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'Pretty Baby' chronicles Brooke Shields' career and the sexualization of young girls

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Brooke Shields is the subject of a new documentary on Hulu called "Pretty Baby" that has already become part of the larger conversation about the sexualization of children and young women. Her career started as a baby in soap commercials and print ads. She went on to become an actress, famous in part for her beauty. One of her most notable and controversial roles was in the 1978 movie "Pretty Baby," in which, at the age of 12, she played a child prostitute. Brooke Shields talked about her life and career with our guest interviewer, Tonya Mosley, the host of the podcast Truth Be Told.

TONYA MOSLEY, BYLINE: There was a time when Brooke Shields was a household name, a cultural phenomenon. Even today, depending on how old you are, Shields doesn't need much of an introduction. Most often, her starring role in the 1980s film "Blue Lagoon" or her Calvin Klein ads are enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

BROOKE SHIELDS: You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.

MOSLEY: But as the new documentary "Pretty Baby" explores, Shields' early career was defined by a sexuality that both she and the world are still trying to understand. In this two-part series now on Hulu, director Lana Wilson peels back the layers of Shields' story, examining the toxic culture and power structure that perpetuates misogyny and objectifies young girls. Brooke Shields has had a long career as a model, a Broadway, film and television actor. She's authored several books and is the host of the podcast "Now What?"

Brooke Shields, welcome again to FRESH AIR.

SHIELDS: Oh, thank you very much for having me.

MOSLEY: Brooke, you started working at 11 months old. And, really, by the time you were a teenager, you were one of the most recognized children on the planet. How much awareness did you have about your fame?

SHIELDS: Because I never really knew life without it, it was just a part of my life being recognized. It started at such a young age that you just sort of - you never get really used to the feeling, but you get used to surveying an area, knowing when someone's going to approach. You sort of get this - this other sense becomes very incited. And so it wasn't about fame as much as it was just about recognition. And the minute you leave your apartment, you are in the world differently than many people are.

MOSLEY: In "Pretty Baby," you were portrayed as a child prostitute, but you describe it as truly the only artistic film you think you've ever been in, even to this day.

SHIELDS: Yeah, I really - I value it so much more. I mean, every single detail in that movie was - in "Pretty Baby" was purely thought out and of the actual time. The research that went into all the wardrobe and the - we had one of the best cinematographers in the world and - you know, so the caliber of talent on that set and really putting the film together was just unlike anything that I've ever experienced again.

MOSLEY: Of course, because of the depiction of a child prostitute and you being the age that you were, that's what made it so controversial for - at the time, in 1978. And it also was a time where you had your first onscreen kiss in the film. And I heard you say that it must have been harder, actually, for the adult male actor, Keith Carradine, than it was for you at the time. Did you even understand the weight of that kiss in the moment?

SHIELDS: No, I just was embarrassed that I didn't know how to do it. You know, I had never kissed a boy before, you know? So it was one of those things where, I mean, I'd had a crush on a little model that I had worked with, and that was it. I mean, at 11, I didn't know what I was doing. And so, you know, I kept scrunching up my face and I kept, like - you just don't know what to do. And it's funny because it's such a non-kiss, you know? And it was funny because Louis made us stay together sort of and not move.

MOSLEY: Louis Malle, the director, yes.

SHIELDS: Louis Malle, yes. Made us just stay together and he kept saying, don't pull apart. Don't pull away. Don't pull away. And I was just like, wow, really? Is this all it is, kissing? This is - OK. You know, when you're 11, too, you don't think of age difference. So, I mean, he was, I assume, much more aware but such a gentleman and so kind about it. You know, he didn't want to scar me.

MOSLEY: I read that he said to you, this doesn't count.

SHIELDS: Yeah. And it really - I thought it did. You know, you think so much about the first kiss, you know, what you're going to have. And you talk about it with your girlfriends. And, you know, it was funny. We would have those, like, parties where whenever I went to go visit my sisters, they would, you know, five seconds in the closet or 10 seconds in the closet. And every time I got in the closet, I went, don't even think about it.

MOSLEY: Don't even think about kissing me (laughter).

SHIELDS: Don't even think about it. I am certainly not going to have my first kiss in a closet in the dark while other people are waiting outside. I was like, the whole thing is just ridiculous and childish. And I found - I mean, I thought that way even when I was a kid, like, even younger. So this - that's what - I didn't want to ruin that. And he sensed that and, you know, had intuited that I had not kissed a boy before, you know. And so he knew that that's what I was struggling with and how he figured that out, I don't know. And it was one of the most generous gestures any actor has ever shown me and so kind and so in the moment and so sensitive that I never forgot it. And I've always been so thankful to him for that.

MOSLEY: You didn't feel exploited or unsafe on that set of "Pretty Baby." But there were instances in other films where you were coaxed in ways that kind of made you feel uncomfortable. There was this weird moment on the set of the 1981 movie "Endless Love" where the director, Franco Zeffirelli, was pinching your toes in order to get you - to get a certain reaction out of you.

SHIELDS: Yeah, he wanted some look of ecstasy or something on my face. And, you know, my first reaction was, how about directing? Here's an idea.

MOSLEY: You were thinking that even at the time.

SHIELDS: Yeah. Wouldn't you tell me - like, why - I had somebody once say - they had a coach on the set and I was - I think I was doing "Just You And Me, Kid" or something with George Burns. And he - the person said to me, OK, now you have to cry. So you have a horse, right? And I said, yes. And she said, so think about someone stabbing your horse. And I said, lady, look, if someone stabbed my horse, I would - the first thing I would do would not be cry. I would not cry. I would stab the person who stabbed my horse and then I would fix the horse. And then maybe I would cry. I said, that is the worst thing because I would have an instant look of anger and rage. And I don't think anger and rage is what the director is looking for. I think he's looking for sad.

And I just thought, God, can't people come up with something a little more relatable and a bit more nuanced, you know, to talk you through something and give you an image rather than an image that's going to possibly produce the antithesis of what is needed? I mean, I'm a very thoughtful kid who has a very good imagination, who is very emotive and, you could have come up with just a little bit - you should have spent a little more time with me, taking me aside and sort of guiding me through it, you know. The boys in those films were always so much more of a focal point because they were considered newcomers, you know? And they were both older, like...

MOSLEY: Your male co-stars. Yeah.

SHIELDS: ...All my leading men were older. All my male co-stars were always older. And, you know, they should have been spending more time - you know, I know that in Louis Malle's case, there was this - he didn't want me schooled. He didn't want me thinking of things. He really did just want to see me react in situations. And so that was very different. It was a very different film. But when it actually came to sort of practicality, directors weren't - didn't spend any time with me, you know? So I just - you know, the assumption is I look a certain way, so that's enough. And I'm box office, so that's enough.

MOSLEY: Yeah. How do you reconcile that? Are you angry about it today? Because just knowing what I know about you, you take your craft seriously. Do you think he would have gotten a better performance - they would have gotten a better performance out of you?

SHIELDS: I think they would have gotten a better performance. I think there's a sort of thinness to a lot of my earlier - not "Pretty Baby." I don't know how Louis Malle ended up - but he would talk in stories, and he would just say stories, and he would get you to think of things. But he didn't - he - you know, it was very, very different. You know, I don't - it's not anger. It's just sort of missed-opportunity feelings. You know, I think a lot of the movies I made could have been better.

But then again, you know, I'd also have to say that it didn't matter because I wanted to be liked more than I was worried about really delivering a master performance. Plus, I wanted to really ensure that there was no crossover into my own life. So I made faces, and I had - like, the minute the scene would be over, I would stick my tongue out, or I would just constantly break character because I didn't want to - I wanted to remain my personal self at the same time. And, you know, that was a form of self-protection and preservation.

MOSLEY: That is really interesting, the two things you said there. One is you wanted to be liked. I think that's something that a lot of women and young girls can understand. You go along with things because you want to be liked.

SHIELDS: Absolutely.

MOSLEY: But it also sounds like you had a sense of yourself, a really strong sense of yourself, as a young child wanting to make certain that you kept those parts of yourself that weren't a part of show business. Where did that come from?

SHIELDS: You know, I think any - there was a lot of uncertainty and the unexpected in the way my mother and I lived our life. You know, at the drop of a hat, you were at a different location. Or, you know, she would be sober one minute, drunk the next. And so there was this sort of - there was always a sense of what's going to happen next? And I think that going on to a movie set, the structure of it and the mechanics of it were so comforting to me because they were so predictable, and you could learn them, and you had a routine, and you had a call sheet, and you had rules, and you had lunchtime, and you had all of these different things that I just loved. And I think that losing myself in a character was scary to me because I was afraid I wouldn't have any ground to go back to.

So I kept disassociating from all of it. You know, I just compartmentalized. And - you know, and I think that was just my way of keeping steady. And I don't know how I knew that. I think it was instinctual. And I also think it has a lot to do with being a child of an alcoholic. You know, you get very, very controlling in what you can control because there's so much you can't control. And as a child, you know, you need to keep your loved one alive, and so it takes such precedence over everything that I - you know, I became, like, a neat freak and kind of OCD and really organized. And I kept my environment very controlled, you know?

MOSLEY: I want to talk more about your mother a little bit later. Let's take a moment for a break. We're talking to Brooke Shields, subject of a new documentary on Hulu titled "Pretty Baby," which gives a long view of Shield's career as an '80s icon. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ACORN'S "LOW GRAVITY")

MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR, and I'm Tonya Mosley. And if you're just joining us, I'm talking with Brooke Shields, Broadway, film and television actor. She's the author of several books and the host of "Now What?" - a podcast. We're talking about the documentary on Hulu called "Pretty Baby," which brings a fuller view of when Shields came of age in public.

I really am struck by this mechanism you used to protect yourself, to disassociate. I actually feel like I noticed it in some of those early interviews when these male journalists would be asking you really borderline or suggestive questions. You seemed aloof, almost unfazed. I want to play a clip of you being interviewed around the time of "Pretty Baby." Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE DOUGLAS: How do you feel about all this fuss that's being made over you?

SHIELDS: I think it's kind of fun.

DOUGLAS: Do you?

SHIELDS: Yeah.

DOUGLAS: You're enjoying it?

SHIELDS: Oh, yeah. I love it.

DOUGLAS: You really are an exquisite-looking young lady. I know you've been told that. But isn't she a pretty girl?

(APPLAUSE)

MOSLEY: That was the interviewer Mike Douglas interviewing you back in the 1970s. And it feels so uncomfortable to listen to this. What goes through your mind when you look back at these kinds of interactions?

SHIELDS: After "Pretty Baby," there was such a firestorm. You know, it was as if - 'cause I was away in Europe when the film won the Palme d'Or in Cannes. And when we came back to America, you know, Cannes - everything in France was celebrating us. And then we come back to America, and it's just pitchforks and protests. And they were just - there were so much that I just shut down to all of it. And, you know, you just sit there in these interviews, and you're just like, ugh, here we go again. They're going to just - they're going to say the same thing, ask the same question.

I always used to say, God, I wonder, Mom, if I were to play a murderer, would they - you know, would they be really worried that I was uncomfortable stabbing somebody and, you know, killing somebody and the blood? And, you know, it's just - you know, I was more traumatized by my first movie where I was 9, and I had to get this prosthetic makeup on my face to look like I had been burned. It was a murder mystery. And I hadn't seen the makeup. And then I looked in the mirror, and I looked like, you know, I had a big slice of pizza on my face. And I thought it was going to be, like, charcoal, like, you know, a chimney sweep, because I had seen "Mary Poppins," you know? And all of a sudden, I had this - I was terrified. I looked in the mirror. And it's so interesting to me that, you know, people never had a problem with me playing that character. Or they never - and I understand because sexuality is just such a trigger for especially the press. But it always struck me as ignorant.

MOSLEY: The funny thing is, watching the documentary and seeing these clips, one might think, oh, well, this is in the rearview mirror, the way that interviewers interview children. But then I recently saw a video where someone stitched together a series of interviews that reporters had done with Justin Bieber when he was a child. And some of the questions were so suggestive and inappropriate. And this was just a few years ago by comparison. Why do you think there is such a need to - maybe it's not sexualize but adultify (ph), if that's even a word, child stars? You dealt with it. We see this so much with young stars, especially if they're considered, like, you know, showboats or the object of desire for young girls or boys.

SHIELDS: You know, asking Britney Spears if she's a virgin, you know, you look at that, that wasn't that long ago either. So I don't think we've really come very far, to be honest. I don't - you know, I think that we think because we're able to speak out more that the situation is changing. And I don't really see that much of a change. And they're, most of the time, you know, mostly men. But there are so many interviews where I was interviewed by women who at one point, I was - God, I must have been 13. And this woman kept asking the same question over and over, just with different words. And I finally said, excuse me, ma'am. I said, but I don't think you want my answer. And she went, whoa, whoa, whoa.

I said, I just - I keep answering it. And I keep trying to tell you that it's my truth. But you keep asking the question, so I think you want a different answer. But I can't give you a different answer because that's not - I would be lying. That's not my truth. And I thought, how the hell did I know enough or have the balls to say it to this woman, you know? I mean, Barbara Walters, on air, asked me to stand up to compare our figures because she asked me what my measurements were, as if I knew my waist in inches or centimeters, you know? I was 15. That's - and these are women and purportedly mothers. And you just think, God, do you think you have to do that to be valid? That's pretty depraved, if you ask me.

MOSLEY: I'm wondering how the sexualized depictions of you impacted your ability to take on other roles that didn't portray you as an object of desire.

SHIELDS: They were hardly an option. I mean, you know, I did tilt in "Wanda Nevada" and "Just You And Me, Kid." And those were real kid roles, you know, ate Butterfingers and drank Dr. Pepper and riding horses in the desert and rafting and, you know, got to play with musicians. And George Burns was my favorite. So I had my fair share of them. It's just that people were less interested because that wasn't what was selling. And it was easier for them to just keep me in that, you know, more exotic, sexualized because, you know, it had a direct value. And that value was monetary. So you know, I got it out of my system, you know? I got - and I did 24 Bob Hope shows, traveling all over the world and was Ms. USO. And, you know, so I had my fair share of it. It's just that, they didn't sell as much, you know, for the studios. And that's just the way it was.

GROSS: That's Brooke Shields speaking with our guest interviewer Tonya Mosley. Shields is the subject of a new documentary called "Pretty Baby" that's streaming on Hulu. After a short break, Shields will talk about her friendship with Michael Jackson and her relationship with her mother, who was an alcoholic. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIJAY IYER'S "HUMAN NATURE")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with more of our interview with Brooke Shields. There's a new documentary on Hulu about her career as a child model and actor and the sexual objectification she experienced in Hollywood as a teenager and young woman. She also became famous at the age of 12 when she played a child prostitute in the 1978 movie "Pretty Baby." The documentary is also about Shields' adult life. Brooke Shields spoke to our guest interviewer Tonya Mosley, host of the podcast Truth Be Told.

MOSLEY: Brooke, I want to talk with you about your mother, Teri Shields. You know, when you were younger, the media characterized your mother as a stage mom. And you - you've always said that that description is not entirely accurate. But your mother struggled with alcoholism. And I've heard you say something pretty powerful, that children of alcoholics learn at an early age how to navigate a situation, how to read a room, how to keep the person they love alive. Do you remember a moment or a time in your early life when you realized that that was the role you had to play to keep your mother safe?

SHIELDS: I mean, I think I've been playing - I was playing it since I could walk, you know? You just - the child is so intuitive to the mother, you know? They - the tone of a voice or the emotion - there's just - there's this crazy, crazy connection. And, I mean, I see it with my girls, and they read me immediately. And there's this thing that happens if you're a really - ostensibly, an only child with a certain parent. All I had to do was keep her alive because she was my source, you know? I was never without her and - except for when I'm at my dad's. But we were always together.

And so I just grew up knowing that there were patterns and that she needed guidance. Like, she - I had to know where I could find her. I had to know where it was going to, you know, sort of turn into, oh, we're going to be here another hour. I got to figure out how to get us out of here. And, you know - and so it just - you just intuitively start to do that. I don't think I thought about it. But then it became my focal point because I was so afraid something was going to happen to her.

MOSLEY: Yeah. Your mom died of dementia in 2012, and you've written quite a bit about your mother. You wrote a memoir that details your relationship. You've gone to therapy, and now there is this documentary. What conclusions have you come to about the choices your mother made as it relates to your career?

SHIELDS: I think my mother's choices for my career really didn't have anything to do with a career. It had to do with, how do we get from this point to the next point? How do we keep her in the public eye? Because there's power in that, and with that, our life can be better. You know, we can support ourselves. We don't have to - she doesn't have to rely on any, you know - I mean, she didn't even get - ask for alimony. When they got divorced, my mother said, you do not pay me alimony. I will find a way to make money, but you put this kid through school. And - because she never went to school. She - he had to pay for my tuitions. And, you know, I was just born. So those were the kinds of things - she wanted me to be afforded a life that she never had. And that had to be comfortable, and there had to be travel and nice things and education.

And so I think her decisions for my life - making us stay in New York, never going to California to live, never taking the high school equivalency test, stopping work and going to college - like, all those things - and always having a friend with me - like, those were all protective, personal things. So I'm more thankful for the fact that I have a life than I am disappointed in the way she sort of handled the career. Because every time we went and did a movie, we had the best time ever.

MOSLEY: Brooke, I want to talk to you about Michael Jackson. You describe your relationship with MJ as a sweet and innocent one, and you spoke at his funeral in 2009. Let's listen to a bit of your tribute.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHIELDS: We had a bond. And maybe it was because we both understood what it was like to be in the spotlight from a very, very young age. I used to tease him. And I'd say, you know, I started when I was 11 months old. You're a slacker. You were - what? - 5? Both of us needed to be adults very early. But when we were together, we were two little kids having fun.

MOSLEY: It has been a long time since Michael Jackson died. What do you reflect on, these days, when you think about him?

SHIELDS: I just - I get sad because, you know, there was - there's so much missed opportunity for him, you know? And he was so unhealthy. And his insecurity about the way he looked was so over - it was overriding, you know? And I think that that's just sad. You know, it just - I feel bad because I think that, you know, I was fighting for a real normal life outside of all of it for so long. And I had - I really had a shot at it, you know? I really was not going to get pulled down or sucked into it. And, you know, he was such a genius. But the arrested development and the other part of him was just - were never taken care of.

And so I just feel - I look back with such pleasant memories and made him laugh all the time. I would say, hey, your shoes better have to have a party. You better have a party and invite your pants down. The pants are too short. What are you doing? Why do you have a Band-Aid on your finger? It's just weird. Did you lose the other glove? I mean, come on. You know, and he would just - I just made fun of him. And so it would be - it's just sad for me to see, like, he didn't get to get what I got - you know? - what I made my - what I insisted I get.

MOSLEY: In your eulogy, you said that he could always count on you as a date. What do you think you represented for, Michael?

SHIELDS: He knew I was going to have my senses around, you know? He knew I was going to see who was coming, what was happening, who was doing this, where the picture was taking. Like, I had such this - it was like a caretaker kind of a thing. I just always said yes. He knew I'd be fun. He knew that somehow I would be grounding amidst the craziness. And it was always insanity. You know, these award shows and the mobs of people and, you know, the rocking of the cars, and, you know, it was just - and yet that was his entire life. You know, it was just his entire life. And, you know, I used to make him go to restaurants with me because I was like, you have to make yourself normal, and if people come over to the table, you can say, well, wait until we finish this meal, but right now we're having a meal. And, you know, people would respect it. He's like, how do you do that?

MOSLEY: You had to give him those types of pointers.

SHIELDS: Yeah, because no one was - he was a machine for that whole family, you know, and he was the main - main, main, main - reason and the breadwinner and the - you know, so they were protecting - you know, his mom was so sweet. I mean, his mom was the one who invited me to and asked me to speak at the memorial. And, you know, that always really sort of struck me. And, you know, the people that weren't asked were, like, mad that I was one of the people that spoke. It was just so crazy. You know, people had such propriety about him. And he just knew that I didn't want anything from him. I wasn't really - I was not enamored with the Michael Jackson of - you know, I thought he was extraordinarily talented and loved all his music, but I wasn't - I didn't fan out over him. And I think that was just so - and I needed absolutely nothing from him. You know, and I think he just sensed it.

MOSLEY: He sensed it and needed it. But, you know, the insinuation was always there that it was romantic. But it wasn't.

SHIELDS: It was the farthest thing from romantic. I mean, you know, there was one time when he grabbed me and kissed me and - when the cameras were, you know, clicking. And I was like, what are you doing? I was like, we eat candy together and watch movies, and I'm your sister. Like, don't - you don't - you need me as your friend. Find - you know, find it elsewhere. You don't - it doesn't have to be me. Like, you're not going to lose me. So don't ruin it. You know what I mean? And he was just - that wasn't in his - you know, there was nothing there because we met when we were so young. We were just - we were each other's sidekick, you know, in the mania.

MOSLEY: Yeah.

SHIELDS: Nobody wanted to believe it, of course.

MOSLEY: Let's take a moment for a break. We're talking with Brooke Shields, subject of a new documentary on Hulu titled "Pretty Baby," which gives a long view of Shield's career as an '80s icon. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAQUITO D'RIVERA'S "CONTRADANZA")

MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR, and I'm Tonya Mosley. And if you're just joining us, I'm talking to Brooke Shields, Broadway, film and television actor. She's the author of several books and the host of "Now What?" - a podcast. We're talking about the new documentary on Hulu called "Pretty Baby," which brings a fuller view of when Shields came of age in public.

You hit a low point in your career after you graduated from Princeton, and you were looking for work. And you reveal in this documentary this bombshell that you were sexually assaulted by a Hollywood executive. First of all, I'm sorry that happened to you.

SHIELDS: Thank you. It's very common.

MOSLEY: You didn't tell anyone at the time. What kept you from reporting it then? And why was it important for you to share what happened now?

SHIELDS: It was absolute fear. It was fear that I would never work again. I was at such a low point in my career. And the person was so prominent, you know, in many different areas in entertainment. And I couldn't afford it. I just - I was already at a low. And people weren't ever believing anything I said. You know, it would have seemed like some desperate attempt at attention and pity. And no one would have believed me. They just - no one was believing anybody at that time. And then to be with - to have it be a powerful person was - I mean, the odds were going to be so against me. And, you know, nobody considers what it takes to go through a trial or the public scrutiny and then the victim shaming. And I was sort of shunned by Hollywood, and movies didn't want me, and TV didn't want me. And I just - I was way too scared and just wanted to block it all out.

MOSLEY: You're not naming the person who did this, but you're talking about it.

SHIELDS: I really needed to process it in my own way and on my own terms. And it took me years. But people don't want victims to process their experience the way they need to or want to. They - we want to tell them how to do it. And then we want to point the finger, and we - and that's not what I wanted to accomplish. You know, it was - it would have then become about him...

MOSLEY: Yeah.

SHIELDS: ...Yet again.

MOSLEY: You know, I recently read this great article titled "I'm 45 And I Look My Age," and in it, the author makes the case that we should feel good about all forms that our bodies take as we age. It made me wonder, as someone whose livelihood has often been dependent on your looks, how has that felt? Has it felt like a relief or unsettling?

SHIELDS: You know, it's both. I mean, I can walk down the street with my 16-year-old, and I'm like, wait, what just happened? What just happened? You know, these guys were like, look at her, and I'll be like, I'm going to cut your eyeballs out, dude. You better keep walking. Keep walking, you know. And it's like - so there's that one piece where you're protective of your young, fresh, blooming beauty child, you know? And you're just like, oh, my God. And then you're also sort of like, hey, isn't she beautiful? Isn't she great?

MOSLEY: Right. Right. Yep.

SHIELDS: Isn't she sweet and pretty and tall and gorgeous and amazing, amazing. And then you're like, wait a minute. You did not look at me once. Just - you know, and you're like, what the hell happened?

MOSLEY: Yep.

SHIELDS: So there is that, like, oh, is it - what's happening to me? You know, nothing's high as it was. And then there's this just kind of reveling in it. It's - you're - it's not as exhausting as it used to be. It's not chasing youth. It's really just trying to look and feel the best that I am because this 57-year-old body has really taken me through a lot and got me here.

MOSLEY: Yeah. Towards the end of the doc, we see you with your two daughters at the dinner table and your husband talking about "Pretty Baby," the movie, and your - their thoughts about what you went through as a child actor. And your daughters - you've mentioned this - they were disturbed by some parts of your career. How, if at all, has your daughters' perceptions of your early work changed your perception of what you went through?

SHIELDS: It really was eye-opening and kind of mind-boggling to me that conversation because we had no idea it was going to happen. They weren't prompted. It wasn't - and they had seen the film, and they had very different reactions to it. On the one hand, my older daughter said, this needs to be seen. This is going to help women, people. And my other daughter was just very disturbed, never wants to see it again. The fact that anything bad happened to her mom, the fact that I had a life that existed before being their mother was just too much for her to really reconcile. And so I had to - you know, I really have had to deal differently with each of them and have open conversations. But talking to them about it, what was so unbelievable to me is I didn't feel the need to protect my mother anymore. And that - you know, even today, watching the film, I just - my heart aches for my mother. And, yes, it was such a better life than where she came from. But it could have - there could have been more for her.

MOSLEY: Brooke Shields, I really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you so much.

SHIELDS: Thank you very much for having me.

GROSS: Brooke Shields is the subject of the new documentary "Pretty Baby" that's now streaming on Hulu. She spoke with our guest interviewer, Tonya Mosley, host of the podcast Truth Be Told. After we take a short break, Ken Tucker will review Lana Del Rey's new album. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN CALE AND BRIAN ENO SONG, "SPINNING AWAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tonya Mosley is the LA-based co-host of Here & Now, a midday radio show co-produced by NPR and WBUR. She's also the host of the podcast Truth Be Told.
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