With more and more Americans holding out on retirement, it’s getting to the point where people are frequently working well into their 70s. Not so for Amanda Bynes, who announced on Sunday via Twitter that she was ending her acting career at the ripe old age of 24. “Being an actress isn’t as fun as it may seem,” she tweeted. “If I don’t love something, I stop doing it. I don’t love acting anymore, so I’ve stopped doing it.”
That was her version, at least.
Her struggle is one many child actors face as they get older and discover that they have to reconnect with audiences all over again.
The other version is that Hollywood had mostly broken up with her—that after a highly successful run as a child actress on Nickelodeon, her career began to sputter. She was fired this spring from the Farrelly brothers’ film Hall Pass, according to a person familiar with the project. That seems to have coincided with a break within her that Bynes is now enacting in public. Her Twitter feed has become a place for what seems like compulsive oversharing, not just about retiring, but other random topics as well—for example, her interest in trying magic mushrooms and her sexual attraction to black men. (She has been linked on and off with rapper Kid Cudi, and has tweeted about him obliquely for months.)
Though sources say her CAA agents had a please-get-help talk with her this year, Bynes has so far resisted. And her parents, whom she has supported for years, have not been able to get the actress back on track. Her friends are concerned about her behavior.
Reps for Bynes did not respond to a request for comment about her retirement. But her personal publicist, Melissa Raubvogel, denied Bynes had been fired, and said no such event had happened with CAA.
Though Bynes was clearly talented, with a charming turn as Tracy Turnblad’s sidekick in the hit remake of Hairspray, a slew of projects featuring her more prominently simply didn’t do as well.
Her struggle is one many child actors face as they get older and discover that they have to reconnect with audiences all over again. For every Drew Barrymore, there’s a Molly Ringwald, for every Josh Brolin, there’s a Corey Feldman.
Bynes had never really been a major screen star, but her run on the small screen was nothing to sneeze at. After being discovered at a comedy camp at the age of 7 or 8, she was cast in All That, a sketch-comedy show on the MTV-owned network, which The New York Times described as a kind of “pint size Saturday Night Live.”
Then came The Amanda Show, where she played a variety of characters, one of whom was based on Judge Judy. After that, she went right into the WB sitcom, What I Like About You, in which Bynes and Jennie Garth played sisters. Though a modest hit by network standards, the comedy had a loyal audience of young fans, and solidified Bynes' base as a teen star.
At 15, Universal released her first big movie, Big Fat Liar, a teenage comedy co-starring Frankie Muniz of Malcolm in the Middle. It did well, grossing nearly $50 million off a budget believed to be under $20 million.
But after that, her record was spottier.
Aside from her appearance in Hairspray, Bynes had the leading role in She’s the Man, a romantic comedy about a young girl who dresses in drag so that she can play on her school soccer team. It grossed a tepid $33.7 million. Then came Sydney White, ”a modern day update of Snow White. It topped out at $13.6 million, and made it harder for her to get lead roles. “Often, what makes an actor appealing as a child simply doesn’t work for them as an adult,” says someone who’s worked with Bynes, adding that the comedy acting she excelled at as a child didn't translate into dramatic films.
Still, Bynes was famous enough to get a clothing line with Steve & Barry’s, the discount chain that produced wares for Sarah Jessica Parker’s brand, Bitten. She also landed a cover with Maxim. But after a burst of success, the retail giant imploded, the victim of the credit crunch and excessive discounting that made turning a profit nearly impossible.
Meanwhile, rumors began to surface that Bynes could be “difficult.” In 2007, she was invited to the Turks and Caicos Film Festival, where she was being honored with a rising star award. And things reportedly didn’t go well.
Shortly after the festival was done, a nasty item appeared on the New York Post's Page Six alleging that for the event, Bynes demanded two first-class plane tickets, two double hotel suites, and then “failed” to show up at any of the scheduled events she’d committed to. “I literally didn't see her for days after she arrived at the hotel,” an “organizer” told the gossip column. “Everyone was wondering where she was. She was off jet-skiing, treating it like a vacation.”
Though representatives for Bynes denied she’d been poorly behaved, Hollywood insiders say this fit a pattern of diva-like behavior from Bynes.
This might not have been a problem had the work been more financially successful, but it wasn’t.
Bynes got a TV pilot for the proposed ABC sitcom Canned, about five friends who all lose their jobs on the same day. The show never made it out of the gate.
Another movie she made went straight to video.
This spring, the actress tweeted that she would no longer be appearing in the Farrelly brothers’ latest film, Hall Pass, which she had excitedly written about previously. One source said Bynes had acted strangely during the filming—paranoid and fearful. Star Owen Wilson and the Farrellys wanted Bynes to continue in the film if she could get a hold of herself, but nothing changed—the co-directors, the source said, kept the cameras running in between takes to show Bynes' odd behavior in case anyone from her camp decided to sue. After she was fired, she tweeted, “FYI I am NOT in Atlanta doing a cameo in Hall Pass like people think!! I was, but I left because of scheduling conflicts!!! It’s a huge cast and I was going to do a little part but it didn’t work out timing wise!! I have NO idea why people think I’m there filming!”
A rep for Twentieth Century Fox, which is financing the film, did not respond to requests for comment. And Bynes' PR person, Raubvogel, wrote in an email: "Amanda was not fired from Hall Pass. Amanda left because of a scheduling conflict."
Still, not everyone was buying that this was going to be the actress’ final curtain call. Actors are dramatic people, pointed out True/Slant’s Jeremy Helligar, who went on to list a number of folks who “retired” from the business and then un-retired, among them Jay-Z, Eminem, 50 Cent, and Jane Fonda. “Although she’s probably made enough money to live comfortably for the rest of her life, few stars seem capable of giving up the spotlight for long,” he said of Bynes. “If her final film, Easy A, in which she has a supporting role, is well received when it is released on September 17, I guarantee you’ll be seeing more of Bynes. She wouldn’t be the first fickle star.”