Paris Hilton has been a public figure for the better part of two decades, but the former reality star and tabloid staple says she’s ready to finally introduce the world to her real self in the YouTube documentary “This Is Paris.”
Hilton is the subject of the upcoming doc, which will grapple with the public perception of her as a world-famous heiress and socialite — a perception she once willingly helped perpetuate — and “uncover the hidden past of the international icon.”
“This is completely different than anything I’ve ever done. This is a real film,” Hilton said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday, promising that “This Is Paris” won’t resemble her short-lived reality series “The World According to Paris” or the ostensible “reality” show that made her a household name, “The Simple Life.”
“Everything I’ve ever done before was more me playing that character again,” Hilton said. “But with this, I really just wanted to pull the curtain back and show my real life — talk about things that are very hard to talk about and things that I’ve experienced in life but never discussed before.”
“I had grown up in the U.K. looking at Paris on the cover of every magazine I walked past,” director Alexandra Dean said. “I thought she was that original influencer that maybe had brought this whole influencer world upon us, which I think all of us have mixed feelings about.”
Dean’s previous project was “Bombshell,” a documentary about Austrian actress of the 1930s and ’40s Hedy Lamarr, who also invented the radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes used in World War II. Dean described that project as an attempt to examine “the mind of a woman who had always been known for her face.” She sees “This Is Paris” as a continuation of that mission.
“I wanted to do a film that answered this question that everybody was asking me after ‘Bombshell.’ Could it happen in America today?” she said. “The answer is absolutely, unequivocally yes. And I’m sitting next to her.”
On “The Simple Life,” which first debuted in 2003 when Hilton was 21, she was portrayed as a know-nothing rich girl, too sheltered by privilege to function in the real world. The way she was pitched the show was “Green Acres” meets “Clueless,” Hilton said.
“I was having fun with it. I was in on the joke,” she said.
“I was reading old press articles about Paris, and one of the interesting insights in all the press and all the discussions that we’ve been having about the Hilton family the last 20-some years is that we’ve been having this conversation with each other,” said producer Aaron Saidman. “We haven’t really heard the authentic inner truth from Paris herself. If we heard anything, it was that persona.”
“When scandal broke, it was more about circling the wagons and don’t dignify it with a response,” he continued. “As a result, we’ve all been talking about it and writing about it and clamoring for gossip about it. But we never really heard from Paris and her family.”
“The film, in a way, is a response to that early persona and the character that she was portraying,” Saidman said. “It’s an attempt to deconstruct that and learn who she is as a woman and what she’s been through. That complex nature of a human being that we often don’t stop to examine because they’re a celebrity or an icon.”