She began modeling when she was a mere eleven months old, and parlayed her childhood success into a successful acting career that has included movies (Pretty Baby, The Blue Lagoon, The Hot Flashes), TV series (Suddenly Susan, Army Wives) and Broadway (Grease, Wonderful Town, The Addams Family). Brooke Shields’ next step will be making her directorial debut with this summer’s Hollywood Bowl production of the prison-set musical classic, Chicago. She recently spoke with me about her latest gig.
How did this opportunity to make your directorial debut at the iconic Hollywood Bowl come about?
Rob Fisher (who will be conducting Chicago) was my musical director on many different things and he convinced me to sing in Carnegie Hall in The Sound of Music, soprano and everything. It was really great. He seems to have faith in me. So he called me and said, “Listen, I really think that you will be able to (direct Chicago); you know the show and love the show.” Then we took it to the Hollywood Bowl people. I’ve never really had a mentor, but Rob is great at pushing me beyond my comfort zone.
Can you announce any casting at this point? Any possibility of you playing a part or will directing keep you busy enough?
I think it would probably be suicide or I would implode if I did (laughs). I believe in giving my all to everything I do, so directing will be more than enough. We don’t have any lead cast members yet but are very close with a few. I can’t wait to announce soon. I have been able to bring back a lot of the alums of all ages from past productions for the ensemble, which is great because they are already so familiar with the show. [Editor's note: the cast includes Les Misérables' Samantha Barks as Velma Kelly, Ashlee Simpson as Roxie Hart, True Blood's Stephen Moyer as Billy Flynn, Drew Carey as Amos Hart and Xena herself, Lucy Lawless, as Matron Mama Morton.]
You performed in Chicago in both New York and London. Did you gain any particular insights that you feel will guide or help you in directing this LA production?
Even at the end of six months or the year or whatever, I was always able to discover something new. It’s such a tightly-crafted book but it has a lot of depth to it. Once I stopped trying as a performer or took the cartoon out of it and trusted the material, that’s when it happened. You just have to really listen and stay in the material as much as possible.In terms of directing, what amazes me so far is that you so often get “no” as an answer as an actor but now I get to hear “yes.” I’ve never worked with set designers or lighting designers, and now they want your ideas and then come back with amazing designs. What’s so wonderful (about directing) is you actually get to have a creative dream.
Many actresses “of a certain age” complain about opportunities drying up but you really seem to be flourishing. Do you agree? If so, what’s the secret to your longevity?
Go where the water’s warm (laughs). I would love to say there’s a master plan. For me, it’s about remaining open to the variety of opportunities. If a movie or TV thing doesn’t work out, then I look at what’s going on in theatre and vice versa. There are truths about growing older in Hollywood but it doesn’t do any good to complain about it. I say “Why not?” a lot instead of saying “I’m only gonna do this” or “I’m not gonna do that.” I’ve been at it a long time. It’s a body of work built of opportunities you say “yes” to.
You also have a new movie coming out this summer, The Hot Flashes, which I’ve seen and found delightful. It could become a sleeper hit. What was the experience of making that film like, especially with such a great cast (that also includes Wanda Sykes, Daryl Hannah, Virginia Madsen and Camryn Manheim)?
It’s a sweet movie. We all enjoyed each other so much, and worked so hard at learning to play basketball (laughs). Hours and hours and hours of practice. [The movie is about a group of former high-school players who reunite 30 years later to save a deceased friend’s legacy.] We’re all over 40 and the director [Susan Seidelman of Desperately Seeking Susan and She-Devil fame] took a chance on us that, I think, paid off. There are groups like the one in the film all across the country, many of them organized around certain causes like breast cancer.
Any special message or words for your gay and lesbian fans?
They’ve been the most loyal from day one. I’ve never felt turned on by them but appreciated and encouraged and inspired by them. I’m very thankful for their continuity of support throughout my career.
Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.