A style all her own

The 'O.C.' star sees style as 'not being afraid to try new things.'
SAN FRANCISCO -- On March 12, one day after snow fell on San Francisco, Mischa Barton brought a little of "The O.C." sunshine to town. Wearing a peach dress, beige shrug and brown, lace-less Keds, Barton, 20, is every bit the breezy, boho beauty she plays on television.
If Gen X looked to Sarah Jessica Parker for style, Gen Y is all about Mischa Barton, who favors earth tones, flats and gloss to the often overdone Hollywood glam.
Not surprisingly, girls as young as 9 had camped out at Macy's since early morning to get a glimpse of the actress. "She's just so natural. I love her," gushed Sarah Abney, 14, of San Francisco. Like other fans, Abney clutched a pair of Keds, Barton's favorite shoes off the red carpet, hoping for a signature.
Acting career
Born in London and reared in New York, Barton made her film debut at age 12 in "Lawn Dogs," a Sundance favorite, opposite Sam Rockwell. Steady theater work and small parts in "The Sixth Sense," "Notting Hill," and ABC's "Once and Again" followed, and, in 2003, Barton traded in a shot at the Yale School of Drama to do a pilot about upper-class families living in coastal Orange County.
Three successful seasons later, California is forever changed.
With Ben, Seth and company in high school seemingly forever, there are rumors of "The O.C." winding down. Barton, for one, is poised for life after Marissa Cooper. She has four films in the works, including this year's dark comedy "The OH in Ohio," opposite Parker Posey, and David Leland's "Decameron: Angels & amp; Virgins," in which Barton co-stars with Hayden Christensen as Italians suffering through the bubonic plague. In May, she begins filming "Closing the Ring" with Shirley MacLaine.
We stopped by Macy's to pick Barton's brain about her upcoming roles, fashion and life in the "The O.C."
Q. Your next film is about a woman, played by Parker Posey. What was it like working with the indie goddess?
A. She was one of the main reasons I did it. I love her work and she's a really nice person. She's quirky and funny and easygoing. She makes everyone feel comfortable.
Q. Your other film, "Decameron: Angels & amp; Virgins" is quite different. What was it like working with David Leland?
A. It was a good experience. It was a lot of work, being a modernized period piece. It was a big thing for David to undertake but we're all really excited about it. It's just a classic, that novel. It was a big undertaking.
Q. Thus far, do you have a preference between dramas and comedies?
A. No, not really. I'm pretty open. The movie I'm doing this summer, "Closing the Ring," is sort of a love story set during the war. I love movies like that. But then I'm also looking at comedies to counteract that because it's nice to do something light every once in a while.
Q. Being from London and New York, how did you prepare for life in "The O.C."?
A. It's a completely different lifestyle. And it's not even because their idea of cool is different from a cosmopolitan cool elsewhere. We went down to Newport Beach and met with people there and they're uber trendy in a completely different way. It kind of blew me away because their culture is so specific to their beach lifestyle.
Q.. Is the show filmed in Newport Beach?
A. No, it's filmed in all the beach towns around Los Angeles, like Malibu and Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. So we fake it. We actually couldn't film in Orange County if we wanted to because it's too far to have an LA-based crew. But that's why McG (executive producer Joseph McGinty Nichol) took us down there. He grew up there so he told us what it was like and we did all the background work.
Q. What's your relationship to your character, Marissa Cooper? Any major similarities or differences?
A. At this point, we're so different just because she goes through so much surreal stuff. You start with some similarities but after everything she's been through, thanks to the world of television, she's grown and changed into a completely different entity. I love her as a character because I think she's truly entertaining.
Q. You and Sienna Miller are often referred to as young style icons. How do you define style?
A. It's all about individuality and having your own mark on things and not being afraid to try new things. Style is also about confidence in your clothing and the way you carry yourself and not feeling self-conscious about it.
Q. Do you have any style inspirations?
A. I've never had style icons, really. I love Cate Blanchett as an actress and as a style icon. But I really like young actresses. Zooey Deschanel has great style for a young girl and is very confident about it. Chloe Sevigny, too. Just because they're so different. Not everyone would wear what they wear, and I think that's what's cool about them.
Q. We've heard you collect Chanel bags. How many do you have?
A. Oh, I don't know. I probably have 15 or 20. It's not ridiculous. I probably get a bag every season from them and then I buy the ones that I really want.
Q. You embrace Keds, which is just about as far as you can get from Chanel. What is it about the canvas shoes?
A. I love them because everyone can identify with them and so many cool people have worn them over the years. I love when you take a brand and it comes back. It has that established side to it but you can also put a new spin on it. Keds is really good at doing that. They're so open and they have so many different styles. They identify cool.

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