Update: Larry Birkhead spoke to Yahoo about the new Anna Nicole Smith documentary, which he declined to participate in, telling us: "It's not exactly high-end journalism." Read the story here.
Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me dropped Tuesday on Netflix. Birkhead, who's raising the daughter he shared with Anna Nicole solo since her 2007 death, declined to participate in the film and called it a "cesspool" in a stinging statement.
"We declined to participate as I did not want my daughter in a overwhelmingly poorly reviewed cesspool of a project about her Mother, where some people were allowed to invent things and rewrite history," Birkhead told Entertainment Tonight on behalf of himself and 16-year-old Dannielynn. "I am looking forward to a true definitive Anna Nicole project where her truth can be heard from her own perspective and by those that truly knew her the best and not just another 'wash, rinse and repeat' Anna Nicole project. Anna truly deserved better and that day will come." (Birkhead did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment's request for comment.)
Ursula Macfarlane, who directed the project described by Netflix as a "humanizing examination of the life, death and secrets of Vickie Lynn Hogan — better known as model and actress Anna Nicole Smith," previously told Yahoo Entertainment that she reached out to Birkhead to participate in the project as an "important" person in Anna Nicole's life. However, while they "had many conversations" which were "very amicable ... in the end, we couldn't agree to the conditions that he had.”
Macfarlane says a similar thing in the press notes for the documentary. Netflix says there's no new comment following Birkhead's statement.
Birkhead has earned a largely favorable reputation over the years for raising Dannielynn mostly out of the spotlight, in his native Kentucky, after Anna Nicole's accidental drug overdose at age 39. Prior to that, he publicly fought Anna Nicole for parental rights when she claimed he wasn't the father and moved to the Bahamas with her attorney Howard K. Stern amid the circus that was the model's final years. However, Birkhead was cast in a negative light by her friends — and others — who participated in the doc.
Kevin Smith, a tabloid journalist, claimed in the doc that Birkhead, a freelance celebrity photographer when he met Anna Nicole at a Kentucky Derby gala in May 2003, "knew already the power of the celebrity pictures, so as soon as he met Anna Nicole Smith the lightbulb went off above his head" and he realized being with her "could be quite lucrative."
Former Survivor contestant Mitchell Olson, who was friends with the Playboy cover model, said he met Birkhead soon after. To him, the relationship seemed transactional, like the shutterbug would father the Trimspa spokeswoman's baby and would move on. He claimed he visited Anna Nicole's home when they were trying to conceive and Birkhead "wasn't staying in her room. He kinda had his own room."
Olson claimed he was privy to the details of the person Anna Nicole was looking for in a baby daddy and it included someone who would not get visitation rights, be paid money or be able to legally claim the child as his. He said, "There were some pretty perimeters around her having a child with somebody, so I figured he was on that same page."
Not long after, Anna Nicole made her infamous pregnancy announcement. It's unclear when, but behind the scenes, Anna Nicole started telling people Stern was the dad.
Bonnie Gayle, the sister of Stern, is in the film and claimed Anna Nicole sent her an email saying, "Guess what?! You're going to be an aunt." Gayle said her parents were also told the news, and were shocked, though, again, it's unclear when exactly this was.
Olson says Anna Nicole told Stern, "'You can be the father. We'll do this together!,'" adding that it "made perfect sense" she would raise the child with her lawyer/friend," calling it "the ultimate storyline" for tabloid-obsessed Anna Nicole.
However, it was clear Birkhead wasn't going to let it happen. Olson recalled Anna Nicole sending him an AOL instant message, writing, "F***. F***. F****. The guy is trying to get custody. He's very mean. He has always wanted a name for himself off m. Well, he got it." He added that it was "really clear that Anna Nicole did not want to share custody... She just wanted the child — no strings attached."
Pol' Atteu, Anna Nicole's friend and star of Prime's Gown and Out In Beverly Hills, said, "Anna never wanted anything from Larry. Anna wanted Larry to leave her alone. The truth is: She couldn’t stand him."
Anna Nicole's next move was to jet off to the Bahamas, where it would be difficult for Birkhead to get the baby. She gave birth to a baby girl — to be named Hannah Rose Marshall Stern — on Sept. 7, 2006. However, Anna Nicole's 20-year-old son Daniel died of an accidental overdose while visiting them in the hospital. The baby's name was then changed to Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern.
Birkhead waged a paternity battle. Anna Nicole died of an accidental drug overdose herself in February 2007 as the fight was underway. A DNA test proved Birkhead was the father, he took custody and legally gave her his last name.
It's unclear what the conditions were that prevented Birkhead from appearing in the doc. It could be that he wanted a consulting producer credit, as he received for two ABC News projects on Smith (Tragic Beauty: Anna Nicole Smith in 2021 and Anna Nicole Smith: Tenth Anniversary in 2017) or maybe they failed to come to terms on payment for any of his photos that potentially would been licensed for the film. He also may have wanted a say in who gave commentary in the film.
In the ABC News projects, Birkhead, who has said he dated Anna Nicole from August 2005 to February 2006, talked about their relationship, making it clear it was complicated, but also that he didn't merely sign on as a sperm donor.
“No one ever knew one time that I was her boyfriend,” he said in 2017. “The whole time we dated, if you look at all the video, I’m in the back carrying my camera bag … she didn’t want me in the spotlight." He went on to call his ex "a little bit controlling," comparing their relationship to the 1989 movie The War of the Roses, but said when he once had enough and threatened to leave, "She said, 'If you go and pack, you’re going to be feeling really stupid because'… and she took my hand and she put it on her stomach, and she said, ‘Because we're going to have a baby.'"
However, the turmoil continued during the pregnancy, blowing up when Birkhead expressed concern about all the prescribed painkillers she was taking and whether it impacted the unborn baby. That led the five-month pregnant Anna Nicole to take off to the Bahamas and ice out Birkhead, he said. At Anna Nicole's time of death, she had been prescribed 1,500 pills, including methadone, in one month period.
Birkhead, now a real estate investor, and Dannielynn step out only about once a year to attend the same Kentucky Derby party at which he met Anna Nicole. He's said she has show no interest in modeling, after once posing for Guess Kids in 2013 as a tribute to her mom, and is just focused on homework and friends. She's started to tour colleges. Larry has a storage space filled with Anna Nicole memorabilia that he's kept for his daughter, showing it to her in footage that aired on 20/20.
Birkhead has kept the narrative about the late star positive for his child. Marking the anniversary of Anna Nicole's death last year, he posted on social media, calling his ex "truly one of a kind." He wrote that while she "struggled for love and acceptance" during her life, her "love is alive still to this day, in the form of a truly one of a kind teenager with her Mom's smile, beauty and courage... We love you Anna Nicole."