After keeping her secret for decades, why Pretty Baby star Brooke Shields, 57, is now telling the most disturbing ‘Me Too’ Hollywood story of all
- Brooke Shields played child prostitute in 1978 film Pretty Baby when she was 11
- She had to appear naked on screen and kiss 29-year-old Keith Carradine
- This started a pattern of exploitation that led to her being raped in her early 20s
There’s a movie scene in which the moral bankruptcy of 1970s Hollywood reaches its zenith. A heavily dolled-up 12-year-old girl is carried around a high-class brothel as drooling clients bid against each other to take her virginity.
The child prostitute was played by actress Brooke Shields, who was just 11 during the filming of Pretty Baby and had to appear naked on screen as well as kiss a 29-year-old Keith Carradine.
The studio that produced the film had reportedly preferred Jodie Foster, 14, for the role — but French director Louis Malle demanded it go to Shields.
Shields herself would later defend the 1978 film — about the red-light district of New Orleans — but it provoked uproar and was condemned as little more than child pornography.
In the UK, it received an X-rating and its release was delayed until cuts were made. In Canada, it was approved for viewing only in 1995.
Brooke Shields played the role of a child prostitute when she was just 11 during the filming of Pretty Baby – and had to appear naked on screen as well as kiss a 29-year-old Keith Carradine
Shields herself would later defend the 1978 film — about the red-light district of New Orleans — but it provoked uproar and was condemned as little more than child pornography
But for young Brooke, this was the start of a pattern of exploitation which, as she now claims in an explosive new documentary, culminated in her being raped in her early 20s at the hands of an industry insider.
At 14, when other girls were still decorating their pencil cases, she had become the youngest model ever to make the cover of Vogue.
That same year, she began filming the leering teen romance Blue Lagoon — in which her character frequently stripped off and had sex with her fellow shipwrecked sweetheart (played by Christopher Atkins, then 18).
A body-double stood in for her sex scenes but, Shields says, the film-makers encouraged her to pursue a real romance with Atkins off screen.
There was more sex and nudity for her the following year in Franco Zeffirelli’s romantic drama Endless Love, about two high-school sweethearts who are forbidden to see each other.
And at 15, she appeared — writhing around in figure-hugging denim — in the provocative adverts for Calvin Klein Jeans, which featured the suggestive tagline: ‘You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.’
The films and that ad campaign helped propel her to international stardom.
Known around the world simply as ‘Brooke’, she became the party-girl mascot of New York’s debauched nightclub Studio 54. With those iconic thick eyebrows and long lustrous hair that made her look older than her years, she was the teenager a top agent once described as ‘so beautiful that strong men forget to flick their cigar ash’.
For young Brooke, this was the start of a pattern of exploitation which, as she now claims in an explosive new documentary, culminated in her being raped in her early 20s at the hands of an industry insider
Despite her vampish image, Shields would later admit she didn’t have sex until she was 22 — and would have preferred to have waited even longer.
It was a revelation that saw her cruelly dubbed ‘America’s most famous virgin’. Yet her abstinence had undoubtedly helped her escape the worst excesses of Hollywood’s sexual predators.
For years she credited her fiercely defensive mother Teri, who was also her manager. ‘If anybody looked at me sideways, she was like: “I will cut off your b***s and make you eat them,” ’ Shields said in 2019.
READ MORE: ‘It was a horrible thing to say’: Pamela Anderson regrets 2017 #MeToo comments which saw her declare ‘women know what they’re getting into if they’re going into a hotel room alone’
But now, little more than a year since giving an interview in which she claimed she’d been ‘kind of untouchable… I was not easy prey’ — and had never had a ‘#MeToo moment’ of her own — she is singing a very different tune.
In the documentary — also called Pretty Baby and premiered last month in the U.S. — the actress, 57, reveals she was raped in her early 20s in a hotel room by an unnamed man in the film industry.
She had met him to discuss possible film projects following her graduation from the prestigious Princeton University in 1987.
After dinner, the man — whom she says was a friend — invited her to call a taxi from his hotel room, which he then left. But in a sordid echo of the convicted rapist producer Harvey Weinstein, Shields says her ‘friend’ later returned naked and suddenly attacked her.
‘He was right on me. It was just like wrestling,’ she adds.
Shields says she ‘froze’ and didn’t fight back for fear of being killed: ‘God knows I knew how to be disassociated from my body. I’d practised that.’
She claims she left the hotel after the attack, got in a taxi and ‘cried all the way’ to the apartment of another friend.
For years, Shields says she refused to accept what had happened to her: ‘I drank wine at dinner. I went up to the room. I just was so trusting…’ Of her meteoric rise to fame at such a young age, she says: ‘Sometimes, I’m amazed I survived any of it.’
Actress Laura Linney, a childhood friend, says in the documentary: ‘I remember thinking: “I hope she’s OK.” She was a young girl in an all-adult world.’
And how Hollywood traded on that youth. Shields reveals that when she had to kiss actor Keith Carradine in Pretty Baby she’d never kissed anyone before.
‘This doesn’t count. It’s pretend. It’s all make-believe,’ Carradine reassured her. Shields says she responded by trying to separate the sleazy on-screen version of herself from the real her. ‘I learned to compartmentalise at an early age. It was a survival technique.’
But this was, some say, the start of a deep identity crisis for the actress — including over her sexuality.
After all, the depravity of Pretty Baby and the soft porn of Blue Lagoon were a world away from her home life.
Despite her vampish image, Shields would later admit she didn’t have sex until she was 22 — and would have preferred to have waited even longer
Raised in a strict Catholic household, her father Frank was a businessman with wealthy roots while her mother, Teri Schmon, was an aspiring actress from working-class New Jersey.
When Teri announced she was pregnant, aged 31, after a brief fling with Frank, his family gave her money for an abortion — but she spent it on a coffee table.
The couple married but then divorced when Shields was only five months old.
While Teri never remarried, Frank went on to wed a socialite and had three more daughters. And Brooke, therefore, straddled two worlds: occasionally seeing her affluent father and step-sisters on Long Island (he paid for her to go to a string of New York private schools) — but mostly spending her time in a modest Manhattan apartment with her mother.
A bitter alcoholic, Teri was determined to live vicariously through her beautiful daughter, pushing her relentlessly towards stardom from an early age.
Shields was 11 months old when she appeared in her first photoshoot, for an Ivory soap advert. And, as her daughter’s precocious talent reaped dividends, so Teri piled her earnings into endless property investments.
She was a looming presence in her daughter’s life, vetting and terrifying potential suitors and even accompanying Brooke on film sets, where her habit of ‘swearing like a construction worker’ once prompted Brooke to stick masking tape over her mouth.
Recently, though, Shields has attempted to quash the perception that Teri was the ‘stage mother from hell’, who let her child pose for promotional photos lying naked in a bath aged ten. Shields said that she and her mother, who died in 2021, were actually immensely close.
Perhaps her mother’s wayward behaviour explains why Shields — for all the reports of various antics with Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger and the Rolling Stones in Studio 54 — always made sure her own conduct was impeccable.
Debauchery and drugs were strictly off-limits and she was always home by 10pm, she claims. Yet, the young Brooke certainly wasn’t bereft of male company. John Travolta, ten years her senior, would pick her up from high school when she was 17.
And pop star George Michael — in the days before he came out — was a friend and, she thought, an admirer, too. ‘I just thought he was being extraordinarily respectful of my virginity,’ she wryly recalled years later.
She says she only seriously fell for anyone when she got to university.
In her first year at Princeton, where she studied French literature, she published a book extolling the virtues of chastity, pledging to remain ‘pure’ until her wedding night and urging fellow young Americans to do the same.
Perhaps, it’s no surprise then that when she subsequently lost her virginity, aged 22, to fellow Princeton student Dean Cain (who went on to play Superman in the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman), she said the moment left her racked with guilt and shame.
Then in 1994, aged almost 30 and with a middling film career prompting a move to Broadway, she announced she had fallen in love with Andre Agassi, the rather more charming successor to John McEnroe as tennis’s bad boy.
Romance reportedly blossomed when, a few months after their meeting, he broke off from touring and flew to New York on his private jet to comfort her while she was in hospital being treated for painful bunions.
Her mother — by then sober — thought the notorious tennis ‘punk’ too wild and immature, prompting a set-to with Shields in a restaurant in which the actress was heard shouting: ‘Dump him? I’m going to marry him!’
And she did, in 1997. Yet the marriage lasted just two years. Long periods of time spent apart — while he played in tournaments and she followed her own career — were cited as the likely cause for the breakdown of their marriage.
Agassi was also deeply possessive, once getting so furious at her flirtatious cameo in a 1995 episode of Friends — in which she licked Matt LeBlanc’s fingers — that he stormed off set, drove home and smashed his Wimbledon trophy.
However, there were also whispers that the pair were simply sexually incompatible and that Shields didn’t actually like men.
In 2000, she gave an interview to the gay magazine The Advocate in which she said: ‘There are many women I find very attractive. But that’s not acceptable in this world.’
The following year, though, she wed television writer Chris Henchy, after meeting through a mutual friend. They had two daughters together — Rowan and Grier — following several rounds of IVF.
And in 2005, Shields disclosed she’d suffered from postnatal depression and had even considered suicide. ‘I finally had a healthy beautiful baby girl and I couldn’t look at her,’ she revealed.
Some weeks later, her Endless Love co-star Tom Cruise — who, as a Scientologist, opposes psychiatry on the grounds it is abusive — attacked Shields for using an antidepressant drug, Paxil, cattily asking: ‘Where has her career gone?’
She shot back, saying he should ‘stick to fighting aliens’ — a reference to the belief among Scientologists that space alien parasites live inside all of us and must be destroyed.
Many readers will also remember her rather curious relationship with another eccentric superstar.
According to the eulogy she gave at his 2009 memorial service, Shields became good friends with Michael Jackson when she was 13. In the same speech, she also revealed she’d even been his ‘date’ for one of Elizabeth Taylor’s weddings.
Jackson told Oprah Winfrey in 1993 that Shields was his girlfriend, repeating that claim in 2001 and telling another interviewer: ‘We dated a lot. Her pictures were all over my wall, my mirror, everything.’
Shields, in turn, claimed he’d repeatedly asked to marry her and adopt a child together but, she insisted, they were never more than friends.
In this new documentary, she describes her relationship with Jackson as ‘childlike’. And certainly, that may have suited a star who recently admitted she didn’t start thinking of sex as ‘my experience’ until she was in her 40s.
Before that, she said, she’d just been ‘terrified’ of it. Given what she has now told us about her past, who would blame her?
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