As I mentioned earlier this week, I've been reading Emily Lloyd's autobiography Wish I Was There (a titled clearly based on that of her breakthrough film role in David Leland's Wish You Were Here) It's an utterly engrossing, fascinating and poignant read detailing all aspects of her life, the sudden stardom and the crushing lows, warts and all.
I thoroughly agree with the sticker on the book jacket from The Mail On Sunday which claims it as their pick for 'Celebrity Autobiography Of The Year'. It doesn't surprise me The Mail have such an interest in the book, but it does surprise me it's such a positive interest; after all as I've previously blogged last year (the-daily-mail-and-emily-lloyd) the paper has previously shown an interest so intrusive it was bordering on the stalking.
The thing is Lloyd's life is one that naturally lends itself to morbid curiosity in the general public. At the tender age of just 15 she bagged the lead role in Wish You Were Here and took the world by storm. Instant hot property, she secured further work in Hollywood productions like Cookie and In Country (opposite Bruce Willis) all before she'd even reached the age of 20. But work began to dry up amidst cruel whispers of her being 'difficult' and having mental health issues resulting in her sectioning and now, as The Mail have all too gleefully reported in the past, Lloyd lives modestly in London working voluntarily for charity projects in her area, including an arts group and even, for a time, the local Oxfam shop.
The book pulls no punches in detailing the highs and lows of those years and Lloyd's narrative style, helped by co-writer and former tabloid showbiz reporter Douglas Wight, is eminently readable, almost to the point of conversational. She recalls candidly being fired from the Cher movie Mermaids by the woman herself; apparently, Cher believed Lloyd did not look genetically like her enough to play her daughter and told her so, to which Lloyd promptly replied to the plastic surgery fond diva 'You don't look genetically like you either!'. Much was made of her firing in the press down the years and her subsequent lawsuit against Orion which saw her win $175,000 in damages, but here Lloyd sets the record straight; Cher also fired not only her, but also the original director Lasse Hallstrom and the replacement director Frank Oz!
She gives you the full facts on all the near misses of her career, including other roles she was fired from. Woody Allen fired her from Husbands and Wives which again fuelled the rumours she was 'difficult to work with' What wasn't reported was that Lloyd was struggling with ill health at the time and had just gone through a distressing and near calamitous abortion. She was fired from Tank Girl, the director alleging that Lloyd refused to shave her head for the role - yet Lloyd produces here in the book test photos of her wearing a bald cap just for such a commitment. She walked out of the stage revival of Pygmalion but again, so too did a total of three directors all before first night! I've actually spent a good half hour this afternoon alone just amending some blatant disparaging lies about her regarding these incidents on her wikipedia page!
Other roles Emily so nearly bagged included roles in Hope and Glory (lost out to Sammi Davis) and Mona Lisa (lost out to Kate Hardie) Mandy Rice Davies in Scandal (passed up for In Country) the Julia Roberts lead role in Pretty Woman (passed for the Mermaids commitment - little wonder she got paid such damages!) Lucy Westenra in Coppola's Dracula (lost out to Sadie Frost) and Uma Thurman's character in Pulp Fiction.
She also reveals how in the early 00s she had to leave work on an episode of Casualty due to ill health.
She also discusses her difficult private/love life and it is easy to empathise with someone who was delivered to the entertainment world as a cheeky sex symbol at the age of just sixteen who hadn't even fully explored or understood what her sexuality meant to her at that time. She speaks with honesty about her relationships with the likes of one of Curiosity Killed The Cat, Tim Roth, Val Kilmer, Kevin Anderson, Sean Penn, Gavin Rossdale and Danny Huston. As well as some revealing and amusingly candid anecdotes about other showbiz predators; such as the famous unnamed star from a Hollywood acting dynasty who casually exposed himself to her, Michael Madsen's desire to sleep with her and an unnamed older co-star from Welcome To Sarajevo who bedded her and then casually informed her he was married, but that it was 'ok' because his wife knew he 'slept around'!
With searing honesty Lloyd explains the exact nature of her mental health concerns and how they have affected her life both privately and professionally. Never the most stable of upbringings (her mother divorced her father, the Only Fools and Horses actor Roger Lloyd Pack before Emily turned one) she would move from school to school finding herself a very difficult fit. She reveals publically for the first time in the book that, at the age of five, she was routinely sexually abused by a friend of her mother's who would often babysit. This attack led to her developing OCD from a very early age and, much like her own character in Wish You Were Here, she was made to see a psychiatrist in her childhood. However she was so deeply traumatised by the abuse and so fearful of 'their little secret' getting out that she never revealed the extent of her hurt to her family until she was in her twenties. However by this stage in her life her mental health had grown worse, she'd already tried to kill herself during the filming of Chicago Joe and the Showgirl and developed a habit of self harming which led to stays in The Priory and other institutions in the US. She has subsequently been diagnosed with long term clinical depression, ADHD, Tourettes, chronic insomnia, and mild schizophrenia, with symptoms that have seen her hear voices, lose her train of thought, physically seize up into a gurning locked state, and uttering random words in the middle of sentences. Some of these concerns can be traced back to her abuse, whilst others can be seen as a result of what is now known to be the quite impractical drugs that formed medical treatments for depression back in the 1990s and the dangerous misprescribing of Lariam tablets for a trip to India in 1997 - a prescription that should not be given to someone with mental health issues.
The book closes with Emily in a better place in terms of mind body and spirit and it's a huge relief to hear this. She knows she is not 'cured' but, after focusing totally on her health for the last decade (and being a regular in patient at her local hospital) she feels she is better and ready to try and engage with her career once more. A quick look on her IMDB page (another page where I've had to address some of the lies and delusions regarding her) shows us that she's currently filming a role for a project with Danny Peacock. I hope to see it and I hope she finds the right balance between peace of mind and artistic satisfaction.
Wish You Were There is a boom I heartily recommend to anyone who is a fan of Lloyd and wants to know more about her and yes, even what became of her, and those with an interest in the film business and/or an interest in mental health matters.