Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon is a controversial topic. At first glance, the casual observer may think of her beauty and youthfulness, her sexy tan. But then it comes up that she was only 14 back in 1980 when the film was made. In a conversation with her co-star Christopher Atkins, the two actors reminisced on their never-to-be-repeated experiences filming the cult classic.
Christopher Atkins & Brooke Shields Know Blue Lagoon Could Never Be Made in the Same Way
Christopher Atkins joined Brooke Shields on her iHeart Radio podcast, Now What? It had been 40 years since they filmed The Blue Lagoon. At the time, Shields was 14 and Atkins was 18.
Atkins recalled speaking to director and producer Peter Bogart (Beverly Hills Cop, Lake Placid) years later.
“He said, ‘You know, no movie was ever shot like that before. And no movie will ever be shot like that ever again in Hollywood.’ It was really a full-on experience, life experience,” said Atkins.
“Those things and what we experienced on that movie. He’s right. Never again will a movie be made like that. Ever…. It wouldn’t be allowed,” Shields agreed.
Disease, Rodents, Insects, and… Babies Being Held Underwater?
Not only were Shields and Atkins referring to the nude scenes, which wouldn’t be allowed again on a Hollywood set. While Atkins was a legal adult, Shields was not. But it turns out that the film was actually shot on an island. And the two actors had to fend off vermin, insects, and sharp coral reefs that would cut their feet and give them infections.
“Animals were hurt in the movie. They were spearing fish and all kinds of crazy things. Children were naked, running down a beach. I mean, they just couldn’t do that now,” said Atkins.
“I’m taking an infant and submerging the baby under water,” Shields chimed in.
Wait, what? They didn’t elaborate on that last point because they started chuckling.
“There were long hours. And there was a lot of physical stuff in that movie,” Atkins continued.
Then Shields and Atkins listed off the following:
- Climbing up coconut trees while nearly naked and getting chafed
- Running around bare foot on coral reef and getting cuts
- Bug bites
- Wild crabs
- Wild horses
- Rat infestations
“My hair was taped down to my body to cover the boobs, which were very minimal anyway… Remember the bumpy pads? They would stick these little sticky, flesh-colored things on my nipple, because nipple was evidently where they drew the line,” Shields said.
Then she added that, if anyone had a cut on their body, bits of coral floating in the water would enter into the cuts. It would give cast and crew infections and ulcerate the lesions, which were slow to heal.
It certainly sounds like a survival-based reality TV show more than a Hollywood film set.
Brooke Shields Had a Body Double for the Sex Scenes
The actors then reminisced about the sex scenes, which Brooke Shields didn’t partake in. She actually had a body double do that while Atkins played himself.
They also admitted that there was real chemistry between them on set.
“They wanted so desperately for us to fall in love with each other,” said Shields of the production crew. She added that she’d never kissed anyone at that time in her life. Her character, Emmeline, of course had to kiss Atkins’ character, Richard.
“Which was probably great for the film because that’s what it was all about,” said Atkins. “You have to admit the chemistry between us was just amazing.”
Atkins also admitted that being raised in a conservative place, nudity was initially uncomfortable for him. But after filming Blue Lagoon, he said, “It was hard to keep my clothes on.”
“There were scenes where I was butt naked with you, if you remember, sliding down that slide and things like that,” said the actor. “And that was a little awkward, but it was kind of funny for me because at this point in time I would just do it.”
Shields and Atkins also mentioned that they were asked to sunbathe nude so that they didn’t have any tan lines. They actually were next to each other in a partitioned area outside while doing this. Atkins said it was especially weird because she was underage, although they weren’t looking at each other.
How Was Shields Allowed to Be Naked in The Blue Lagoon Without Breaking the Law?
At the time The Blue Lagoon was filmed in 1980, there was no specific law about underage nudity depictions in Hollywood. Brooke Shields was indeed nude, and at times, depicted sensual imagery. But the producers didn’t break the law.
It was in 1986 that the United States established a 6-factor Dost test in response to the United States v. Dost case. The guidelines for the Dost test are:
- Whether the focal point of the visual depiction is on the child’s genitalia or pubic area.
- Whether the setting of the visual depiction is sexually suggestive, i.e., in a place or pose generally associated with sexual activity.
- Whether the child is depicted in an unnatural pose, or in inappropriate attire, considering the age of the child.
- Whether the child is fully or partially clothed, or nude.
- Whether the visual depiction suggests sexual coyness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity.
- Whether the visual depiction is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer.
Judging by those standards, The Blue Lagoon wouldn’t be made again in the same way today. Not to mention, most Hollywood stars wouldn’t put up with the coral lesions and rat infestations!
The Blue Lagoon went on to become a cult classic and made $58.8 million at the box office. With a $4.5 million budget (thanks to a very minimal wardrobe among other things!), those profits aren’t that bad. And by today’s standards, $58.8 million is closer to $212.4 million. Not bad.