CNN

How the director of ‘This Is Paris’ reintroduced Paris Hilton to the world

Oct 9, 2020, 8:32 AM
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: Paris Hilton attends the 2019 WWD Beauty Inc Awards at The Rainbo...
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: Paris Hilton attends the 2019 WWD Beauty Inc Awards at The Rainbow Room on December 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

    (CNN) — The director of the Paris Hilton documentary, “This Is Paris,” says that before making the eye-opening film about the heiress and entrepreneur, she, like most people, had misunderstood Hilton for decades.

In an interview with CNN to promote the project, Alexandra Dean, who worked with Hilton for a year to make the film, went in expecting to make a documentary about Hilton’s public persona built on her brand and ended up with a heartbreaking and touching story about trauma, family and authenticity.

In the film, Hilton says she experienced physical and emotional abuse at the Provo Canyon School, a Utah boarding school for troubled teens, where she spent 11 months as a teen.

Hilton, now 39, says in the documentary that she still suffers from PTSD from her time at the institution.

CNN has reached out to administrators at the Provo Canyon School for comment.

“We are aware of a new documentary referencing Provo Canyon School (PCS). Please note that PCS was sold by its previous ownership in August 2000. We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to that time,” reads a statement on the school’s website. “We are committed to providing high-quality care to youth with special, and often complex, emotional, behavioral and psychiatric needs.”

So, how did Dean uncover what Hilton had never even told her own family?

Dean told CNN she was first contacted by IPC, the production company tied to the film, after someone there saw her last documentary, “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” about the glamorous Hollywood star who was misunderstood.

“They saw all these parallels between ‘Bombshell’ and Paris,” Dean says, adding that her first thought was “interesting.”

“I thought Paris is definitely unseen and misunderstood. I mean, I didn’t see her or understand her for decades. I definitely wrote her off,” Dean said.

All that changed when she began to spend time with Hilton at her home and traveled with her around the world.

“She has a billion dollar empire. She runs it and whether you like it or not, whether you like her or not, you have to respect that,” Dean said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. She does it almost solo. I saw that up close.”

While filming the socialite, something else was also coming to light.

Early in the project, Dean showed up at Hilton’s house to shoot interviews, accompanied by a crew that was costing $15,000 for the day. Hilton, she said, wouldn’t come to the door because she was asleep in her bedroom. Initially Dean was annoyed, but said that day is when she discovered there was another story unfolding.

“At that time, I didn’t realize what a big problem insomnia was for her, and I ended up sending the crew off to do something else and waiting in her living room,” she recalled.

Dean said she eventually went into Hilton’s bedroom and sat there with her for a while.

“I was like, look, I understand this is a huge thing. I’m going to give you time to sleep. But when I come back, I want to talk about this. This is obviously a huge part of your life,” Dean said.

Hilton began to open up about why she couldn’t sleep and revealed her experiences of abuse, Dean said.

The director reconnected Hilton to a few former classmates from Provo, who say they also suffer PTSD from their time at the school.

“We did a lot of talking to prep and because my sister had been through an institution and I had witnessed it up close, I was able to talk to them about my own process, her process,” Dean said. “We really did prep a lot because we didn’t want to trigger anyone or send them down the spiral. I wanted this to be something for everybody that was a positive outcome.”

Connecting with the former students has had a massive impact on Hilton, according to Dean. She’s leading a campaign called Breaking Code Silence, which aims to raise awareness about some of the problematic rehab centers for troubled youth.

“She’s very excited about it,” Dean said. “She’s very energized and focused and I think it’s like a new sense of purpose.

“There’s a very real sense [in the doc] that it is in doing something for the others that suffer from the same trauma that you can start to actually become free of what you experienced,” Dean added.

“This Is Paris,” a YouTube Originals documentary, is currently available for free (with ads) on Hilton’s YouTube channel.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

CNN

President Joe Biden is pictured speaking at a podium...
Steve Contorno, CNN

Biden to tour Ian damage in Florida with DeSantis feud on hold for now

Dave and Dujanovic are joined by ABC News Correspondent in Washington to talk about President Biden and First Lady vistiting Florida after the hurricane. Listen Live at 9:30 a.m.   Originally Published: 05 OCT 22 05:00 ET Updated: 05 OCT 22 09:57 ET (CNN) — President Joe Biden will visit Florida on Wednesday to see first-hand […]
1 day ago
A surface-to-surface missile is fired into the sea off the east coast in this handout picture provi...
Yoonjung Seo, Caitlin Hu, Eric Cheung and Brad Lendon, CNN

US and South Korea test-fire missiles in continued response after North Korea launch

In response to a recent test missile launch by North Korea, the US and South Korea launched four missiles off the Korean Peninsula Wednesday morning.
1 day ago
Three Fresh Carnitas Tacos on a plate wth lime and radish...
Casey Barber, CNN

Make every day National Taco Day with these tasty recipes

October 4 is National Taco Day, but any day in October (or any month, really) is a worthwhile opportunity to dive into the diverse world of tacos.
2 days ago
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) with Ukrainian separatist regional leaders Vladimir Saldo (L),...
Olga Voitovych and Joshua Berlinger, CNN

Russian Parliament begins process to rubber-stamp annexations as Moscow struggles to define borders

Despite there being no set boundaries, Russia's parliament began the process of approving Vladmir Putin's decision to annex part of Ukraine.
2 days ago
FILE - This photo provided by the North Korean government shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un del...
Yoonjung Seo, Emiko Jozuka, Junko Ogura, Brad Lendon and Simone McCarthy, CNN

Japan issues rare alert as North Korea fires missile without warning over main island

The US Indo-Pacific Command also released a statement saying American commitments to the defense of Japan and South Korea "remain ironclad."
2 days ago
FORT MYERS BEACH, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 02:   In this aerial view,  destruction left in the wake of Hur...
Nouran Salahieh, CNN

Florida faces an ’emotional roller coaster’ as search for Hurricane Ian survivors continues

Many of the Ian-related deaths -- 42 -- have been reported in southwestern Florida's Lee County, which includes Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
How the director of ‘This Is Paris’ reintroduced Paris Hilton to the world