Paris Hilton and Drew Barrymore Reflect on Being Placed in Solitary Confinement as Teens
In This Is Paris, a nearly two-hour film helmed by Emmy-winning director Alexandra Dean, Hilton goes into detail about alleged abuse she suffered at boarding school in Utah — and how her trauma has carried over into adulthood. During an appearance on Monday's episode of Barrymore's new talk show, the stars reflected on their shared experience of being placed at institutions for minors with behavioral issues.
"We've known each other throughout our kid life, adult life — I've known you for many years," Barrymore, 45, told Hilton, 39. "I feel like when it comes to an interviewer, maybe they haven't had the same experiences as you. So they're coming at it from more of a journalistic, interested but slightly removed, place. Well, not this time. I've been where you've been. And watching your documentary — I mean, I don't know how many interviews and conversations I'm going to have on this show where I'm watching a mirror image of everything I've been through, as well."
"So I want to talk to you and have you know that I've had the people come and take me away," she continued. "I've been locked up in solitary confinement, I've been in a place for lengthy periods of time — we're talking a year, a year and a half, plus. I haven't seen a kind of story like this really reflected out there very often that's one I recognize so deeply."
In her documentary, Hilton recalls being taken from her bed as if she was being kidnapped one night. She ended up at Provo Canyon School in Utah, where she says she and her peers suffered physical and emotional abuse and were regularly given mystery pills. When she refused to take them, she says she was sent to solitary confinement without clothing, sometimes for 20 hours at a time. (In a statement to PEOPLE last month, and also on its website, the school noted that it changed ownership in August 2000, after Hilton was a student. "We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to that time," the statement reads.)
Speaking to Barrymore, Hilton explained that the emotional revelation of her traumatic past "wasn't supposed to be the original premise of the film."
"I wanted to do a film to show the businesswoman I am, and all I've accomplished, because I feel like there are just so many misconceptions about me," she said. "And then during shooting, I just became so close with the director. We had this sisterly relationship where I felt like I could open up about anything with her. And she told me, 'This is so important, that you tell your story, because you're going to help other survivors and people will want to come forward with theirs.' It was very difficult for me, because it wasn't something I ever wanted to talk about in public."
"I was embarrassed for people to know," she admitted. "I now know that I shouldn't be ashamed, the people who work at these places who are abusing children are the ones who should be ashamed."
That said, Hilton and Barrymore's experiences were very different. Barrymore, who fell into alcoholism and addiction as a child actress, said the institution she ended up at ultimately saved her life.
"I have to tell you, the people at my place were really good," she said. "I mean, I didn't like being thrown in solitary confinement. I will say that I was very rebellious. I started riots there all the time. There was a lot of other kids like me, and my mom just didn't know what to do with me. I was doing drugs. I was out of control. She just threw her hands up and threw me in there, not knowing where else to turn to. And that place really did help me and it did save my life, and I actually wouldn't change a thing."
Hilton, on the other hand, ended up with "trust issues [and] PTSD."
"I didn't deserve to go there," she said. "My mom and dad were just very strict and sheltered when I lived in L.A. I wasn't allowed to go on dates, couldn't wear makeup, couldn't go to a school dance. They just didn't want me to grow up. Then I moved to New York and that's when my life changed and I just was sneaking out at night and going to clubs and ditching school, but not doing anything terrible — just wanting to go out at night, and that really scared my parents, because they were so protective."
Before the making of the film, Hilton had never told her parents Kathy and Rick Hilton about what happened to her. While Rick is not featured in the documentary, it captures moments of revelation for Kathy, and Hilton says the film actually strengthened their relationship.
"I have a host of issues with my mom, many of which I let go [of] somewhere around 40," Barrymore said. "What is the status of your relationship with Kathy right now?"
"We're closer than ever," Hilton said. "It's something that we just never talked about it so it was very hard for her to hear, but I think just talking about it just brought us even closer than we were."
The Drew Barrymore Show airs weekdays on CBS. Check your local listings.