Brooke Shields and the team that produced a new eye-opening documentary about her life received a standing ovation after the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2023. Shields, who starred in Hallmark Channel‘s “Flower Shop Mysteries” movie series and appeared on “When Calls The Heart,” has worked as a model and actress since she was a young girl, quickly becoming a household name in the 80s.
The documentary is called “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields,” named after her first film — 1978’s “Pretty Baby” — which was widely criticized for featuring child prostitution featuring Shields as a nude, preteen sex worker. In the documentary, Shields opens up to director Lana Wilson about the pressures of growing up objectified under Hollywood’s microscope, gets candid about past relationships and public spats, and, for the first time, reveals details of a sexual assault she endured in her early 20s.
Documentary on Brooke Shields Reveals Secret Assault By Hollywood Filmmaker
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Shields, 57, said that when she agreed to participate in the documentary, she didn’t know what the focus would be and chose to simply answer Wilson’s questions honestly and provide archival footage as needed, trusting that she would tell her story with care.
“I’m not interested in famous-person problems. What I am interested in is how fame can amplify and supercharge relatable problems,” Wilson told the outlet. “(Brooke’s) life has been extreme and utterly unique, but her experience of being a woman in America is horrifyingly relatable.”
As Wilson dug into Shields’ experiences being sexualized in the media as a young girl — from being expected to film nude scenes to being called by one magazine a “Child Who Drives Men Crazy” at age nine — she also brought in academics and sociologists to give context and insights about Hollywood’s age-old tradition of objectifying young women.
“At the beginning of the process, I stepped very far away, ego-wise and emotionally,” Shields told The Hollywood Reporter. “This was not going to be a retrospective of all the (career) highlights. This is actually something bigger.”
At one point in the documentary, according to USA Today, Shields tearfully reveals for the first time that she was raped by an unnamed filmmaker in her early 20s. A man she thought was interested in helping her get back into acting following her 1987 graduation from Princeton University lured her back to his apartment, where she said she thought they’d continue discussing her career.
“It was like wrestling,” Shields says, detailing the assault in the documentary. “I was afraid I would get choked out or something, I didn’t know. I played the scene out in my head, so I didn’t fight that much… I just absolutely froze. I just thought, ‘Stay alive and get out.’”
Shields told The Hollywood Reporter she decided to tell her secret, and finally felt able to after decades of therapy, as Wilson was asking questions about her complex past.
“I had no idea I was going to say it,” she recalled. “I thought, I have arrived at this place, and I feel as a mother of two young girls that I hope that just by even hearing my incident that I can add myself to becoming an advocate. Because this is something that does happen every day, and it should not be happening. I felt that I had arrived at a place where I could talk about it. It’s taken me a long time.”
Brooke Shields Opens Up About Men She’s Made Headlines With Over the Years
In the new documentary, Variety reported that Shields also doesn’t shy away from talking about famous men in her life, including her failed marriage to tennis star Andre Agassi, whom she says was as “controlling” as her alcoholic mom and manager Teri Shields, and was incredibly jealous amid the popularity of her sitcom “Suddenly Susan.”
Shields also addresses her complicated friendship with pop icon Michael Jackson, saying that they were both “very childlike,” and opens up about the very public dispute she had with Tom Cruise in 2005 while promoting her book, “Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.”
While doing interviews for his own project at the time, the action film “War of the Worlds,” Cruise — one of the most famous members of the Church of Scientology, which Variety reported is “therapy and prescription drug averse” — publicly attacked Shields, calling her “dangerous” for promoting the use of antidepressants.
In the documentary, Shields — who shares two teen daughters with her husband Chris Henchy — calls the incident “ridiculous.” According to Variety, the premiere audience at Sundance exploded with applause when the film showed a New York Times op-ed entitled “What Tom Cruise Doesn’t Know About Estrogen” and again when Shields’ friend, actor Judd Nelson, recalled her saying at the time, “Tom Cruise should stick to fighting aliens.” According to CBS News, Cruise later apologized in person to Shields for his actions.
At a Q&A session after the documentary’s premiere, Shields said it was important to her to be as honest as possible about everything she was asked during the making of the film, according to Variety.
“I’ve always made it an important part of my journey to be as honest as I could. Not just to the outside, but to myself,” Shields said. “I didn’t want to become shut down. The industry I’m in primes you to be shut down. I didn’t want to lose to that.”
The two-part documentary “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields” has several more showings at Sundance this week, and will air on Hulu sometime in 2023.