The other day Brooke Shields was going through some old photos when one shot caught her eye. ''I just found this picture of me with Johnny Rotten,'' she says, laughing at the thought of hanging around with the Sex Pistols frontman. ''I'm on his shoulder. I have this little short hair. I'm like, Who am I?''
As the baby model-turned-teen sexpot-- turned-comedic actress-turned-author-turned-she who put Tom Cruise in his place walks into a café in downtown Manhattan, it's impossible not to know who she is. In fact, everyone in the room seems to relate to the six-foot-tall brunette all bundled in black. That little girl drinking hot chocolate probably knows her as Hannah Montana's deceased mom. That older guy with a smirk? Maybe nothing comes between him and his memory of Shields' iconic Calvin Klein jeans ads. Perhaps that woman over there found comfort in Along Came the Rain, Shields' brutally honest memoir about postpartum depression. Or maybe she's excited about the Feb. 7 premiere of Lipstick Jungle, NBC's drama about a trio of female friends doing that proverbial work-and-life juggling act, in which Shields plays Wendy, a married movie-studio exec. (See the EW review of Lipstick Jungle.)
But just when you think you know everything there is to know about Shields she's been around for 42 years, after all she continues to surprise. For someone who grew up in front of cameras (she began modeling at 11 months old), she's refreshingly unpolished. Other than her marriage to TV producer Chris Henchy, Shields doesn't lead a Hollywood existence. Her closest friends aren't actors. She readily admits to doing endorsements to pay the bills. The word craft never passes her lips. ''It's funny, I don't lead a controversial life at all,'' she says. ''And yet, my career has been so fraught with controversy.''
And ask her about some of that scandal and she'll dish like a close girlfriend. Tom Cruise? ''When he invited me to the wedding, did you think I wasn't going to go? There was no way I was missing that.'' Britney Spears reading her book about depression? ''Yeah, like she's going to go, 'Thank you, Brooke. Your book solved all my problems.' I don't know who's around her, but I don't think anybody's giving her any literature.'' As for her young sexualized roles in The Blue Lagoon and Pretty Baby? ''I'm interested in the psychology of being viewed. At some point it'll be my turn to tell everyone what I thought of all that.''
There's not much controversial about Lipstick's Wendy, other than a few steamy scenes with her onscreen husband, played by Paul Blackthorne. Nonetheless, Shields has struggled with the new gig. ''For so long in my career I've done only so much and it's worked. It's gotten me to where I am. Now I have these scenes and I have to be vulnerable at times I'm not ready to be vulnerable, but in a way because of that I feel like my career is just starting.''
Of course, because of the writers' strike, Shields' TV career is about to be put on pause. She's dreading wrapping Lipstick's seven episodes, partially because that means it's time for foot surgery. ''Too much time in Capezio shoes,'' she groans, referring to her Broadway roles in Chicago and Grease! Knowing how a celebrity having surgery sounds, she cracks up. ''Watch, I'll come out of that surgery with double D's. It'll be my version of a deviated septum.''
Once that ''foot'' problem is resolved, Shields will focus on herself. After three years, she is almost done organizing her photos, clippings, and footage. ''I'm getting it together for when I have that lifetime achievement award,'' she says, laughing. ''At some point I'll have the longest career of anyone and they'll have to give me an award. And hey, I'll have the clips all edited and done and scored. I'll get the little gold man if it's the last thing I do.''
Role With It
As Shields can attest, landing a part takes practice, not to mention timing and luck.
You Win Some... Back in 2005, Shields was ready to sign on the dotted line for Lipstick until a certain pink line derailed those plans. ''By the time the script was written I was pregnant, and they weren't going to wait,'' she says. Gina Gershon signed on to play Wendy, but NBC never shot the pilot. When her daughter Grier was 6 months old, Shields found out the initial option (that would star Gershon) had run out, and the rest is history.
And Lose Some... ''I did this paid audition for Disney years ago for Chicken Little where you work with animators and they see if they can see you as a character. It's the most fun I've evre had. I didn't get the part Roxy which was crushing to me. But at least they made the character a male and they got a guy to do it. I felt better about that. Now more than anything I want to do a Disney animated musical. I could be a princess or an animal. I'm not picky.''