When director Paul Schrader, writer Bret Easton Ellis, and actress Lindsay Lohan recently came together to make The Canyons, a low-budget provocation funded partially by a Kickstarter campaign, they were all at the low points of their careers. Schrader, the once-revered screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, has never had it easy as a director, but his rejected version of an Exorcist prequel—which, to add to the humiliation, was redone entirely by Renny Harlin, another filmmaker on the outs—put him in a tailspin that two subsequent flops (The Walker and Adam Resurrected) failed to right. Ellis, for his part, has enjoyed diminishing returns on his novels since the heyday of Less Than Zero and American Psycho, and the movie version of The Informers was the goat of Sundance 2009. As for Lohan… well, her struggles have been well-documented.
With all three coming together—with porn star James Deen in a leading role, no less—it’s no surprise that a trainwreck was more probable than possible. What is a surprise is that they allowed New York Times reporter Stephen Rodrick on set (and in the editing room) to document the whole fiasco as it unfolded. The resulting NYT Magazine piece, under the blunt headline “Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan In Your Movie,” is an absolutely riveting account of the making of The Canyons, packed with revelations about Lohan’s instability, the power struggle between her and Schrader, and an ominous postproduction. Here’s just a taste, with Schrader trying to persuade Lohan to follow through on a big sex scene:
Another hour passed, and Lohan eventually moved to the bed but wouldn’t remove her robe. Schrader worried that the early-morning sunlight would begin streaming through the house. He thought of sending everyone home. But then he realized that there was one thing he hadn’t yet tried. He stripped off all of his clothes. Naked, he walked toward Lohan.
“Lins, I want you to be comfortable. C’mon, let’s do this.”