Remembering the Car Chase that Forever Changed Lindsay Lohan's Career
The summer of 2007 was supposed to launch Lindsay as an edgy, Oscar-bait actress. Instead, she drove 100 miles an hour on the Pacific Coast Highway.
This composite image compares the six booking photos of actress Lindsay Lohan. Photos by Santa Monica Police Department, via Getty Images
This Week in 2007 is a weekly column looking back on Lindsay Lohan, the first iPhone, George W. Bush, and everything else we loved about the year 2007.
The old saying goes that when Lindsay Lohan dyes her hair blonde, chaos ensues. Her hair was bright yellow in summer 2007, and after a season featuring a flop comedy about rape, a photo of her passed out in a car parked outside the Roosevelt Hotel, and reports of her leaving rehab to celebrate the Fourth of July and watch a man play piano at the Chateau Marmont, her problems crescendoed with a July 23 car chase that would change her life forever.
Trouble started in Malibu around 1:30 AM. According to a 2007 MTV News story, Lindsay was downing shots of alcohol at a house party. She had recently left Promises Rehab and I Know Who Killed Me, her horror movie about a kidnapped and tortured stripper, was set to premiere in four days. She had much to celebrate, but Lindsay was allegedly screaming at her personal assistant, who reportedly responded: "I quit. I'm done. I don't even care."
When the assistant's mother arrived in a black Escalade to pick her up, the assistant fled the party and hid in the vehicle, according to MTV News. Lindsay hurried after her, and according to the book Addict Nation, flung open the door of a parked Denali SUV belonging to her acquaintance Dante Nigro. To the shock of Dante and his two friends, Jakon Sutter and Ronnie Blake, who all sat in the back seat, Lindsay climbed behind the wheel and allegedly raced after her assistant's mom.
At one point Blake opened the door and tried to dive out of the vehicle as it sped through Malibu, but Lindsay allegedly drove over his foot. "She accelerates, she runs over my foot," Blake told TMZ according to MTV News. "And she didn't stop ... she kept driving."
He was trapped in the vehicle as it allegedly reached 100 miles per hour on the Pacific Coast Highway, a freeway that lines California's beaches and has been the basis for numerous Courtney Love songs.
"I can't get in trouble," Lindsay bragged to the three men according to Addict Nation. "I'm a celebrity. I can do whatever the fuck I want!"
And whatever the fuck she wanted apparently meant allegedly stalking the black Escalade of her former personal assistant's mother. Lindsay trailed across the PCH. "We're being followed by a GMC!" the frightened parent screamed in a 911 call published by People magazine. "The gentleman jumped out of the car… Oh my God, sir, they're following us. We need help."
The MTV News report alleges that Lindsay drove in "circles" around the car, even performing U-turns on the highway to pursue it.
The assistant's mom sought sanctuary in a Civic Center parking lot near a Santa Monica Police Department office. Lindsay parked near her car. When cops arrived, Lieutenant Alex Padilla told ABC News they found the women in a "heated debate" in the parking lot. Cops arrested Lindsay. According to ABC, a breathalyzer test showed her blood alcohol level was between 0.12 percent and 0.13 percent (California's legal limit is 0.08 percent).
At the police department, cops found cocaine in Lindsay's pocket, but according to a 2007 Huffington Post article, they accidentally spilled it all over the floor. In her written statement, Lindsay denied the cocaine belonged to her: "I am wearing a pair of borrowed jeans from a friend/assistant ... She wore a pair of my jeans."
Blair Bierk, Lindsay's then attorney, told ABC News that her client had relapsed on July 23, and that she had received a notification from Lindsay's alcohol-monitoring bracelet. "Addiction is a terrible disease," Berk said in a statement at the time. "Throughout this period, I have received timely and accurate reports from the testing companies. Unfortunately, late yesterday, I was informed that Lindsay had relapsed. The bracelet has now been removed."
On August 23 2007, People reported that Lindsay pleaded guilty to two charges of taking cocaine and no contest to a charge for driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher. A judge sentenced her to 24 hours in jail, ten days of community service, an 18-month alcohol education program, and three years probation.
Lindsay's legal issues forced her to cancel all her promotional appearances for I Know Who Killed Me, including a guest spot on The Tonight Show. Host Jay Leno replaced her with Rob Schneider in a drag ensemble consisting of a blonde wig, black mini dress, and an alcohol monitoring bracelet designed to look like a garter. "It's too bad about Lindsay. I thought our competition was Nightline and Letterman. Turns out it's Cops and America's Most Wanted," Leno joked according to People.
Lindsay's mother, Dina, criticized him in an email to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush: "We have a great respect for Jay Leno but we are disappointed in the path he chose to allow a guest to make light of a very serious situation concerning Lindsay… Thank you to Craig Ferguson for not making a mockery of such a serious situation to which teens and young adults are facing across the country!"
Dina's arguments did little to quiet the negative press. Perez Hilton jumped from radio show to radio show, dishing his negative take on Lindsay's arrest, according to the New York Times. CBS News named Lindsay number three on their list "Celebrity Trainwrecks of 2007."
Lindsay's career has yet to recover. 2007 was supposed to have been a career highlight for the starlet. Following her role alongside Meryl Streep in 2006's A Prairie Home Companion, she was balancing Georgia Rule (the aforementioned comedy about rape also starring Jane Fonda), an edgy horror film called I Know Who Killed Me, and an Oscar-buzz film about John Lennon's assassin, Chapter 27, which later went straight to DVD.
Before the court proceedings, Lindsay had a career trajectory similar to what Emma Stone would do a few years later: breaking out in a teen comedy (Easy A) and then mixing romantic comedies with Oscar bait till she won her own Academy Award.
Lindsay did not help herself (she was in and out of court for the next several years, and a New York Times story detailed her showing up drunk to the set of The Canyons), but it's hard to imagine today's more socially conscious blogosphere attacking Lindsay in the midst of addiction. Writers would have discussed how Americans misunderstand addiction and the double standard in how the media treats famous male addicts in comparison to Lindsay. But 2007 was a very different time to be famous.