“Pretty Baby” Director: Brooke Shields Okayed Sexual Assault Interview

“I want you to be completely comfortable with it when it becomes the world,” Lana Wilson recalled telling her subject.

In the Sundance documentary premiere of “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields,” the titular actor and model gets candid about her struggles with fame at a young age. In one of the film’s most emotional interviews, Shields describes alleged sexual harassment by an unnamed film producer in her early twenties.

Although the interview is an important part of the film, director Lana Wilson, who previously directed Taylor Swift’s documentary “Miss Americana,” wasn’t sure it would make the final cut. In an interview Yahoo EntertainmentWilson revealed that while he otherwise had full creative control over the finished film, he made an exception and made sure he could use the interview about his sexual assault in the final cut, with Shields’ full approval.

“I want her to be totally comfortable with her when she goes out into the world,” Wilson recalled telling Shields to Yahoo. He said that after the film was completed, Shields approved the interview because he thought it had been “handled sensitively”.

Wilson also told Yahoo that Shields brought up her sexual assault during their first meeting about the documentary, telling the director, “There’s one thing I’ve never talked about publicly, but I think I’m ready.” Despite Shields’ willingness to share the experience, Wilson was initially hesitant to include it.

“I thought it was a very powerful story right away,” Wilson said. “I also told him, ‘I don’t think we should make a decision now about whether or not he’s in the movie because it depends on what the movie is.’ I don’t think we should include this just because it’s new. I don’t want to include your experience of sexual harassment as news. I think it should only be in it if it’s an integral part of the film’s focus and story. So let’s talk about it in an interview and let me bring it into the edit and we’ll see.”

Eventually, as the two did interviews and Wilson began to develop the project, he saw the story of sexual harassment as an important part of the film. “I saw it as the ultimate violation of Brooke’s autonomy — physically, mentally, emotionally,” Wilson said. “It’s hard for me to imagine the film without him.”

Named after the controversial 1978 film “Pretty Baby,” which featured a 12-year-old Shields naked on screen, it had its world premiere at Sundance on Jan. 20.

The documentary received largely positive reviews; Kate Erbland, managing editor of IndieWire, wrote in a more mixed op-ed that “while no one should dig up decades of pain to make a compelling documentary, Shields is never really weighed down by some of the bigger questions in his life — especially in the first part of the doc, which is devoted to his childhood and youth, the whole endeavor seems strangely broken, a wholly incomplete portrait.

“Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields” is now streaming on Hulu.

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