Mischa Anne Barton was born in Hammersmith, London, to an Irish mother, Nuala (née Quinn), a photographer, and an English father, Paul Marsden Barton, a foreign exchange broker from Manchester. Barton's grandfather on her mother's side was an Irish language professor at Queen's University Belfast. She has two sisters, younger Hania Barton and elder Zoe, a barrister in London. Barton has stated that she briefly attended St. Paul's Girls' School in Hammersmith, but her father's work took the family to New York City when Barton was five years old. In 2006, she became a naturalised citizen of the United States, but has also retained her British citizenship.
Barton graduated from the Professional Children's School in Manhattan in 2004, and took a summer short course called Acting Shakespeare at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, in June and July 2006, at Sir Richard Attenborough's urging, after he directed her in Closing the Ring.
Barton began acting at the age of eight, co-starring in the Off-Broadway premiere of the 1994 play, Slavs!, written by Tony Kushner. Vincent Canby of The New York Times praised Barton's "so fine" and "chillingly authoritative" performance. New York magazine also praised her as "a darling little girl, [that] exhibits consummate charm". She appeared in several other Off-Broadway productions, taking a lead role in James Lapine's Twelve Dreams alongside Marisa Tomei at Lincoln Center. Canby again praised Barton, noting that she "has a sweet gravity as the doomed Emma". In 1996 Barton had a supporting role in Catherine Butterfield's Where the Truth Lies which opened at New York's Irish Repertory Theatre. The New York Times also remarked that "the winning child actresses Brittany Boyd and Mischa Barton are already smart enough not to overplay the naivete and precocity of their respective characters." In 1997, she appeared alongside Diane Wiest at The Public Theater in Naomi Wallace's One Flea Spare. The New York production went on to win the OBIE Award for Best Play.
She made her film debut in Lawn Dogs, which won awards at film festivals around the world. Barton won critical favour for her role, with Janet Maslin of The New York Times praising her "poised" performance and Empire celebrating her "hypnotic central performance". Barton then appeared in Notting Hill (1999) and The Sixth Sense (1999). Both films were critically and commercially successful, respectively earning $363,889,700 and $672,806,292. She also starred in Pups, a "Bonnie and Clyde for the MTV generation", alongside Burt Reynolds; along with her co-star Cameron Van Hoy, film critic Roger Ebert called their work in the film "two of the most natural and freed performances I have seen by actors of any age."
Barton first appeared on television in 1994, playing a young Corvina Lang in flashbacks in the soap opera All My Children. In 1996, she returned to the show, replacing Michelle Trachtenberg in the role of Lily Benton Montgomery. She guest-starred in eight episodes of the television series Once and Again as Jessie Sammler's (Evan Rachel Wood) girlfriend, Katie Singer. In 2001, she returned to film and starred in the independent Canadian drama, Lost and Delirious, based on the novel The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan. The film was met with mixed reviews, but the performances of Barton and her co-stars Piper Perabo and Jessica Paré were widely praised. She also starred in Julie Johnson (2001) alongside Lili Taylor and Courtney Love, playing the daughter of a woman in a lesbian relationship. Barton also had a supporting role in the independent teen drama Tart (2001) with Brad Renfro and Dominique Swain.
Other television appearances include an episode of the Fox series Fastlane (2003). She also appears as the love interest in James Blunt's music video "Goodbye My Lover" (2005) and in Enrique Iglesias' music video "Addicted" (2003).
In August 2003, Fox premiered the television series The O.C., about affluent teenagers with stormy personal lives who reside in scenic Orange County, California. The show became an overnight success due to its large fanbase, and resulted in Barton's fame being increased through her role as Marissa Cooper. Barton departed from the show in the third-season finale in May 2006. During her time on the show, Barton garnered several Teen Choice Awards. She was also celebrated by Glamour as the "Next Big Thing". The O.C. dropped in ratings dramatically during its third and fourth seasons, and ended in early 2007.
In July 2006, Barton appeared on the British comedy variety show The Friday Night Project as a guest host. In 2007, Barton appeared in the films The Oh in Ohioand the comedy film Virgin Territory with Hayden Christensen. She also joined Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer in Richard Attenborough's war drama Closing the Ring. Attenborough praised her, saying "her ability to convey pain and sadness, hopefulness and fear, is riveting". The Independent also noted that "she lends her character a beguiling vulnerability."
She also appeared in the British comedy St Trinians (2007), appearing as a former head girl of that school advising current senior pupils on fashion and style. Later in 2007, Barton was cast in the international film produced by the Russian band t.A.T.u., called You and I. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2008 and was released theatrically in Russia in 2011. She appeared in Assassination of a High School President (2008), co-starring Bruce Willis, which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. The Hollywood Reporter praised Barton's "captivating" performance.
She also starred in the horror film Walled In, which was released straight-to-DVD in March 2009. It received mixed reviews, but her performance was praised, with IGNcalling her performance "terrific". Her next horror project, Homecoming, received a limited release in July 2009. Barton did not attend the premiere of the psychological thriller due to a medical issue. She also starred in the 2009 film Don't Fade Away. In early 2009 she began filming alongside Martin Sheen in Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain a biopic of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
In a December 2007 interview, she indicated that she would return to television for the right project; "It's not that I dislike doing television at all. It would be interesting having more creative control over where the storylines go or the characters. But for the right thing, of course." In 2009 she starred as one of the main characters on The Beautiful Life a new series on The CW. The series was subsequently cancelled on 25 September 2009 after televising 2 episodes. In December 2009, the technology company HP became the show's sponsor. airing the show's five episodes on YouTube.
She guest starred on a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, played an endangered prostitute in an episode that aired on 3 March 2010. She has since mainly filmed horror and thriller projects, taking roles in The Sibling, Cyberstalker, a Lifetime television film and Apartment 1303 3D, the English-language remake of the Japanese horror film, Apartment 1303. Barton also appeared alongside Ryan Eggold in Mark Edwin Robinson's supernatural romance thriller, Into the Dark.
In May 2012, Barton discussed her recent preference for the horror genre, following roles in Homecoming, Apartment 1303 and Sibling "I literally became obsessed with that genre. I can't tell you. Because I never watched it when I was younger; it used to be way too terrifying for me." However Barton added that, "I think I've gone through my little phase, for the moment." In June, Barton appeared in the new music video of Noel Gallagher's Everybody's on the Run.
In July 2012, it was revealed that Barton would make her stage return in an Irish production of Steel Magnolias. Barton will play Shelby in the production, which will premiere at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin in September and will be followed by a nationwide tour. After the premiere on 12 September, Barton received praise for her performance. The Evening Herald wrote "Barton sparkles from the moment she steps on stage...Barton's Shelby is instantly magnetic".
On 8 March 2016, Barton was announced as one of the celebrities who will compete on the 22nd season of Dancing with the Stars. She was paired with professional dancer Artem Chigvintsev. On 4 April 2016, Barton and Chigvintsev were eliminated from the competition and finished in 11th place.
Later in 2016 Barton was praised for role in the independent drama, Starcrossed. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Katie Walsh described how "Barton is a standout as the alluring, broken young woman who hides as much as she reveals."
Most recently she has been critically recognized for her performance in Deserted, a psychological survival story written and directed by Ashley Avis. Barton plays Jae, a young woman recently released from prison who goes on a soul-searching journey into the desert with her brother Robin, played by Jackson Davis. "Barton is well-cast, grounded and burdened," and "...delivers one of her best performances in years."
In 2018, Barton was cast in The Cat and the Moon, the directorial debut of Alex Wolff.
Barton has been in many television commercials and print advertising campaigns. Barton has modelled for companies Calvin Klein, bebe stores, Aéropostale, Monsoon Accessorize, Dooney & Bourke, JC (Jeans and Clothes), European clothing line Morgan de Toi, Jaspal, and Neutrogena skincare products. She became the spokesperson for Keds Sneakers, substantially increasing their sales. In Australia, she appears in commercials for teen magazine Famous and was the guest of honour at retail giant David Jones Tahitian Summer Collection launch. She has also endorsed Chanel jewelry, appearing at events for the brand. In a 2005 interview, she stated that she liked the Chanel brand because they produced a large number of clip-on earrings suitable for women who did not have pierced ears, as she did not at the time. In 2009, having had her ears pierced for her role in The Beautiful Life, she modeled jewelry for the company Inspired Creations, including pierced earrings and their Waxing Poetic range of charms.
In 2008, she won the InStyle "icon of the year" award from Karl Lagerfeld at the Viper awards in Berlin.
Barton also became a spokesperson for the SAFE (Skin Awareness for Everyone) campaign in 2007. In addition, she lent her name to the TRAID campaign (Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development) in association with Visa Swap. Barton was photographed in April 2007 for the Fall 2007/2008 advertising campaign for Italian clothing brand Iceberg, modelling with Nicolas Bemberg.
In July 2008, she created a 14-piece handbag collection for online retailer, ASOS.com. Barton was reportedly very involved in the line which retails from £20 to £145. She told ASOS magazine that she first discovered the website through her sister.
In December 2008, Barton premiered her line of headbands released on the Stacy Lapidus line. The headbands cost from $90 to $200. She also has a handbag line for London-based Ri2k, which is sold in the United Kingdom and Australia only. In early 2009, she became the "new face" of Herbal Essences.
In June 2010 she was announced as the face of Philipp Plein couture. Plein revealed, "Being in the limelight for a young and beautiful girl, the looks of course always get a lot of attention, Mischa Barton got a lot and learned to live with her fame. For me it was the big challenge to again show her as a Diva, a Rock 'n' Roll Goddess". The campaign will be circulated in international editions of leading fashion magazines.
In October 2011 she appeared in a photoshoot for Tyler Shields that was showcased at the Imitate Modern Gallery in London. Artinfo remarked at the "sense of subjugation" in the raw-meat inspired shoot, "Barton is naked, lipsticked, and icily coiffed like a Duran Duran-era object of desire."
In December 2011 it was reported that Barton plans to open a clothes and shoes store in Shoreditch, the store has the working title of 'Mischa's Closet'. In March 2012 she debuted a new line of clothing, accessories, cosmetics, and bath products on the internet called Mischa's Place. Barton has plans to expand Mischa's Place beyond the internet and is set to open a Mischa's Place flagship store in London at Spitalfields Market.
Barton purchased a house in Los Angeles at age nineteen, which she shares with her parents ; she splits her time between there and apartments in London and New York.
The O.C. Information
Most of her roles before The OC were R-rated, and usually involved sex, drugs, alcohol, horror, and homosexuality. She admits that she likes the "edgier" roles when acting. This corresponds to the recurring edgieness of her character.
- As of 2005, she became the fourth star of The O.C. to get Punk'd. (Her co-star Adam Brody was Punk'd in 2004, Rachel Bilson was tricked by Ashton Kutcher in early 2005, and Benjamin McKenzie was punk'd in 2005.)
- Her height is five feet nine inches (175 cm).
- Barton's elder sister, Zoe, is a barrister in London.
- She is friends with Nicole Richie and has appeared with her on the cover of the Australian Who magazine.
- She didn't get her ears pierced until 2009, when she had them pierced especially for her role as supermodel Sonja Stone in the short-lived TV show, TBL: The Beautiful Life. After filming was completed, she let the piercings close up again, and then had her ears re-pierced in July 2015.
- Barton became a naturalized U.S. citizen in Los Angeles on February 3, 2006.
- In 2003, she had her belly button pierced especially for her role in Octane, but then removed the piercing and let it heal up once filming was completed.
- A big fan of magic, she's friends with a number of magicians, and sometimes makes guest appearances in their shows as the girl who gets sawed in half.