Brooke Shields' early experiences in Hollywood are the subject of a new documentary, Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields. The model recalled being sexually assaulted by an unnamed Hollywood insider in her 20s. Pretty Baby, which takes its name from the controversial 1978 movie in which an 11-year-old Shields plays a prostitute, also explores how Shields was sexually exploited as an underage girl.
After Shields, 57, graduated from Princeton University, she struggled to find new acting opportunities. She wondered if her career peak was already behind her, so she jumped at the chance to discuss a new project when an acquaintance asked her to dinner. "I thought it was a work meeting," Shields explained in the documentary, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival Friday, reports USA Today. "I had met this person before and he was always nice to me."
After the meal, Shields realized that this was not going as she hoped. The unnamed insider's behavior "was changing," she said, and there was no more discussion about a movie. Shields wanted to take her own cab home, but the man insisted on calling one himself to take her back to their hotel. "I go up to his hotel room and he disappears for a while," she recalled. When he came back, the man was naked and jumped on top of her.
"It was like wrestling," Shields said, tearing up. "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.'" While the assault was happening, Shields tried to "shut it out... And God knows I knew how to be dissociated from my body. I practiced that (as a model)."
Shields did not name her attacker. She said she "cried all the way" to her friend's apartment. She told the security chief, Gavin de Becker, about the incident. He told the filmmakers he was "angry" when he heard Shields' story. "That's my little sister and I wanted her to know she didn't do anything wrong," de Becker said.
In a Sundance interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Shields noted that "many years" of therapy helped her to talk about and process the assault. "I had no idea I was going to say it. 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," Shields said. "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."
Pretty Baby looks at Shields' career from the beginning, when she was a child model sexualized at an early age. She discussed how she lost a lawsuit against Garry Gross, who photographed Shields nude when she was 10 years old and sold the images years later. She discusses the backlash from the 1978 Pretty Baby film, as well as shooting a sex scene in Endless Love (1981) when she was 16. Her difficult relationship with her mother and manager, Teri Shields, is also covered in the Lana Wilson-directed documentary. Pretty Baby will be released in two parts on Hulu.