George Stephanopoulos in the awkward Barbara Walters Brooke Shields clip

Brooke Shields has been in the public eye practically her entire life. But she’s rarely had control over the images shared of her and how they’re framed — until now. Borrowing from one of her most controversial early film roles, the new documentary “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields” explores the actress’ life and career from child model and star to the women’s rights activist she is today. The film is the fourth documentary from Lana Wilson, who was last at Sundance with Taylor Swift’s doc “Miss Americana”. Executive producers are George Stephanopoulus and partners Ali Wentworth, who have been friends of Shields for years.

Along with executive producer Alyssa Mastromonaco, the creative team stopped by Sundance’s IndieWire Studio presented by Dropbox to talk with IndieWire’s Christian Blauvelt about putting the project together.

“It was chemistry,” Wentworth said of the pairing of subject and director. “Lana and Brooke met and it just worked. And I think that whole group made Brooke feel safe to tell her story.”

Many of the film’s revelations stand in stark contrast to how radically the portrayal of women and girls has changed over the past 40 years. One of the most damning interviews that Shields has ever publicly criticized comes when Barbara Walters questions a young Shields in 1981 about his controversial Calvin Klein ad campaign. While critical of Shields, Stephanopoulus blames the mainstream media more than his late ABC news colleague.

“It really holds a mirror to what the culture was like at the time,” Stephanopoulus said. “Remember, everything we saw in this movie was perfectly acceptable at the time, in the ’80s and ’90s. That’s what’s so striking about it, you look at things that were made back then and you realize that it could never happen today, it never will. The movie ‘Pretty Baby’ itself would never be made today.”

Wilson added that while some things have progressed for women in the post-MeToo era, others have remained the same.

“I think about the debate a Balenciaga ads, you know what I mean? That was a few weeks ago,” said the director. “So we got this far, but we didn’t get anywhere any other way. That’s what’s so interesting and shocking about revisiting these old clips now.”

“Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields” premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. The two-part documentary will air on Hulu via ABC News later this year.

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