Emily Lloyd: the unluckiest actress in Hollywood history?

Ben Arnold
UK Movies Writer

For a time in the 1990s, Emily Lloyd was set to be the biggest actress the British film industry had seen in years.

At 16, the daughter of Only Fools and Horses star Roger Lloyd-Pack had the world at her feet, and had been Bafta-nominated for her dazzling performance as troubled, promiscious teenager Lynda in Wish You Were Here (she was pipped to the gong by Hollywood royalty Anne Bancroft).

She was from a line of actorly types – as well as her father being in the business, her grandfather was the stage and film actor Charles Lloyd-Pack, and her mother Sheila Hughes was a theatrical agent who worked for Harold
Pinter.

With acting in her blood, and that performance in Wish You Were Here celebrated in the film world, the offers of work from across the pond flooded in.

Steven Spielberg, a big fan of the movie, summoned her to his offices at Amblin Entertainment, and counselled her not to get eaten up by the movie business. “Be a kid and go to Disneyland,” he told her.

Still, she reached for the stars, beating a reported 5000 actresses – including Jodie Foster – to take the lead in Cookie, scripted by Nora Ephron in 1989 and was living alone in Manhattan at 17.

But while she converted some of the big offers into work, her personal battles with anxiety, depression and a range of mental health problems – which she has said may have stemmed from sexual abuse she suffered as a child at hands of a family friend – would ultimately see her stepping away from the movie business and into a personal turmoil.

She was offered the iconic lead role in Pretty Woman – which, of course, went to Julia Roberts – but turned it down to accept an offer to be in Mermaids with Cher.

But on meeting her on set, Cher decided that Lloyd would not fit the role of her daughter. Lloyd told the Daily Mail in 2013: “She had an ego as big as her hair. She stared and stared at me through her ridiculous sunglasses for ages and then finally screeched: ‘You don’t look genetically like me.’ I thought this was a bit rich. I looked at her and said: ‘Well you don’t look genetically like you.’ It was unlikely we would bond after that.”

The part was then recast with Winona Ryder in Lloyd’s place, but Lloyd later sued producers Orion Pictures and received $175,000 (£111,000) in damages.

Though other jobs came – Chicago Joe and the Showgirl with Kiefer Sutherland, and Under The Hula Moon with Stephen Baldwin - not one, but two chances to hit the big time had gone south in one fell swoop.

But it would, sadly, not be the only unlucky turn of events in her career.

She fell out with Bruce Willis on the set of In Country in 1989, and she was sacked from Woody Allen’s 1992 movie Husbands and Wives after a crisis in her confidence saw her hiding in her trailer, unable to cope with Allen’s forthright directing style.

“The longer filming went on, the less confident I became that I would last,” she said. “Woody was on my back. He criticised me for spending too long in the trailer. What he didn’t know was that I was making myself sick.”

Indeed, her personal life was in a mess. She had tried to take her own life, and had suffered several breakdowns and incidences of self-harming. She would later be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, mild
schizophrenia and Attention Deficit Disorder.

But she persevered for some years still, taking a role opposite Brad Pitt in Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It, reportedly spurning Pitt’s romantic advances while on set. She also took a role in Michael Winterbottom’s Welcome To Sarajevo, but was fired from Tank Girl.

She almost married Danny Huston, the actor son of John Huston, and was friends with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, but inside she was still in turmoil – plus she discovered that an employee had been stealing tens of
thousands of dollars from her.

Moving back to London with little on the horizon, she was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, but had also started using drugs. After admitting to her problems, she was kept in a psychiatric unit for six months.

Acting roles since – she was offered Casualty but on turning up on set admitted that "it was hopeless" – have been sporadic, with Lloyd instead concentrating on getting well.

“At times I’ve felt like a bystander, watching the light and shade of my life as if it was happening to someone else,” she has said. “I’m ready to reconnect now. I realise I may never again soar so high as I did in the early part of my career. But that’s OK. Maybe this time my wings might not get singed.”

Image credits: Rex Features/WENN