Brooke Shields has never shied away from talking about the ways she was sexualized as a child star in Hollywood. But now the actress reveals that she was raped as a young adult.
In new documentary Handsome baby, which premiered Friday at the Sundance Film Festival, Shields did not name her attacker, but described the events of a sexual assault that occurred shortly after she graduated from Princeton University, during a period when she was struggling to find work after her early good luck. Shields met the man in question for dinner, ostensibly to discuss work. She then returned to his hotel room to wait to call a cab.
“He said, ‘Come back to the hotel and I’ll call a cab,'” Shields explains in the film. “And I go to the hotel room and he disappears for a while.”
Shields, feeling uncomfortable in a room that wasn’t hers, decided to use the binoculars the man had left in the room and looked out the window at some volleyball players. “The door opens, the person comes out naked, and I’ve got the binoculars and I’m like, ‘S—‘,” she continues. “And I put the binoculars down and he was right on top of me. Like he was wrestling.”
Shields continued with her story, explaining that she did not try to run because she feared it would lead to more physical violence. “I was afraid I was going to choke or something,” she says. “So I didn’t fight that much. I didn’t. I just froze. I thought one ‘No’ should have been enough, and I just thought, ‘Stay alive and get out’, and I just shut it down. God know I knew how to detach myself from my body. I had practiced that… I went down on the elevator and got my own cab. I just cried all the way to my friend’s apartment.”
For a long time, the actress did not even process the experience as sexual assault. Not even when her security specialist Gavin de Becker pointed this out to her. “He said, ‘That’s rape.’ And I said, “I’m not willing to believe that,” she says.
Shields was already sexually objectified by Hollywood when he appeared nude and kissed a 29-year-old Keith Carradine in the 1978 film Handsome baby (from which the documentary takes its title) when she was only 11 years old. At the age of 15, she appeared in two more films, Blue Lagoon and Endless Love, that included sex and nudity, as well as her iconic Calvin Klein jeans ads that touted, “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins.”
Getty Images / Courtesy of Sundance Institute Brooke Shields appears in the documentary ‘Pretty Baby’, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
Even with that history, Shields couldn’t help feeling that she was somehow guilty of her own assault. “That was what I had to do with my brain,” she admits. “He said to me, ‘I can trust you and I can’t trust people.’ It’s so cliché it’s practically pathetic I believed I somehow spread a message and that’s how the message was received I drank wine at dinner I went to the room I just trusted so .
She then says she wrote her attacker a letter, writing that he had destroyed a “massive trust” in him, but it was rejected.
“I just threw up my hands and said, ‘You know what, I refuse to be a victim, because this is something that happens no matter who you are and no matter what you think you’re prepared for or not,'” concludes she. . “I wanted to erase everything from my body and mind and just continue on the path I was on. The system had never come to help me. So I just had to get stronger on my own.”
Shields has previously spoken in two memoirs about being sexualized from a young age. But this is the first time she has revealed details of an attack of this nature.
Lena Wilson (Miss Americana) directed the documentary, which will air on Hulu later this year.
Additional reporting by Mike Miller.
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