Blue Lagoon came out in 1980 and is certainly a product of its time. The plot of the film and many of the scenes in it are things filmmakers would likely steer clear of these days.
However, as controversial as the final product was, the filming of it may have been equally so. Brooke Shields sat down with her co-star Christopher Atkins on an episode of her podcast, Now What? to discuss their experience during filming.
Everyone Tried To Force A Romance
Shields was only 14 years old when they began filming The Blue Lagoon (1980). Her co-star, Atkins, was 18 at the time. Members of the production crew were trying to force a romantic relationship between the two, despite the critical age gap. At that point, Shields had never even really kissed anyone yet. For her, it wasn’t a good feeling. She said, “It also struck me, too, because I remember thinking, ‘Hey, let’s just get to know each other first rather than trying to make us fall in love with each other and force the situation.'”
Atkins surprised Shields by revealing that her mother, Teri, was also desperate to have the two fall in love. He explained that Teri had invited him to live with them a few days before filming so they could get to know one another. “She basically wanted you out of horses and into boys,” he told Shields. “For the movie’s sake, she wanted us to be closer together and be near each other and be able to have that, whether it’s the brother and sister or whether it’s the love story.”
Shields acknowledged it was a “crazy position” to have put Atkins in. “And I didn’t react well to being forced into feeling anything,” she said. “I wanted to sort of be left a little bit to my own.” Regardless of the age gap, Atkins said, “You have to admit the chemistry between us was just amazing.”
They Had To Get Rid Of Their Tan Lines
The filming crew made the importance of their skin tone evidently clear. As soon as the two arrived at the set, they were told to strip down and start basking to remove any tan lines. “We were never eased into it,” Brooke mentioned. “We got there, and they instantly wanted us to be tanned. Remember, they set up those little thatched areas so that we could get tanned without tan lines.”
The areas Shields was referring to were little huts provided by the production company that had shallow walls and no ceiling so that each actor could have a bit of privacy while also laying naked to get an all-over tan. As they recently recalled their experience, that big age gap was not lost on them. “You were right next to me,” Atkins said. “And that was even stranger because you were only 14 at the time.”
They Were Almost Always Nude
Given the plot of the film, the two were almost always nude on set. With Shields at such a young age, she was given a body double to act in sex scenes between the two characters. Beyond that, Shield and Atkins were basically naked throughout the entire process of filming. “‘Blue Lagoon’ was on an island that was on a coral reef…,” Shields explained. “We were barefoot… wearing little strips of clothing… my hair was taped down to my body to cover the boobs, which were very minimal anyway.”
The efforts of the production company to keep Shields’ private areas covered were minimal at best. “Remember the bumpy pads?,” she asked Atkins. “They would stick these little flesh-colored things on my nipples because nipple evidently was where they drew the line in this movie.” Jokingly, she added, “I don’t know what I was trying to cover.”
Atkins’ experience was different than his co-star’s for two reasons – he was a boy, and he was much older than her. For Atkins, being naked wasn’t such a jarring concept. “There were scenes where I was butt naked with you, if you remember, sliding down that slide and things like that,” he recalled.
“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. But your reaction was, ‘Ugh, oh god.'”
Injuries And Illnesses Were Rampant During Filming
Despite being in hot weather, illness was common during filming on the island. Especially with the two characters being nude all the time, it was inevitable that they became sick. Shields may have gotten the worst of it though, coming down with pneumonia during filming. However, even while sick, Shields still worked, and notably filmed the birthing scene while ill.
Along with illness, injuries were frequent as well. Shields explained, “Any kind of cut you had and you went in the water, bits of the coral would get into the cut and it’d become completely infected and ulcerated. Ray [Brown] had a green hole in the back of his calf for like three months.” She likened the experience to being out in the Wild West, just on the water.
Both actors agree that a film like this would never be made ever again. “Animals were hurt in the movie. We were spearing fish and all kinds of crazy things. Children are naked running down a beach,” Atkins explained. “Never again will a movie be made like that, ever,” Shields affirmed.