January 31, 2023

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Brooke Shields blasts ‘hilarious’ Tom Cruise controversy at Sundance

3 min read

“Pretty Baby,” a two-part documentary about the intense highs and lows of American icon Brooke Shields, brought the house down with its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday.

The doc explores Shield’s gruesome sexuality starting at age 9, subsequent top-level modeling and acting careers, and prompts urgent conversations about what society expects of women.

Directed by Lana Wilson (Taylor Swift’s “Miss Americana”), “Pretty Baby” confronts the milestones in Shields’ life that, in a post #MeToo world, shocked the audience at the Eccles Theater in Park City. Pre-adolescent nude photo shoots, male talk show hosts asking if 12-year-old Shields enjoys being a sex symbol, the horrors of an alcoholic mother and manager, and Shields’ notable public battles with the likes of Tom Cruise are all on the table.

“I have always made it an important part of my journey to be as honest as possible. Not just outside, but to myself,” Shields said during a Q&A after the premiere of the doc, which received a standing ovation. “I didn’t want to be shut down. I’m in the industry you want to shut down. I didn’t want to lose to that.”

An interesting mix of nods from his life offers insight into Doc. Childhood friends Laura Linney, Lionel Richie, Ali Wentworth and security czar Gavin de Becker all pop up. Drew Barrymore, sitting cross-legged and barefoot on a stool, espoused the confusion and difficulties that come with child stardom. A special moment came during a segment in the landmark movie “Blue Lagoon,” about love-struck teenagers on a deserted island. Director Randall Kleiser, Dr. Alleged, actively created a narrative in the press that Shields was coming of age sexually in real time with his character.

“They wanted to make it a reality show,” Shields said. “They wanted to sell my sexual awakening.”

Perhaps, the work suggests, that’s why Shields broke his white-hot career streak to attend Princeton University.

“Brooke insists on having agency over her mind, her career, her future. I found that to be extraordinary and very contemporary in many ways,” Wilson told the audience.

Throughout her youth, Shields described her attraction to a figure she claimed was “controlling” like her own mother — tennis star Andre Agassi, who she says was plagued with jealousy when she got breaks on sitcoms like “Friends” and “Suddenly Susan.” The war was not all personal.

After marrying now-husband Chris Henchy, Shields struggled to conceive. After many attempts, she gave birth to daughter Rowan and immediately fell into an unknown and extreme depression. In 2005, she wrote the book “Down Come the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.”

At the same time Shields was promoting the book, Tom Cruise was making the rounds for his Steven Spielberg-directed action film “War of the Worlds.” Cruise, the most famous member of the therapy and prescription drug averse Church of Scientology, went after Shields for publicly promoting antidepressants. He went on to call her “dangerous”.

In the doc, Shields reflected on the incident as “ridiculous.”

During a scene in the documentary, the camera zooms in on a New York Times op-ed he wrote in response to Cruise titled “What Tom Cruise Doesn’t Know About Estrogen.” Eccles cheered and actor Judd Nelson did so again after quoting his friend Shields at the time: “Tom Cruise should fight aliens.”

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