Similar to the stars of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film Romeo & Juliet, who are suing Paramount for $100M+ for alleged sexual abuse and more, Brooke Shields also had an unsettling experience with the 2x Oscar nominated filmmaker during the production of Endless Love.
She details the incident in the latest ABC News/Hulu Lana Wilson-directed docuseries Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields that premiered at Sundance.
Interspliced with footage from a 1981 TV interview, the late Zeffirelli, sitting next to the then 16-year-old actress, details how he twisted Shields’ toe during a sex scene; the pic about a two lovestruck teens, whose parents are bitterly against their romance. The movie was one of a trio of R-rated sex-themed summer pics that Shields starred in, the previous ones being 1978’s Pretty Baby and 1980’s Blue Lagoon.
In the Hulu doc, Shields confesses, “The physicality and the exploration of sexuality felt really dangerous to me, and I didn’t trust the director to create a safe environment for me.”
Zeffirelli wanted to get a response of ecstasy out of Shields, so he twisted her toe during the sex scene.
The feeling for Shields during the scene wasn’t in any way passionate, rather “more angst…because he was hurting me.”
The actress, breaking down in tears in the docuseries, explains that when she came to ecstasy during her teenage years, “I don’t know what that is!”
“I was really shutdown after that,” Shields says during part one of the docuseries, “I though of myself as just the work horse: They paid me, I did the thing, they sold it, everybody was happy, it was transactional. ”
Endless Love went on to gross over $32M at the domestic box office, 46% less next to the near $59M stateside take of Shields’ 1980 tropical romance The Blue Lagoon.
Meanwhile, Romeo & Juliet stars Olivia Hussey and Leonardo Whiting (now in their 70s) in their suit against Paramount, allege that Zeffirelli assured them there wouldn’t be any nudity in film and that the then 15 and 16 year olds would wear flesh-colored undergarments during a bedroom scene. However, during the final stretch of the shoot, Zeffirelli told them they’d have to perform in the nude with body makeup “or the Picture would fail.” The suit claims that Paramount has made over a half billion from the lifetime monies on Romeo & Juliet.
Asked at Deadline’s Sundance studio about her thoughts on that Romeo & Juliet suit, given her experience with Zeffirelli, Shields says, “It doesn’t surprise me.”
It was a very different era in filmmaking and many different directors took liberties. They’d tell the actors one thing, and then tell the studio another,” Shields tells Deadline.
“They were in charge and they were the star really.”
“I was lucky that I had my mother with me on set — and Franco hated my mother,” Shields reveals about her manager matriarch Teri Shields.
“They loved each other, but he would always say she was always in his way,” Shields explains, “Not on the set, but she would look at him — and she’d be like ‘I got you!’”
He respected her; but I think that I was much more protected than many people probably were.”
Watch our conversation with Shields below: