Britney Spears’ life in the spotlight is front and center in a new documentary from The New York Times.
In Framing Britney Spears, the unauthorized project that premiered on Friday on FX and Hulu, Key people once linked to Britney are featured in the document, addressing everything from her meteoric rise to fame to how her image was painted in the media. They also share their thoughts on the ongoing battle for Britney’s guardianship with her father, Jamie Spears, which sparked the #FreeBritney movement in 2019 and growing concern from fans around the world.
“We started researching for him early last year,” producer / director Samantha Stark tells ET about how the project came to be. “The purpose of this was to look back at the media coverage of Britney, especially around 2007, 2008, through a 2020 lens. Post-‘Me Too’ [movement] when we can talk more about mental health, all these things. And when you look back at the coverage, it’s so shocking, the misogyny. “
“I also thought, there are these photographs, these still frames that people always think of when they think of Britney Spears,” he continues, referring to the infamous photos of the singer shaving her head and having an altercation with a paparazzi in 2007. ” Individual frames have lasted so long and I really wanted to know what was out of frame. There has been so much unfair coverage of Britney and so many assumptions about her. So that was originally what we were looking for … what’s out of this frame? And how much has this framework affected your life? “
The footage from the documentary includes a series of powerful interviews from the 1990s and 2000s, in which Britney appeared to be uncomfortable answering invasive questions about her personal life. “Are you a virgin?” a reporter asked, around the time Britney was dating * NSYNC superstar Justin Timberlake. “Justin has appeared on television and practically said you broke his heart … what did you do?” another asked. We even see flashback footage of a 10-year-old Britney on stage, being asked, “Do you have a boyfriend? Why not?”
“Of all the things you might ask her about. Because what else could we talk about with a woman or a girl,” says Hayley Hill, Britney’s former stylist from 1997-2001, in reaction to those interviews. “There is so much more to her that everyone misses.”
Fans also see the pop star cry during a series of interviews that have taken place over the years. During a 2003 chat that aired on ABC Thursday primetimeDiane Sawyer spoke to Britney about “upsetting a lot of mothers in this country” by the example she was setting for her children.
In another 2006 interview with Matt Lauer for DeadlineBritney had to answer if she believed what the tabloids were saying about her at the time: that she was “a bad mother” to Jayden and Sean, the two children she shares with ex-husband Kevin Federline. She also admitted in that interview that one of her greatest wishes was to get the paparazzi to leave her alone.
“I feel like they’re taking low shots,” Britney responded, regarding both the tabloids and the paparazzi. “That’s America for you.”
Another topic the documentary explores is Britney’s relationship with her father, Jamie, and what led him to seek guardianship of his daughter in 2008. Under a guardianship, a judge appoints a responsible person or organization to act as guardian the ward’s legal status, what decisions about everything from their finances to allowed visits and whether they can marry.
Some of the people close to Britney at the time shared their views on what it’s like to see the singer still under these kinds of legal restrictions years later.
“To be honest, I neither then nor do I understand what a guardianship is now,” says Felicia Culotta, Britney’s former assistant and lifelong family friend. “Especially for someone Britney’s age, and someone capable of so much that I know firsthand that she is capable.”
Britney’s guardianship, under which she has been since she was 26, was recently extended through September 2021. Although she requested in court documents last year to be “immediately suspended,” Jamie currently remains co-curator of her estate. .
“Once the guardianship started, my role changed. My new job, I went behind the scenes,” says Felicia. “When I came back, it was a different business management and his dad was involved. And then they didn’t hire me, the travel company hired me.”
“I took a back seat and just did what they hired me,” he adds. “I really don’t know what happened. I just don’t know if they knew her well enough to realize her decision-making abilities. Just me watching, that’s what I saw.”
While Britney, now 39, has rarely spoken publicly about what it’s like to be a ward, the new documentary includes footage of Britney: for the record, a documentary television movie that aired on MTV in 2008. An emotional clip shows Britney crying as she talks about how she would feel “so liberated” without any legal restrictions.
“If I wasn’t under the restrictions that I’m under now, you know, with all the lawyers and doctors, and people analyzing me every day, and all that kind of stuff. Like, if that wasn’t there, I’d feel so liberated. and I would feel like myself, “she said at the time. “When I tell them what I feel, it is as if they hear me, but they are not really listening. They are hearing what they want to hear. They are not really listening to what I am saying.”
“It’s like … it’s bad,” she added, as tears filled her eyes. “I’m sad.”
Framing Britney Spears The producers also spoke to legal experts for information, such as attorney Adam Streisand, who met with Britney in 2008 after learning that her father was trying to establish a guardianship.
“The first question I had was, does Britney have the ability to hire me? Does she have the ability to take my advice?” remember. “The first thing is that Britney was able to pass the judgment, ‘Hey, I understand what’s going on. I understand that I will not be able to resist this tutelage. ‘ So that’s a pretty solid judgment. “
“The second thing was that he said, ‘I don’t want my father to be the curator.’ That was his only request, “he says.” He wanted a professional, someone independent. Britney did not want her father to be her guardian, the person who makes decisions about her medical care, treatment, and so on. She also didn’t want him to control her finances. “
Adam further alleged that the day he went to court for Britney, the judge said, “I have a medical report and you haven’t seen it, Mr. Streisand, and I’m not going to show it to you. It shows that she is not capable of hiring a lawyer and direct a lawyer for herself. “
“When the judge said to me, ‘Mr. Streisand, I am not going to let me represent you. I am going to appoint someone,’ I felt that that was not the right decision of the judge,” he says. “I felt that based on my interactions with Britney, she was able to hold me back and direct me and that the judge should have allowed that to happen. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know, right? I don’t know yet. I don’t know what there is. in that report. So I had to respect that. “
Meanwhile, Kim Kaiman, the former senior director of marketing for Jive Records from 1998 to 2004, remembered Britney as “so serious and so focused” when they worked together.
“I remember Britney came in and was really impressed,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘This is the style.’ This is a girl who comes from strength, your friend who you idolize a bit, but who at the end of the day has the same kind of hopes and dreams as you. “
“His mother [Lynne Spears] I would do whatever it takes, personally and for the good of the family, to make Britney a star, “he continues.” Lynne supported Britney. I mean Lynne because I never spoke to her father. All Jamie said to me was, ‘My daughter is going to be so rich she’s going to buy me a boat.’ That’s all I’m going to say about Jamie. “
Framing Britney Spears producing director Samantha Stark told ET that The New York Times He tried to contact Britney directly, but did not interview her for the documentary.
“Since Britney has such a tight circle around her, partly due to guardianship, or allowed to be so due to guardianship, journalists have not really been able to freely interview her,” he says. “We as The New York Times, I have not interviewed her because we want to be able to do it freely, without anyone trying to adjust what she says or anything. And you can’t seem to ask Britney. “
the NYT He also contacted the following individuals or their representatives, who did not respond or decline requests to be interviewed on camera for the documentary: Jamie Spears, Lynne Spears, Jamie Lynn Spears, Bryan Spears, Andrew Wallet, Samuel D. Ingham III, and Sam Lutfi .
“We had a lot of people who didn’t respond. When you’re in a legal process you don’t talk to the media, that’s standard,” says Samantha. “We tried [reaching out to] everyone in multiple ways. “
As Britney’s legal battle for her guardianship continues, her friend, Felicia, is hopeful that the singer will one day share her side of events, freely and when the time is right.
“The only reason I agreed to do the interview is to remind people why they fell in love with her in the first place,” Felicia says in the document. “I know at some point he will tell his story, I know he will.”
“I am very grateful for when that moment comes,” she adds. “That he’s able to sit up and, you know, everything will fit.”