Brooke Shields Reminisces On The Nudity, Pneumonia, And Rat Infestation That Came With Shooting Blue Lagoon

Brooke Shields has had a long and wildly successful career as a model and TV/film actress and continues to be part of the fabric of pop culture. One of her most iconic movies came from early in her career, as Emmeline in Randal Kleiser’s The Blue Lagoon. The 1980 coming-of-age drama was a massive hit, but it was made under a number of wild conditions. And Shields recently reminisced on the nudity, pneumonia, and rat infestation that came with shooting it.

The Blue Lagoon takes place in the Victorian period and follows two young people (Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins) who become shipwrecked on a remote island. They eventually go through puberty and fall in love, all while wearing next to nothing. On a recent episode of her podcast Now What? With Brook Shields, she and her co-star reunited and swapped war stories about their wild experience on the movie’s set. Atkins shared a recent conversation he had about how the movie wouldn't be made now, with Shields responding with:

Those things and what we experienced on that movie, he’s right. Never again will a movie be made like that, ever. I mean, they wouldn’t be allowed

So exactly what was going on during Blue Lagoon’s photography? To start, the two young actors were nearly naked throughout filming, including Brooke Shields who was just 14 years old at the time. That alone is enough to give one pause, but she and Atkins had plenty of noteworthy stories from their time working together decades ago.

While appearing together on Now What?, Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins were able to do a deep dive into their experience on Blue Lagoon, and how much the movie continues to mean to generations of fans. He referenced the animals that were hurt during production, thanks to scenes like the one where he had to spearfish. That’s when Shields started rolling out the reasons why filming where they did was so challenging and even dangerous. As she put it,

I’m taking an infant, submerging it in water…The bugs were crazy, the wild crabs were crazy, the wild horses were nuts. And then the infestation of rats, that’s another one. And what people don’t know is Blue Lagoon was on an island that was on a coral reef. So if you had any type of a cut of any kind, which was all we had since we were barefoot and wearing little strips of clothing where my hair was taped down to my body to cover the boobs… If any kind of cut you had and you went into the water, bits of coral would get into the cut. And it would become completely infected and ulcerated.

Ouch. Clearly, the elements were no joke while filming The Blue Lagoon. This makes the fact that Brooke Shields managed to ensure it and film the project at such a young age all the more impressive. But things certainly sounded dangerous for the cast and crew as they shot the movie in Fiji.

As if rats, bugs, and infected cuts weren’t enough, Brooke Shields disclosed she actually got pneumonia during Blue Lagoon’s principal photography. It actually happened as they were filming the birthing scene, with the cast and crew seemingly impressed by her “performance” when struggling to breathe. She explained:

Remember I got pneumonia in the birthing scene. When I’m supposed to be having the baby I start uncontrollably and can't breathe and I have a coughing fit. Everyone was like ‘What a great acting choice!’ I’m like ‘I cannot breathe.’

While Blue Lagoon might have earned Brooke Shields an infamous Razzie award, you can’t deny that she really went through it to bring her character to life. And the things she was asked to do at 14 years old probably wouldn’t be asked by another child actor nowadays. Luckily she seems to have a good perspective and sense of humor about bringing that iconic movie to life.

The Blue Lagoon is available to rent from a variety of streaming sources. Brooke Shields has two upcoming movie projects coming and recently appeared in the Christmas rom-com, Holiday Harmony. Be sure to check out the 2023 movie release dates to plan your trips to the theater in the New Year.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.