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Everyone appreciates a good old-fashioned holiday rom-com, but Shields' latest movie offers a twist on the classic trope. Netflix's "A Castle for Christmas" (streaming Friday) follows a fictional bestselling American author, Sophie Brown (Shields), who travels to Scotland to escape cancel culture and her messy divorce. But when she tries to buy a castle for inspiration, the owner (Cary Elwes) is skeptical.
It's a heartwarming enemies-to-lovers story about self-discovery, starting over and finding love – but it's not about a woman needing to be saved by somebody.
"I was just so attracted to how strong this woman was," says Shields, 56. "She's a great mom, has a full career and yet she's asking herself: 'What now?' 'What's going to happen next?' "
Shields took on the role for personal reasons. Like her character, she can identify with having had a long, successful career – thanks to early hits like 1978's "Pretty Baby" and 1981's "Endless Love" and later projects including TV's "Jane the Virgin" and "The Middle" – while craving fulfilling work at this stage in her life. That's why she was ready to tackle a modern rom-com.
"It's such a refreshing perspective, because it's real. I know so many women, even just over 40, who are either divorced or falling in love or deciding to get married for the first time," Shields says.
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"There's this rich community of women in this age bracket, and you don't see us on television. And there's something so refreshing about these two people coming together, having lived full lives and finding themselves in this new phase."
Outside her work, Shields continues to push past the stigma around aging, calling the a social push for acceptance relatively new. Throughout her decades-long career in modeling and acting, beauty has typically been conflated with youth, which the "Blue Lagoon" star called disappointing.
"I handled it by getting frustrated and saying: 'OK. This is ridiculous.' I needed to amass this community and really say it's not about being ageless. There's vitality that comes with this demographic," says Shields, who created her wellness company, Beginning is Now, to empower women of all ages to live their fullest lives.
In her own home, her 15-year-old daughter, Grier, is following in her modeling career footsteps. (Grier recently signed onto IMG Models).
"It's definitely a different environment, but I will keep a close eye on it, and I'm not going to let it get out of hand. I'm not going to let her go to Europe to be in the shows on her own."
She's also adamant that her daughter go to college. "If this becomes some kind of hobby after school and it doesn't interfere with volleyball and academics and it's fun, I'm not going to try to get in her way. But I don't think she has any idea of what it really is like to work as hard as you have to as a model."
Reflecting on her own career, Shields says she wants other women to feel empowered at every stage.
"I feel stronger now and more in my own skin and sexier that it took me years to earn," she says. "Now that I feel very much in this and am embodying this, I'm told, 'It's over.' I just won't accept that. We need to change the narrative."
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Her strength was made evident in February, when she broke her femur in a balance board accident. It was a physically grueling experience, for which she even refused to take prescription painkillers. But the road to recovery reassured her of her resilience.
"It was probably the most difficult thing physically I had to endure," Shields says. "Learning how to walk again and really having to start fresh and being in the hospital for a month by myself was definitely a test to my spirit."
And after months of physical therapy, Shields has a positive health update.
"I can work out again, which is great, and I'm sort of out of the physical therapy phase and in more of the strengthening phase. I even took a SoulCycle class this morning, which is amazing."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'A Castle for Christmas': Brooke Shields talks ageism, leg injury