult, she’s worth it in the end. “From my point of view, it was a treat to work with Lindsay. All the drama, the mishegas, all the stress — that means little. A director can shoot around misbehavior. He can’t shoot around lack of charisma. I just wish it was easier for Lindsay.”

For people who’ve had it with Lohan’s antics, it’s easy to dismiss the sympathy appeal Schrader is clearly going for. But the director certainly has a point about the fascination: Here we are nearly 10 years after Mean Girls, and we’re still talking about her.