Shields was just 11 years old once she filmed Pretty Baby, a controversial drama about a kid prostitute.

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Tright here was no hiding Brooke Shields from the frenzy bordering the 1978 film Pretty Baby, in which she starred as 12-year-old Violet, that lived with her prostitute mommy in a Storyville brothel in 1917 New Orleans. But she was insulated from the controversy ignited by her nude scenes in the film. Teri Shields, her mom and also manager, conserved eincredibly short article and also evaluation composed about her daughter, favor the People magazine cover that prodeclared, “Brooke Shields, 12, stirs furor over son porn in films”—yet protectively never mutual them via her daughter.

If Shields hinted that she had heard negative comments around herself or the film, her mommy responded, “Are you proud of what you did? Well, then fuck ‘em.” Today, she stays resolutely proud of the movie.

Louis Malle’s film, released 40 years back this week, made an indelible impression on its pre-teen star, simply as she made an indelible impression on the human being in her first starring duty. “It was the best imaginative task I’ve ever before been connected through, the finest group of people I’ve ever before been blessed sufficient to work through,” she tells Vanity Fair. Still, the intense suffer of making and cultivating the film, and also the childhood trauma of forging an on-collection “family” only to check out it break acomponent as soon as the film wrapped, nearly prompted her to quit making movies.


At the moment, the precociously striking Shields had done modeling, commercials, and a pair of made-for-TV movies. She was promptly killed off in her feature-film deyet, Alice, Sweet Alice, and additionally obtained edited out of Annie Hall: ”I was seated in the classroom beside the girl who was ‘into leather.’”


Malle was the award-winning director of acdeclared and also controversial films consisting of Elevator to the Gallows and The Lovers, which came to be the object of the obscenity lawsuit that motivated Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart’s famous interpretation of hard-core pornography: “I understand it once I check out it.” Pretty Baby was his first American film.


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Teri and also Brooke at Studio 54 in New York City, 1978; Shields through Keith Carradine on collection.

Top, by Ron Galella/WireImage; bottom, from Paramount/Everett Collection.

The movie’s R-rated content was not an issue via Teri, that had taught her daughter to appreciate foreign movies. Living in New York in the 70s additionally expected that the Shieldses knew sordid once they witnessed it—and Pretty Baby wasn’t. Creative license aside, the film was based on a genuine area and also inspired by the life and also times of E. J. Bellocq, who photographed Storyville prostitutes; in the film, his character falls in love through Violet and sets up residence through her.


From the cast (Susan Sarandon as her mommy, Keith Carradine as Bellocq, Antonio Fargas as the brothel piano player) to the crew (the legendary Sven Nykvist was the cinematographer), “we knew this was a labor of love,” Shields claims. “More than anything, we felt we were component of something unique.”

Shields previously rereferred to as the making of Pretty Baby in her memoir, There Was a Little Girl, which chronicles her loving but fraught connection with Teri. There was plenty of drama on the set: at one point, an attempt, she composed, was allegedly made on her mother’s life after Teri reported to the labor board that Brooke was being overoperated.

In spite of period costumes that intensified the New Orleans warm and occasionally 14-hour days, Shields cheriburned the experience—though her relationship through Sarandon wavered from frosty to supportive, according to her memoir. (It a lot boosted, she says, when the two co-starred aget as mom and also daughter in King of the Gypsies.) Carradine “was so kind and respectful,” also when Bellocq and also Violet kissed—Shields’s initially. Carradine “so sweetly” reassured her that a movie kiss was make-believe and would not count. “I was really well taken care of emotionally,” she says.

Even so, two traumatic experiences soured her on the prospect of making any type of more movies. “It was an altered world we were all in, and also coming out of filming was a actual shock to my system,” she says. “I remember being on the airplane simply sobbing. . . . That kind of heartbreak can just happen to an 11-year-old.” The collection felt choose “a family members. . . . And then to feel prefer you have to perhaps get that cshed to civilization aacquire, and then someday it’s over? I didn’t want to feel that aacquire.”


Shields also had actually to endure the Cannes Film Festival, where the film caused a furor and was nominated for the Palme d’Or. At one allude, someone emerged from the crowd with scissors and also was restrained when he tried to reduced her hair. “I hated every little thing around Cannes,” she claims. “I had actually never before watched frenzy prefer that. It was so obscene but absurd. I couldn’t determine through it. . . . The magnitude of the attention was really scary.”


Controversial scenes such as one in which brothel customers bid on Violet led to charges that the film amounted to pornography—and they only escalated when the film was released in North America. (It was banned in Ontario.) Teri was struck in some quarters for enabling her daughter to star in the film. On Phil Donahue’s daytime talk present, Shields recalls, audience members yelled, ‘This is terrible you let your daughter perform this.’ And my mommy claims, ‘Have you checked out the film?’ And they would certainly say, ‘No, I would certainly never go check out a movie choose that.’”


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Shields and Susan Sarandon on collection.

From Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock.

Film movie critics, but, provided both it and also and also Shields good notices. “It transforms out to be a good-hearted, good-looking, quietly elegiac movie,” praised Roger Ebert. “Shields really creates a character here; her subtlety and depth are astonishing.” And just as Julia Roberts did in Pretty Woguy, Shields came to be America’s sweetheart by playing a prostitute.

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The film additionally influenced a song, Blondie’s “Pretty Baby”—a reality Shields did not learn until she met Debbie Harry on a magazine shoot in 1981. “I don’t think I had actually that high opinion of myself,” she states with a laugh. “I’d heard the song, but I didn’t dream it was talking around me. . . . All babies are pretty babies to me. My mom offered to say, ‘You’re my pretty baby.’ I say it to my children. I didn’t make the correlation.”


Shields would certainly go on to make even more movies, however Pretty Baby collection a high bar. Her following film was Tilt, in which she portrayed a teenage pinsphere wizard runaway. “It was so disappointing to me,” she states. “It was so thin, is the best method I deserve to articulate it.”

Now, it’s been many type of years because Shields has watched her breakout film. “I don’t know exactly how excellent I was,” she claims. “I was practically untrained and just was in the moment. Louis had always shelp he didn’t desire a Lolita that was cognizant of her sexuality. He didn’t want me to be slick or coy.”

Does she think Pretty Baby can be remade today? Would she let her own daughter star in it? “In this environment and also via social media and via the risks on that level and simply being a mommy currently, looking at my 11-year-old, I would not facilitate it,” she claims.

But she does share her mother’s “fuck ‘em” advice. “I tell my daughters that they are going to suffer meanness, however they simply have to remain solid,” she claims. “You have to think in yourself. That is a everyday thing . . . with kids, in certain.”