Sally Field‘s new memoir shows why the #MeToo Movement is beyond overdue. It details alleged sexual abuse the Oscar-winning actress endured as a child from her stepfather. It claims she experienced sexual misconduct by a partner and a director. As for her relationship with the late Burt Reynolds, she paints him as controlling and says the relationship was “hurtful” to her.
The actress, 71, spoke to the New York Times ahead of the release of In Pieces — and just days after the death of her famous ex, who she said posthumously would always be in her heart. While their relationship was often seen as a blissful one — in 2015, Reynolds called Field “the love of my life” — she told the newspaper it was actually “confusing and complicated, and not without loving and caring, but really complicated and hurtful to me.”
Field said that Reynolds, who died of a heart attack on Sept. 6, was controlling when they were together. She also detailed his drug usage, claiming that while they were making Smokey and the Bandit together, he used Percodan, Valium, and barbiturates. Additionally, he received what the paper described as “mysterious injections to his chest.” Once, Field said, she sneakily set up an appointment for him at the Miami Heart Institute, for which he got a good report back from doctors, but when she pressed further to get him treatment for stress and anxiety, he dismissed her claims, calling it “self-delusional poppycock.” (Reynolds’s wife Loni Anderson also detailed Reynolds’s drug use in her memoir, and said it led to him physically abusing her all over her body, except for her face.)
Field said that, in hindsight, her romance with Reynolds was an attempt on her part to recreate a version of her relationship with her stepfather, Jock Mahoney, a stuntman and actor, who she claimed in the book sexually abused her until she was 14. “I was somehow exorcising something that needed to be exorcised,” she told the NYT. “I was trying to make it work this time.”
Field also expressed relief to the newspaper that Reynolds will never read her memoir or know what she wrote about him. “This would hurt him,” she admitted. “I felt glad that he wasn’t going to read it, he wasn’t going to be asked about it, and he wasn’t going to have to defend himself or lash out, which he probably would have. I did not want to hurt him any further.”
The star said that she got really candid in her book and questioned herself until the last minute whether she should “just pull this back” and “change my mind.” “But I didn’t,” she said, sharing her stories, including the one about Mahoney, a relationship she described as complicated.
“It would have been so much easier if I’d only felt one thing, if Jocko had been nothing but cruel and frightening. But he wasn’t. He could be magical, the Pied Piper, with our family as his entranced followers,” Field wrote in the book. She also talked about being summoned to his bedroom alone, writing, “I knew” what was going to happen. And “I felt both a child, helpless, and not a child. Powerful. This was power. And I owned it. But I wanted to be a child — and yet.” Her mother divorced Mahoney in 1968, and he died in 1989.
Field also wrote about an encounter in 1968 with singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb. She said that, after they smoked a joint filled with hash, she woke up to find him “on top of me, grinding away to another melody.” She told the NYT she did not think Webb had acted with “malicious intent — I felt he was stoned out of his mind.” Webb responded to the paper by saying, in part, “We dated and did what 22-year-olds did in the late ’60s — we hung out, we smoked pot, we had sex… I have great memories of our times together and great respect for Sally — so much respect that I didn’t write about her in my book because I didn’t want to tarnish her Gidget image with our stories of drugs and sex.”
Field, who has three sons by two marriages (both of which ended in divorce), also talked about a #MeToo moment auditioning for her role in the 1976 feature Stay Hungry, when the film’s director, Bob Rafelson, told her he couldn’t “hire anyone who doesn’t kiss good enough.” So she kissed him — and got the job. “I was the sole support for my family, and I didn’t see that I had any direction but down, unless I could get out of this spot that I was in.” For his part, Rafelson told the NYT: “It’s totally untrue. That’s the first I’ve ever heard of this. I didn’t make anybody kiss me in order to get any part.”
Field’s book also talks about a secret abortion she had in Tijuana at age 17.
Despite her very candid revelations, the NYT said Field was reluctant to offer her book as what the paper described as “a paradigm for others who might want to disclose their survival narratives” in this era of #MeToo. “People should tell whatever story they want to tell,” Field told the NYT. “This is just my story and it happened the way it happened.” And while outrage at the abuses others have suffered is warranted, she said, this stage “is the first part of it, it’s not the fix. Outrage has to come first, and it can’t just be quieted and go away.”
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