Also Credited As:Brooke Christa Camille Shields
|Brooke Christa Camille Shields on May 31, 1965 in New York City, New York, USA|
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Brooke Christa Shields was born on May 31, 1965, in New York, NY. Her family lineage was anything but ordinary. Her father, Frank Shields, was a dashing executive for the cosmetics giant, Revlon. Her mother, Teri, was a former model. Tall and handsome, Frank Shields had been a star rower at the University of Pennsylvania and was descended from Italian royalty on his mother's side. His father, also named Frank, was a legendarily talented tennis player who boozed and brawled his way through three marriages, a Hollywood contract, and the finest mansions and country clubs from Newport to Miami Beach. The son, while not quite as wild as the father, cut quite a figure through New York society before finally settling down with Teri. The marriage, however, was volatile and they divorced soon after Brooke, their only child, was born.
Shields was a beautiful child and her mother pushed her into modeling from practically day one, working steadily in print and television ads from the mid 1960s through the mid 1970s. Teri, a failed actress herself, nudged her daughter towards an acting career and Shields' stunning looks - rather than her thespian talent - immediately got her foot in the door. She made her debut in a small role in the TV adaptation of Arthur Miller's award-winning play "After the Fall" (NBC, 1974). Her first feature film role came in the cult horror classic "Alice, Sweet Alice" (1976). Playing a Catholic schoolgirl butchered during her first communion by a homicidal maniac, Shields' part was small but shocking. In real life, Shields was a devout Catholic, and the movie, with its overt criticism of the Church, proved controversial. However, the condemnation directed towards "Alice, Sweet Alice" was minor compared to what Shields experienced after landing her next role.
"Pretty Baby" created a firestorm of controversy before it was even released. Shields was already a well-known child model when she was cast in the role of Violet, a 12-year-old prostitute in New Orleans during 1917. The public outcry directed towards a movie that dealt with a child learning the ropes of the flesh trade and having her virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder may have had something to do with Shields' extraordinarily precocious beauty. Although obviously a little girl - in real life and the film - she possessed a powerful sex appeal that the movie's themes further highlighted. The fact that "Pretty Baby" was not overtly graphic did not diminish the uncomfortable reaction to the movie's release in the United States, nor dim the public's view of Shields as being molded into some kind of underage soft porn star by her own parents. "Pretty Baby" made Shields famous, but it also made it nearly impossible for some people to ever take her seriously as an actress again.
Shields had no trouble finding work in films after the notoriety of "Pretty Baby." Unfortunately, the quality of her output did not match the quantity. She played a supporting role as a sweet-faced gypsy girl in "King of the Gypsies" (1978), a film about modern gypsy culture. Cast against type, the critics excoriated Shields' performance. Next up was the laughingly awful "Tilt" (1979), in which she played a pint-sized pinball wizard. It disappeared quickly from screens, as did the western "Wanda Nevada" (1979), notable in that the still-underage Shields again played the sexual possession of an older man, this time Peter Fonda. "Just You and Me, Kid" (1979) teamed the 13-year-old actress with the 82-year-old George Burns. Thankfully, the benign comedy did not imply any sexual relationship between the two, but it did not deliver any laughs either, so suffered a fast death at the box office.
By this point in Shields' acting career, she was famous more for her controversies than for her acting talent. The year 1980 only saw her star rise, but not for the things one would hope for in the pursuit of a legitimate career. It was hard to say what created the greater uproar - the TV commercial she made for Calvin Klein jeans which pretty much implied the teen wore no underwear under her jeans or the soft-core feel of her next major film, the lustful teen flick, "The Blue Lagoon" (1980). Advertised as "a sensuous story of natural love," "Lagoon" told the story of two beautiful teenagers marooned together on a desert island. Although at first shy and innocent, Emmeline (Shields) and Richard (Christopher Atkins) soon do what comes naturally - fall in love, shed their loincloths and have a baby. The film was silly, but Shields and Atkins looked great and the movie became a camp classic and an international hit - mainly because people wanted to see what all the fuss was about. In the end, Atkins - who was of age - did his own nude scenes in the film; it was widely reported that Shields had a nude body double, which, helped put out the fire a bit, but was necessary to avoid any further backlash against her and her manager mother.
Now a major movie star and favorite magazine cover girl for all the brouhaha she inspired, Shields had scored big with "The Blue Lagoon" but her subsequent films did not build on this momentum. She made the modern day Romeo and Juliet story "Endless Love" (1981), which bombed with audiences and critics alike - and like her previous films - had parents up in arms about the depiction of teen sex. Another stab at a "Blue Lagoon"-esque storyline, the exotic "Sahara" (1983) met the same dismal fate as "Endless Love" - which at least boasted an award-winning title song - and while "The Muppets Take Manhattan" (1984) proved popular, Shields' role was inconsequentially small. No matter, because in 1983 Shields had had enough and left Hollywood for the Ivy League.
Shields matriculated at Princeton University in 1983 and for the next four years majored in French literature. It was during her time in college that she began to openly discuss her sexuality and virginity. The irony was delicious: here was a beautiful model and movie star whose sexually precocious image was just that, an image. In reality she was a religious and demure co-ed more interested in getting good grades than getting it on. That said, her proclamation of rectitude did not prevent her from publicly dating some very high profile boyfriends, including Michael Jackson, who took her as his date to the 1984 Grammy Awards - a wise move on Shields part, as Jackson was at that point, the most famous man on the planet.
During her time at Princeton, Shields' film career inevitably stalled. However, she continued to work as a model, appearing on the cover of American Vogue magazine 13 times between 1980 and 1987. Upon graduation, she threw herself back into movies, but the parts were still not of the highest quality and frankly, being away at college for so long, her cache had worn off. She starred in "Brenda Starr" (1989) as the eponymous comic strip character who comes to life, but the movie tanked at the box office. The independent film "Backstreet Dreams" was well meaning, and it provided Shields a nice role as a psychologist helping a father cope with his autistic son, but the movie also failed to find an audience. She did solid work as the victim of a stalker in the TV movie "I Can Make You Love Me" (CBS, 1983), a story that would eerily mirror Shields' real life when an obsessive fan stalked her in the late 1990s, but it did not lead to bigger film roles. "Freaked" (1993) and "The Seventh Floor" (1994) were flops that only the most ardent Shields fan would care about, but she was very funny as the wife of Kiefer Sutherland's serial killer in the dark comedy "Freeway" (1996).
In 1996, Shields did what a lot of actresses with name recognition but a paucity of film hits were forced to do - she took a role in a TV series. After her hilarious take on playing a stalker fan of J y Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) on "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004), NBC executives saw great potential in Shields as a comic force. She had certainly honed her comic chops for years playing straight man to Bob Hope on any number of his fabled "Bob Hope Specials" through the years, but being given her own sitcom was a whole other animal. Created specifically for Shields, "Suddenly Susan" (NBC, 1996-2000) chronicled the life of Susan Keane (Shields), an editor at a stylish San Francisco magazine who is surrounded by any number of office goofballs, including Judd Nelson, Kathy Griffin and David Strickland. While the show was never a critical hit, it performed well in its time slot next to ratings juggernaut "Friends." Shields received some of the best reviews of her career and seemed comfortable in the role of a neurotic beauty surrounded by a supporting cast of wacky co-workers. She received Golden Globe nominations in 1997 and 1998 for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series, and won a People's Choice Award in 1997 for Favorite Female Performer in a New Television Series.
For the first time in her professional life, Shields rode a personal and professional high of her own making in the late 1990s - having released Teri from her role as manager years prior. Not only did "Suddenly Susan" prove to the world that Shields was a talented comedian, but she found personal happiness at last by marrying her boyfriend, famed tennis player Andre Agassi, in 1997. By 1999, however, two tragedies rocked Shields. First, her marriage to Agassi collapsed under the weight of their collective celebrity and his alleged womanizing. Then her close friend and cast member on "Suddenly Susan," David Strickland, committed suicide in a Las Vegas, NV, motel room after relapsing back into drug abuse. A devastated Shields - who had been a kind of caretaker toward the troubled Strickland - returned half-heartedly to her TV show, now airing on a new night and slipping in the ratings. By the time "Suddenly Susan" was cancelled in 2000, Shields was in need of a restorative break.
The ever self-inventive Shields brushed off her TV and film disappointments by focusing her creative energies on stage work, starring in the revival of "Cabaret" on Broadway in the summer of 2001, earning good notices as Sally Bowles. She also fell in love with comedy writer Chris Henchy and married him that same year. She decided she wanted to start a family and some of her professional choices reflected this new interest. The TV movie "What Makes a Family" (Lifetime, 2001), in which Shields played a lesbian who has a baby with her lover, earned her some of the best reviews of her career. Overall, however, her creative output slowed while she tried to get pregnant.
After a difficult period of trying to conceive, Shields and her husband welcomed a baby girl, Rowan Frances, on May 15, 2003. The tabloids had a field day photographing and interviewing Shields with her new child. It all seemed so perfect, but in reality, Shields was battling a horrific case of postpartum depression. She wrote about her struggle in her 2005 candid memoir, Down Came the Rain: My Journey through Postpartum Depression. The book garnered a great deal of media attention and Shields did the TV interview circuit, urging new mothers to seek medicinal help if they were suffering through a similar experience as she had. Her openness won her many new fans but also one very vocal and powerful critic.
Tom Cruise, who was not only the biggest movie star in the world but also a Scientologist, took it upon himself to attack Shields in the media as soon as it came time for him to promote something - "War of the Worlds" (2005). As Scientology frowned upon psychiatry as a practice, Cruise publicly condemned Shields for her reliance upon the antidepressant drug, Paxil. Shields attacked Cruise right back, defending her actions in an eloquent essay in The New York Times. The public sided with Shields and Cruise suffered one of the worst PR drubbings of his or anyone else's career. It seemed to most people that a man - who had no concept of what having a baby can do to a woman emotionally or physically - had no right questioning Shields. Cruise ultimately apologized to Shields and she graciously accepted, even attending the star's wedding to the actress Katie Holmes in November 2006.
As Shields entered her forties, she was hitting her stride in a manner of ways, enjoying guest-starring runs on a couple of popular TV shows such as "That '70s Show" (FOX, 1998-2006) and "Nip/Tuck" (F/X, 2003-). Despite her hardship the first time around, she had another child in 2006, but under less harrowing circumstances, having learned to deal with the mood swings and biochemical changes that accompany pregnancy. In 2008, she landed one of the leads in the TV series "Lipstick Jungle" (NBC, 2008- ), playing a high-powered entertainment executive. The show had a sterling pedigree, with Candace Bushnell, who created the long-running hit "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) as one of its executive producers. Unfortunately, it also suffered by comparison, so few could predict how the female-centric drama would perform.