Not an easy process. Alexandra Dean, the director of the upcoming documentary This Is Paris, didn’t know much about the real Paris Hilton before taking on the project. However, from their first meeting, she knew the film could be a powerful one.
“I knew she’d been to these schools. I didn’t know any more than that, and I didn’t know how it had affected her. I’d just done my homework,” the filmmaker told Us Weekly exclusively about meeting Hilton, 39, for the first time and deciding to tell the story of her experiences at Provo Canyon School, among others. “I have a sister who reminds me a lot of Paris. She herself went through a really traumatic period in our childhood, and I saw it happen. So, something about Paris was very familiar to me and I expected, immediately when I met her, that there was something there that was similar to what had happened to my sister.”
In order to get to that story, Dean had to convince the heiress to be completely open — and had to get her sister, Nicky Hilton, and mother, Kathy Hilton, on board.
“Nicky definitely interrogated me in an early phone call,” the director said of Paris’ 36-year-old sister. “Once she was satisfied that I wanted to do something serious, and tell the whole story, she was on board with that and she felt like she’d never heard somebody say that before. For Kathy, I think it was a much more difficult decision. I have to give her a lot of credit because she was extremely brave to do this. Any mother who went through that kind of trauma with their kid is brave to revisit it. It definitely took a while talking to her before she would do it.”
With the family on board, there was nothing left to do but roll the cameras. The former Simple Life star didn’t have editing approval, so when she asked for something to be cut, Dean had to say no — with one exception.
“I needed Paris to agree to trusting me, and she did. I thought a lot about what a leap of faith that was. I took her trust in me really seriously,” the Emmy winner told Us, noting that she was happy to remove a two-second piece of archival footage — which didn’t add much to the film — because it had pertained to a past lawsuit. “Now that’s a really good reason to cut something. I don’t want to put something up that’s been in a lawsuit that I didn’t know about.”
“She did not ask me to change another second of footage,” Dean continued, adding that Hilton did say that maybe they should cut a scene in which she fights with her then-boyfriend, athlete Aleks Novakovic, and then ends things with him. “I told her, ‘Ultimately, I think you’re gonna want to include that because that’s who you are. That’s you laying down the law and deciding where your boundaries are. People should see that.’ Eventually, she agreed. Can you imagine letting somebody follow you the way that she let me follow her? I can’t imagine doing it. I tip my hat to her.”
Dean is hopeful that the documentary, which includes the best-selling author alleging abuse at multiple schools throughout her childhood, will have quite an impact on its viewers.
“There are two things that I want people to take from the film. I’d like them to reflect a little on how quickly we judge women like Paris Hilton — who are clearly playing a character in the public eye. We like to, kind of, tear them down. We like to judge them so quickly and think we’re superior for knowing who they are. We don’t know who they are,” the producer said. “The other thing that I want to happen — and this is bigger than the first is — I really would like these schools that are abusing children to stop. My hope is that this helps do that.”
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This Is Paris debuts on YouTube on Monday, September 14.
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