Brooke Shields new memoir “There Was A Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother And Me” on sale now. She’s known for being the epitome of beauty, style and subtle seduction. She was America’s sweetheart, even while sparking controversy with her films (she played an underage hooker in her first major role), her TV ads (she redefined the concept of snug-fitting jeans in more than one TV commercial), and her uber-public relationships (her bond with Michael Jackson made headlines all over the world). For Brooke Shields, getting the public’s attention is just another day at work, and for over four decades, she’s done it without a hint of difficulty or regret. She’s conquered movies, TV and Broadway, but her latest book, There Was a Little Girl: There Was A Little Girl (available now), is about the most cherished part of her life: her relationship with her mother Teri. We caught up with Brooke and reflected on her untouchable career.
Your mother supported your career from a very young age. Did she always want you to be a star?
Brooke Shields: It was this bizarre, gradual process. By chance, I got a job as a baby model. We started to make money, and that was more of an income than my mom was able to make working part time at a bookstore or at Lord & Taylor or wherever she was working, so it became this path that we were both on together, and it was fun and it opened up a whole life for us. I think if she really did have a plan in mind, things would have turned out very different. I think my career would have been different.
Your mom was such a huge part of your early life and career. What types of sacrifices did she make in order to support you?
It was less glamorous for my mother than you’d think, because we were getting up at 5 in the morning on these trips and we were working 16-hour days during the summer. The times that I did go to camp, I wanted to go home. I wanted to go be with my mom, because we would have more fun doing a photo shoot in Italy, because they were with my friends. My friends always got to come with me, and it seemed … it was just a very different type of life, so I really can’t look at it as a sacrifice. I have no recollection of not liking it.
From your role as a child prostitute in 1978’s Pretty Baby to your much talked about Calvin Klein ads, you’ve been involved in a lot of provocative projects throughout your career. Do you think you were consciously looking for controversy?
No. I’ve got to be honest. I wish I had that type of foresight. I wish that I’d set out to be like, “OK, we’re going to be shocking.” I believe I was in the right place at the right time for many different things. I’d love to say we had a plan and it was charted out and then we navigated, but if you really look at the whole body of my career, it is not … there’s nothing charted. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it. Did something fit in my schedule? Fine. Was I America’s sweetheart one minute and a provocative child in a European director’s movie? It was all over the place. It ran the gamut, and it made it really hard for people to really understand me. It made it hard for me to understand my career and me.
We didn’t set out to make controversy … we knew that with the Calvin Klein ads, we were a first, because no one had made minute-long commercials that we were trying to sell in movie theaters. No one had made commercials with just one person talking. It was a different era in advertising. We knew we were a part of something, but we weren’t trying to be. We weren’t trying to go out of our way to be controversial.
I made a movie with a French film director, and this is his first American film. He wanted an untrained person. I wasn’t even really an actress at that point. I sort of was, but we kind of fell into it. We ended up becoming a part of something that just rocked people’s world, and everybody had a lot to say and everybody was very opinionated. In a way, the controversy made it more art than anything else, because people were having strong opinions about it.
Even after all of your early success, I think a lot people got to know you all over again when you were on Friends, (playing Joey’s psychopathic stalker) and then when you had your own sitcom, Suddenly Susan. It was almost like the dawning of a new era for you. Did you always want to try comedy?
It was absolutely the beginning of one of the best periods of my whole life. I’ve always wanted to do comedy. I’ve always loved it. I’ve always been the clown in class, the one that gets up and is not afraid to make a fool of myself. I’ve always been that person, but because I looked a certain way, it was never something people could get their minds around. We didn’t see that a lot. In some of the old movies, there were actresses that looked a certain way that could be in these screwball comedies, but there really hadn’t been anybody since then. That was just a lucky break.
It was the first time that they thought, “Oh, someone can look a certain way and be absolutely funny.” It was something I’d been waiting for, although I got a chance to do a lot of it on the Bob Hope shows. He was the first one that gave me the chance to be in sketch comedy and stuff like that, and I just loved it, but it wasn’t something that people were really willing to embrace yet.
TV, films, Broadway: You’ve pretty much done it all, but what is something that you still want to do that you have yet to do?
I think I just want more of what I’ve done that I’ve liked. I eventually want to do a one-woman show on Broadway. I absolutely, on a daily basis, miss being on television, like a television show, in a world that I go to every day and work hard for, and just being comedic. To me, that is the best way to spend my day. I just want more of what I like.
And, we absolutely miss seeing Brooke on TV, too.
Bring on that one-woman show!