In her heartbreaking new documentary, “Pretty Baby,” Brooke Shields opens up for the first time about being raped in her 20s.
In the film, which premiered Friday at Sundance Film Festival, the former child model reveals her struggle to find acting work after graduating from Princeton University in 1987. Feeling vulnerable, and questioning whether her career had already peaked, she jumped at the opportunity to discuss a new movie role when an acquaintance asked her to dinner.
“I thought it was a work meeting,” Shields explains in the documentary. “I had met this person before and he was always nice to me.” But soon into their meal, she realized “his behavior was changing and there was no talk about the movie.”
Ranked: All the best movies we saw at Sundance Film Festival (including ‘Judy Blume Forever’)
Shields offered to get her own cab home, but the man insisted that he call one for her back at his hotel. “I go up to his hotel room and he disappears for a while,” Shields says. As she waited, he re-emerged naked and threw himself on her.
“It was like wrestling,” Shields says through tears. “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.’ “
As it was happening, “I just shut it out,” she says. “And God knows I knew how to be dissociated from my body. I practiced that (as a model).”
Shields, now 57, doesn’t name her alleged attacker. Afterward, she called a cab and “cried all the way” to her friend’s apartment, where she told her security chief, Gavin de Becker, about the incident.
“I was angry to hear her story,” de Becker says in the film. “That’s my little sister and I wanted her to know she didn’t do anything wrong.”
Brooke Shields on filming nude scenes in ‘Blue Lagoon’: ‘It wouldn’t be allowed’ today
Shields’ traumatic experience is one of many harrowing moments recounted in “Pretty Baby,” which is directed by filmmaker Lana Wilson (Taylor Swift’s 2020 Netflix doc “Miss Americana”). The two-part documentary, which is set to stream on Hulu later this year, explores Shields’ fast rise as a child model and the troubling way she was sexualized from a young age.
The film examines the uproar around her provocative Calvin Klein jeans campaign when she was just 15, as well as the backlash to her playing a child prostitute in 1978’s “Pretty Baby” when she was only 11. The documentary also touches on her complex relationship with her mom, Teri Shields, who managed her career.
“Brooke is like a work of art,” Teri says of her then-young daughter in a TV interview. “And like any beautiful painting, the world should view Brooke and enjoy her.”
‘Romeo and Juliet’: Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting sue Paramount for underage nude scene in 1968 film
The documentary revisits the many ways Shields was exploited as an underage girl. She lost a lawsuit against photographer Garry Gross, who photographed Shields nude when she was only 10 and sold the images years later. She also remembers shooting a sex scene for 1981’s “Endless Love” when she was only 16, alleging that director Franco Zeffirelli hurt her in order to get his desired reaction.
“He grabbed my toe and kept twisting it, so I had a look of, I guess, ecstasy,” an emotional Shields recalls. “But it was more angst than anything, because it was hurting me. … I didn’t want to appear stupid or untalented, so I just dissociated.”
Sundance Film Festival continues in Park City, Utah, through Jan. 29.
More Sundance: ‘Judy Blume Forever’ documentary explores sexuality, banned books and controversy