Brooke Shields’ role as a child prostitute has been criticised. But the actress has said: “I wasn't personally scathed by it”
Teenage Brooke Shields reveals what she really thought about her role in the notorious 1990 movie Pretty Baby.
I had never done a movie like that before, where my character went so far out of her norm that she said her dad was dead and then on the way to the whorehouse, she says “my dad ate my father”. And she says “the fucking police are here”, and then he says “the fucking cops ate me”. So, my dad has never eaten me. He is a fucking dork.
I think I had a sibling prostitute I played with one day. That’s exactly what it was.
When I was a kid I had to see those movies for about four years in a row. I liked them but I really didn’t want to watch them. I would grow up not liking some of them and then go to see them and I thought “wow, I like this one”. But as I grew older, and we got older, it got meaner and meaner and meaner.
Even in my young years I would be either nervous or afraid of going to an R-rated movie. Because they were scary as shit.
I didn’t have the courage to do it until I was in my late 20s and early 30s. The movie was really hard to get made. Before we did it, I didn’t want to do it. Because it was so repulsive, I didn’t want to do it.
It was hard. It wasn’t easy. But the idea of doing the movie scared me. I went through this journey of what I thought “being a prostitute” was. And I was looking at the perfect girl, the perfect woman, and I realised I don’t have anything in common with that. I was like, I don’t know if I want to be that – or if I know any woman who was a prostitute – and in a way, the character was built from a social study.
Movies were how I learned about myself, how I learned what I wanted to be. Growing up, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I was always in a rut and this was a way for me to break free of that rut and get rid of my fears.
When I was young, I wanted to be a talk show host, a model, a talk show host. But when I started to grow up, I realised that maybe people had a right to know what I looked like and be exposed to it. But it was scary as hell to me. I started working with the GAP as a model, then they saw me on NBC and offered me a lead part.
At first, that terrified me. I thought, “Oh, my God!” Then I realised that I really did want to be an actress. At the time, I didn’t know if people who were interested in acting were really interested in me. Maybe I was seeing all the traps and the pitfalls they were going through – how they worked and how it didn’t work out for them. But that didn’t bother me. This is how I started.
I did everything I wanted to do. I got an agent and I was going into drama school to get a master’s in acting, and I finally got to try some of it. And the first acting class I did was with Jeffrey Tambor and it was extraordinary. And that was before Arrested Development, which is a show Jeffrey’s going on to do a movie with, and I’m an executive producer.
On Looking for a Meaning
It turned out that the book I was talking about where I was thinking: “Will these kids ever get a fair shake?” is actually called Brotherhood. So it turned out that the writers of that book are all mothers. I’ve seen that my mom raised me on her love, and that I’ve seen that my mother raised her kids on her love. I really didn’t think you could love anyone so much that you didn’t have to lie to them, so I thought it was a great story to tell.
On her films
Pretty Baby is the first movie in a long time that made me think of them. Even when I was filming High Spirits, which came out a couple of years ago, I thought about it. Before I don’t think about them.