Amanda Bynes was one of the most popular child stars of the late 1990s and early 2000s, appearing in the sketch series All That, and starring in The Amanda Show and What I Like About You. She successfully made the jump to films, with What A Girl Wants, She’s The Man and Hairspray, but in 2010, Bynes began making headlines for her odd behaviour and shocking tweets, including an abrupt announcement that she was retiring from acting. Now the 32-year-old is on the cover of Paper Magazine for their annual Break The Internet issue and is speaking openly about her drug dependency, her regrettable social media tirades, and how she helped launched Channing Tatum’s career. We think the last point should excuse all the bad tweets.
In 2003, Bynes starred opposite a then-unknown Tatum in She’s The Man, revealing that she saw his star potential early. “I totally fought for Channing [to get cast in] that movie because he wasn’t famous yet. He’d just done a Mountain Dew commercial and I was like, ‘This guy’s a star — every girl will love him!’ But [the producers] were like, ‘He’s so much older than all of you!’ And I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter! Trust me!’’
Unfortunately, the good memories of the film end there, with Bynes revealing that seeing herself in drag for the film–where she played a teen girl posing as her brother at an elite private school–sent her into a six-month depression. “… I didn’t like how I looked when I was a boy.” After watching the film, Bynes said she felt “a super strange and out-of-body experience. It just really put me into a funk.”
Her insecurities over her appearance remained and while Amanda continued to work, including in 2007’s Hairspray, which she credits as her favourite experience on a set, she began experimenting more with drugs. “I started smoking marijuana when I was 16. Even though everyone thought I was the ‘good girl,’ I did smoke marijuana from that point on,” Bynes said. “I didn’t get addicted [then] and I wasn’t abusing it. And I wasn’t going out and partying or making a fool of myself… yet.”
Bynes says the she soon began trying other drugs, including Adderall, which she started abusing after reading an article that claimed it helped women stay skinny. “Later on it progressed to doing molly and ecstasy. [I tried] cocaine three times but I never got high from cocaine. I never liked it. It was never my drug of choice. I definitely abused Adderall.”
By the time Bynes was set to star in 2010’s Hall Pass, she had progressed to chewing tablets of Adderall, believing it got her high faster. “I remember chewing on a bunch of them and literally being scatterbrained and not being able to focus on my lines or memorize them for that matter.”
Seeing herself in the monitors on set made Bynes think she looked overweight, causing her to quit the film, a memory she finds painful to recount. “I made a bunch of mistakes but I wasn’t fired. I did leave… it was definitely completely unprofessional of me to walk off and leave them stranded when they’d spent so much money on a set and crew and camera equipment and everything.”
Bynes went on to appear in the Emma Stone teen comedy Easy A, with her addiction intensifying. “I literally couldn’t stand my appearance in that movie and I didn’t like my performance. I was absolutely convinced I needed to stop acting after seeing it. I was high on marijuana when I saw that but for some reason it really started to affect me. I don’t know if it was a drug-induced psychosis or what, but it affected my brain in a different way than it affects other people. It absolutely changed my perception of things.”
Easy A became the catalyst for Bynes to leave acting altogether, announcing her retirement in an infamous Twitter thread. “I saw it and I was convinced that I should never be on camera again and I officially retired on Twitter, which was, you know, also stupid.”
Following her retirement, Bynes, who had been acting steadily since childhood, found herself without purpose. During this time, Bynes used Twitter as her main source of communication to the outside world. Her battle with addiction is forever immortalized in 140 characters or less, with many of her tweets taking aim at her family and other celebrities.
“I’m really ashamed and embarrassed with the things I said. I can’t turn back time but if I could, I would,” said Bynes. “And I’m so sorry to whoever I hurt and whoever I lied about because it truly eats away at me. It makes me feel so horrible and sick to my stomach and sad. Everything I worked my whole life to achieve, I kind of ruined it all through Twitter.”
Because of her celebrity status, Bynes’ bizarre series of tweets quickly became fodder for tabloid magazines. “It definitely isn’t fun when people diagnose you with what they think you are,” said Bynes. “That was always really bothersome to me. If you deny anything and tell them what it actually is, they don’t believe you. Truly, for me, [my behavior] was drug-induced, and whenever I got off of [drugs], I was always back to normal.”
Crediting her parents with helping get her life back on track, Bynes has now been sober for four years. She’s graduating in December with her Associate of Arts degree in Merchandise Product Development from the famous Fashion Institute of Design, the same school Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port attended on The Hills (Bynes credits the MTV reality show with inspiring her to get into fashion). Bynes plans on starting classes for her Bachelor’s degree in January, but eventually wants to return to acting before launching her own fashion line.
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As for where she stands in her sobriety now, Bynes says that she knows she can’t ever go back to drugs. “Those days of experimenting [with substances] are long over. I’m not sad about it and I don’t miss it because I really feel ashamed of how those substances made me act. When I was off of them, I was completely back to normal and immediately realized what I had done — it was like an alien had literally invaded my body. That is such a strange feeling.”