In May of 1990, two adult sisters sued their father in the Denver courts, claiming extensive childhood abuse. The case fractured the family — pitting the women in the family against the men–and the entire drama struck sparks in the national media when it became known that the father was not only a former FBI agent, but also a recognized authority on child abuse. In the end, the court decided in favor of the sisters, Sharon Simone and Susan hammond, and Colorado’s Representative Patricia Schroeder introduced legislation into Congress that would establish procedures allowing adult victims of child abuse to claim restitution years afterward.
Marlo Thomas heads a remarkable cast when she plays Sharon Simone in ULTIMATE BETRAYAL, a motion picture for television which aired Sunday, March 20, 1994 on CBS-TV 9:00-11:00 p.m. (ET). Susan Rodgers is played by Mel harris, and Ally Sheedy and Kathryn Dowling portray the other two Rodgers sisters. Eileen Heckart and henry Czerny also star.
Sharon (Rodgers) Simone suffered the effects of child abuse for years. The memories, which slowly surfaced in her adult life, drove a wedge between her and her husband and imperiled her relationship with her children. It was this aspect of Simone’s character — her search to discover the truth — that attracted Marlo Thomas to the project.
“I’ve never been drawn to abuse stories,”; she says. But this is almost a mystery. Three of the four daughters of this man always knew what happened to them, but the fourth, Sharon, was in denial. She had the memories but she couldn’t put them together into a coherent picture. She didn’t see how those memories were connected o her present life, and she wouldn’t be able to recover until she did.
“Thomas was also fascinated by the sisters’ strength.”;They refused to be victims. They sought help, and when they went to their father, they went for acknowledgment, for healing, not for revenge. Sharon’s fantasy was that after the confrontations were over, she and her father would use what they’d learned to help others. They’d work together in a good cause.
“But, he refused to acknowledge anything. And that forced them to seek acknowledgment in a court of law. They took their secret shame and made it public. When the jury said, ‘yes, this happened,’ it acknowledged all they had gone through, and I think it freed them of the secret shame they had carried all their lives.”
In preparing for the role, Ms. Thomas spent hours with the real Sharon Simone. “What surprised me most about her, I think, was her courage. She had taken her most hidden fears and shames public because she believed it was the right thin to do. if there’s one thing I hope people get from the film, it’s that shame loses its power when it’s brought into the light.”
Everybody is ashamed of something. They weren’t loved, perhaps, so they don’t feel lovable. Something happened to them in their childhood that they feel responsible for. Mel Harris’ character, Susan, says in the film, ‘I realize now I didn’t do this. This was done to me.’ Children think everything is their fault. As adults, they have to realize that they’re not responsible for things that were done to them.
ULTIMATE BETRAYAL is produced by Polongo Productions in association with Hearst Entertainment Productions. The screenplay is by Gregory Goodell. Donald Wrye is director and executive producer.
# # #
Stone/Hallinan Associates, Inc.
Los Angeles: 213-655-8970
New York: 212-489-5590