Stardom hit Mischa Barton hard and fast.

Born in England but raised in New York, she started acting in theater when she was still in single digits, then scored a role—in a TV movie called New York Crossing—when she was barely 10. Within a couple years she had been on the big screen in Notting Hill and The Sixth Sense, and then she played the high school love interest of a pre-Thirteen Evan Rachel Wood in the ABC drama Once and Again.

So Barton was technically a show business veteran by the time she joined the cast of The O.C. at 17. But as we all know now, the Fox drama would prove to be, if not quite as enduring as that other cult-classic, prime-time teen soap Beverly Hills, 90210, then at least as life-changing for its stars.

Though the show premiered in 2003, a few years before Twitter would make celebrities so much more accessible to their critics, the comings and goings of the comely ensemble that also included Rachel BilsonAdam Brodyand Ben McKenzie were still so much headline fodder.

The O.C., Mischa Barton


Barton played the privileged but troubled Marissa Cooper, the main love interest of Ben McKenzie's Ryan (and, for awhile, Olivia Wilde's Alex), and as her character was living the wild life in Orange County, Mischa became a fixture on the L.A. party scene that in those days included frequent Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan sightings.

After Barton decided that three seasons was enough for her, Marissa was killed off in a car crash in the 2006 season finale, a tear-jerker of a goodbye for those hoping she and Ryan still had a chance.

While she kept her reasons for leaving to herself at the time, her move to England right afterward was in hindsight a major indicator that she had had it with Hollywood.

In fact, she wouldn't really talk much about that momentous decision for a decade, until she was called upon to pick her most memorable year for Dancing With the Stars in 2016.

"I think I just got to the point where I was like, 'I'm not sure I'm enjoying this anymore,'" Barton said, having picked the year she quit The O.C. "I just felt like I was in a machine and I couldn't really get off. So it was time to step back. So I went back to England and it was just a year of real self-exploration."

Yet when she returned to L.A., the obstacles to being left alone were right where she had left them.

In May 2007, Barton needed a trip to the hospital after mixing cocktails at Nicole Richie's Memorial Day barbecue with prescription antibiotics. She was released after a couple of hours—and the bigger story became who leaked Richie's saucy invitation which jokingly stated "no girls over 100 pounds" were allowed at her party.

But Barton was then arrested for DUI and marijuana possession in West Hollywood the day after Christmas later that year; the following April she would plead no contest to drunk driving and be sentenced to probation.

Mischa Barton, Mugshot

In 2009, the then-23-year-old's family held an intervention, during which she passed out after having taken Xanax, which she was prescribed after having her wisdom teeth out. Afterward she was hospitalized on a 5150 psychiatric hold, meaning she was considered a danger to herself or others—an experience she would call an "eye-opener" in hindsight.

"It was a full-on breakdown," Barton told People in 2013. "It was terrifying, straight out of Girl, Interrupted. Story of my life."

Mischa Barton

"I was never suicidal," she continued. "I was just overworked and depressed. But one slip of the tongue in a heightened moment and you find yourself in that situation."

She admitted that she let herself be pushed too hard around the time of her O.C. days, both at work and at play.

"I asked to get out of jobs all the time and the response was, 'No you have to.' There's an attitude that you can't say no." Barton added, "I felt like I was 35 when I was 17."

True story, all the while, she never quit acting—or even took that much of a break—during this same period of time, though the slew of titles she was racking up were largely forgettable.

Mischa Barton, The Beautiful Life

Takashi Seida /The CW

In fall 2009, she returned to prime-time in the high-pedigree but short-lived CW series The Beautiful Life: TBL, about a group of models cohabitating in New York, that also starred Elle Macpherson and counted Ashton Kutcher as an executive producer. Then came the requisite guest spot on Law & Order: SVU, as well as the indie drama Don't Fade Away, before another run of B movies.

One of Barton's most memorable roles from that time, actually, was a turn in the 2012 music video for "Everybody's on the Run," by the Noel Gallagher-fronted band High Flying Birds, in which her dress gets caught in a cab door and is ripped clean off.

Mischa Barton, High Flying Birds, Music Video

Throughout all her ups and downs, Barton has remained a regularly photographed fixture on the Hollywood scene, as well as a regular at fashion shows and film festivals, where she always seemed to be in a new movie.

In 2013 she told People that, after years of struggling with body image, she was feeling more at ease and keeping fit with Soul Cycle classes. She was also single at the time; happily co-habitating with her dogs; and splitting her time between London and L.A.

In 2014 she became the face of the British e-cigarette maker Vapestick, and that's when she shared with London's Metro that, if she had it to do over again, she probably wouldn't have done The O.C.

"It's something I came so close to not doing" she told the paper. "I had a really great thing with film. People say be grateful for what you have but it's certainly not the kind of thing I was expecting it to be... I've kind of seen it all."

Mischa Barton

Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

Talking about The O.C. on the occasion of its 10th anniversary in 2013, creator Josh Schwartz told the Huffington Post—to clear up the rumor once and for all—the Marissa Cooper's death wasn't any sort of payback against Barton.

"It was a hundred percent a creative decision for the show and it was born out of both feeling creatively like it was the direction the show needed to head and also, quite frankly, a function of needing to do something big to shake up the show at the end of that third season to both get the show to come back for a fourth season," he told Huffington Post. "And, I think, to give the show a real creative jolt in Season 4 and move the show in its own surprising, unexpected direction."

Mischa Barton, DWTS, Dancing With the Stars Season 22


Barton's decision to do Dancing With the Stars last spring came as a bit of a surprise—and proved yet another decision she wasn't entirely happy with after the fact. After she was eliminated fairly early on, she described the experience to E! News as "an intense first few weeks."

"I came straight out of a film, came into this, thought I was going to get this dance training," she added, "and it's been a fun experience and I've learned a lot from [partner Artem Chigvintsev]."

But eight months later, she told The Ringer it was downright "awful."

"It wasn't collaborative like a choreographer on a film set... I was so confused by it," she said in an interview in December. "It was like The Hunger Games. It was all a popularity contest. It was awful. I was so glad to get kicked off."

Also according to The Ringer profile, Barton had recently sold her longtime home in the Hollywood Hills and was searching for a new house while renting in West Hollywood; she had shot a movie called Joyride over the summer that utilized her real-life interest in cars; she still enjoyed Soul Cycle and her beloved dogs were still in the picture. 

Recalling the nutty '00s when she was on The O.C., she said, "It used to be like 10 or 12 paparazzi swarming the car all the time...They used to chase you, like all 12 of the cars, creating accidents and stuff in the streets, and it was no way to live. And the magazines, they insulted and judged everything I did. Everyone I dated. I really wanted to step back and take a break and reassess."

Now, of course, it's Instagram commenters who can get anybody down at any given time, but having plenty of perspective has helped Barton deal with that brand of nonsense.

Mischa Barton

Greg Doherty/Getty Images

"I keep thinking of this thing I heard, that if you don't reinvent yourself every seven years, you're doing yourself a disservice," Barton, who's still only all of 31, also told The Ringer. "I think that's interesting. I think it's really hard to do—I think it's extremely scary for women especially, every seven years, but I'm kind of at that crossroads again. It's about time for me again to reinvent myself and do something different."

It was déjà vu all over again, unfortunately, when news broke Thursday that Barton had been taken to the hospital after police responded to a report of a disturbance at her WeHo apartment. "She was making incoherent statements that made absolutely no sense and she was transported to the hospital," a West Hollywood Sheriff's deputy told E! News.

Upon her release Friday, however, Barton said in a statement to People that someone had slipped GHB (known as a club drug or, creepily, the "date rape drug") into her drink while she was out with friends on Wednesday night.

"On the evening of the 25th, I went out with a group of friends to celebrate my birthday," the actress said. "While having drinks, I realized that something was not right as my behavior was becoming erratic and continued to intensify over the next several hours. I voluntarily went to get professional help, and I was informed by their staff that I had been given GHB.

"After an overnight stay, I am home and doing well. I would like to extend a big thanks of gratitude to the professionals at Cedars-Sinai for their great care and professionalism. This is a lesson to all young women out there, be aware of your surroundings."

Barton has been all too aware of the potential peril lurking in her surroundings since she was a teenager. With no fewer than five movies in some state of production on the horizon for her in 2017, may this medical scare be just a reminder of how far she's come, rather than anything having to do with where she's been.  

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