Actress says Framing Britney Spears made her realize the media had an inappropriate fixation on her body when Heartbreakers was released 20 years ago.

By Joey Nolfi
March 30, 2021 at 09:45 AM EDT

Jennifer Love Hewitt says Britney Spears helped her come to terms with the media's obsession with sexualizing her body at the height of her own career.

Jennifer Love Hewitt; Britney Spears
Jennifer Love Hewitt, left, says 'Framing Britney Spears' made her realize the media had an inappropriate fixation on her body.
| Credit: JB Lacroix/Getty Images; Image Group LA/Disney Channel via Getty Images

In a conversation with Vulture celebrating the 20-year anniversary of Heartbreakers, the cult comedy that also stars Sigourney Weaver, Hewitt responded to a question about the way the press fixated on sexualizing her body during the project's promotional cycle. In doing so, she revealed that the way Hulu's recent Framing Britney Spears documentary re-evaluated coverage of Spears' mental breakdown through a contemporary lens allowed her to see her own public image in a different light as well.

"At the time that I was going through it, and interviewers were asking what now would be incredibly inappropriate, gross things, it didn't feel that way. I mean, I was in barely any clothing the whole movie. For some reason, in my brain, I was able to just go, 'Okay, well, I guess they wouldn't be asking if it was inappropriate,'" Hewitt, who was 22 at the time of Heartbreakers' release, told the publication. "But now, as a 42-year-old woman with a daughter, I definitely look back on it and go, 'Ew.'"

Hewitt felt the tone shift after she wore a low-cut top throughout the 1997 slasher I Know What You Did Last Summer. She says she had to endure countless questions about her breasts in press junkets for the film and its 1998 sequel — one of which she attended in a t-shirt that read "Silicone Free" as a reference to her annoyance.

"With Heartbreakers, that was a big part of it. I was disappointed that it was all about body stuff, because I had really worked hard in that movie to do a good job as an actress. So I remember one specific moment wishing that the acting had overshadowed all that — that for five minutes, they had said I was really great in the movie versus made a body comment," she remembered. "Now that I'm older, I think, 'Gosh, I wish that I had known how inappropriate that was so I could have defended myself somehow or just not answered those questions.' I laughed it off a lot of the time, and I wish maybe I hadn't."

Upon its release in February, Framing Britney Spears — inspired by the #FreeBritney movement protesting the pop star's ongoing conservatorship under her father, Jamie Spears, who controls her estate — reignited a global conversation on the way the media treated female celebrities throughout the '90s and early '00s.

In the wake of The New York Times Presents' documentary, stars like Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson have also spoken up about the grueling scrutiny they faced from the media, with the former particularly referencing sexist treatment from both Sarah Silverman (who later apologized) and David Letterman.

Amid the resurgence of the #FreeBritney movement, Spears has also attempted to remove her father as her conservator. In a recent legal filing obtained by People, the 39-year-old "requested the resignation" of her father as her permanent conservator in the hopes that her current, temporary conservator Jodi Montgomery — who took over when Jamie stepped down in September 2019 due to "personal health reasons" — may take over.

Hear more on all of today's must-see picks, plus Lifetime's Women Making History special with Vice President Kamala Harris, in EW's What to Watch podcast, hosted by Gerrad Hall.

Related content: