CENTURY CITY, California — Lindsay Lohan has a new toy.
Blowing into a room at the Century Plaza Hotel wearing tight white jeans and a plunging brown blouse, quite possibly the most famous teenager in the world made a beeline for the nearest power outlet. “I’m going to plug this Bluetooth in,” the currently blond actress/singer/tabloid target smiled while waving around the posh cell phone earpiece. “I just got it, and I’m so excited.”
As her latest must-have accessory charged itself for the first time, Lohan searched the room for a chair. It was time to talk “Herbie: Fully Loaded,” the reinvention of a classic Disney franchise that puts Lohan behind the wheel of the now NASCAR-ready Love Bug. As the conversation shifted like Herbie’s gear stick between career trajectories, million-dollar paydays and a recent perilous encounter with the paparazzi, the words often seemed to be coming from the lips of a 40-year-old Hollywood veteran. One quick peek toward the wall outlet, however, served as a quick reminder that Lohan is just another 18-year-old, eager to play with that new toy called massive fame.
“I started when I was 4,” Lohan reflected, looking back on a childhood that had the red-headed moppet appearing in dozens of commercials, including one heavy-rotation spot that paired her with Bill Cosby. “Grape Jell-O — ’Kids go ape for new Jell-O grape’ … I was so cute.”
To a world filled with slack-jawed teenage boys, she still is. It was the sudden infusion of their box-office dollars, coupled with Lohan’s carefully cultivated core of their YM-reading girlfriends, that transformed the eye-rolling kid from the “Freaky Friday” remake into the blossoming woman of “Mean Girls” only 14 months ago. In the time since, her days and nights have been, well, fully loaded.
With “Herbie,” Lohan has another shiny new toy: a potential franchise that casts her for the first time as an adult. “I loved working with Disney and I still do,” she recalled of her “Parent Trap” and “Friday” roles. “But it was a nice change for me, because the character is a little bit older. She’s just out of college … it was a nice stepping stone for me to have.
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“I didn’t watch the original,” Lohan continued, referring to 1968’s “The Love Bug,” which introduced Herbie the Volkswagen. “They said don’t watch the original, because it’s the same story line, but it’s very different from this one. You have to update it for the times. It frightens me to watch the originals [of my movies] sometimes.”
The eager-to-please starlet appreciates the way the studio’s films have progressed with her career, but insisted that it wasn’t part of a master plan. “I’m thinking about it now and it’s kind of funny that I’ve done all these Disney remakes,” she giggled. “But I’m a big fan of older movies, so it’s nice to be the one to remake those and bring them back.”
The reincarnation of Herbie takes place when Lohan’s Maggie Peyton, an aspiring race-car driver with a restrictive father (Michael Keaton), finds the beaten-up bug in a junkyard. After restoring the winking, oil-spitting racer to its original glory, she attempts to save the family racing business by taking on a pompous superstar (Matt Dillon) at the Nextel Cup.
“I am a good driver,” Lohan insisted when asked about her skills on the racetrack. “I used to drive my dad’s car in the backyard when I was little and sit on his lap — in the grass, because we had a lot of acreage.”
Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough acreage in L.A. for Lohan to avoid a highly publicized encounter with a predatory photographer that left her car wrecked and the actress shook up. “My car, I don’t have right now because I just got into a car accident from paparazzi.
“I want to get a Herbie — I think I need to have that car in my driveway,” she said of her next set of wheels. As for superpowers, Lohan would rather have her car forsake the winking and instead have “some kind of system where I could go shopping while driving. It could be very dangerous, but I think it’d be great.”
As long as fictional car options are being discussed, it might also be beneficial if Lohan’s next car came with a voice that could warn her when dangerous situations may appear. Looking back on the last frantic 14 months, Lohan would love to be her own voice of warning: “Make sure you take the time for yourself,” she said of the advice she would have given herself. “It’s very difficult in this industry and at my age, specifically, when you get very caught up in everything. You want to say ’yes’ to everything and you tend to try and please everyone, which can get really difficult. Say ’no’ more than ’yes,’ and just make sure you surround yourself with good people. You grow up a lot faster in this [business], and you just have to keep yourself grounded.
“I think the whole thing is a learning experience,” Lohan reminded herself, summing up the post-“Mean Girls” months. “I’m only going to be 19.”
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