There are lots of advantages to being an influential public figure, but the paparazzi are definitely not one of them. The biggest stars in entertainment can’t seem to go anywhere without being hounded by photographers who wait outside their houses for hours on end, pursue them when they go shopping and to the gym, and even follow them on holidays.
People who make their living in the public eye rely on the press for publicity, and it’s fair to say celebrities would be much less rich and successful without the help of photogs; after all, the paparazzo is the one who gets a celebrity’s face into the media, probably more often than the celeb’s own publicist. Some say that because of the careers they have chosen, entertainers should be prepared to deal with the constant scrutiny and invasion of privacy that comes with fame. However, there is no doubt that the paparazzi make life extremely stressful for their targets. Many celebrities have been forced to install highly advanced security systems at their homes to protect themselves. Others, such as Harry Styles and Nicole Richie, have had to file restraining orders against photojournalists who, they claimed, were stalking them. Though taking pictures of celebrities is not illegal, several famous people, including Lily Allen and Sienna Miller, have fought (and won) harassment cases against their camera-wielding tormentors. Just last year, a new bill backed by famous mothers Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner was signed into California law, introducing harsher penalties for those who take pictures of children without parental consent.
Competition between photographers is fierce, and the stakes are extremely high. In an interview with Time magazine, paparazzo Mel Bouzad admitted to have been paid $150,000 for a shot of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez in Georgia after their breakup. As a result, certain more cynical members of the press will sometimes say or do anything to get that elusive, bankable photo. They will block celebrities’ cars, stand in their path, insult them or ask intimate questions in order to provoke them. Most of the time, stars manage to ignore them and keep their cool. Sometimes, however – whether because they’re already going through a hard time, or because they’re a little volatile by nature – stars crack under the pressure. We’ve taken a look at 10 famous people and the moments they lost their heads when confronted by paparazzi. When you read some these stories, you might well ask – who could blame them?
10. Tobey Maguire
On a warm summer’s evening in 2008, Tobey Maguire and his wife were surrounded by paparazzi as they attempted to return home after dinner at a Hollywood restaurant. The shutterbugs blocked their exit, standing in front of their car and yelling idiotic comments like “Have they enlisted you in Spider-Man 7 yet?”. After repeatedly honking the horn and trying to drive forward, the pressure got to his Hollywood star. Tobey rolled down his window and screamed “Get the f**k out of the way, I can’t see! There are cars there, mother**kers!” That will teach them not to mess with his Spidey senses…
9. Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart has had several angry encounters with photojournalists in the last few years. In July 2013, the sulky Twilight actress was seen entering her hotel in Paris, loudly comparing the hordes of paparazzi gathered outside to “rats”, “cockroaches”, and “parasites”. During a break in filming her movie ‘X-Ray’ that same month, Kristen was approached by a shutterbug asking obnoxious questions about her relationship with Robert Pattinson, and she totally lost her cool. While hiding behind a fence to wait for her car to arrive, she shouted various obscenities at her tormentor, calling him a “piece of sh*t” and a “f**kface” who “doesn’t deserve to breathe the same air I do”.
8. Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus is well known to court the media, but she’s also very vocal about her hatred of the paparazzi, once even tweeting that she was considering moving back to Nashville to escape them. The singer and former Hannah Montana star has been seen giving photographers the middle finger, as well as shoving them and yelling obscenities. Most memorably, in March 2011, Miley became furious after a paparazzo roughly pushed past her mother to get a photo of her. She grabbed his camera and shouted, loudly, in his face.
7. Russell Brand
Russell Brand is a controversial and outspoken character at the best of times, and the more timid among us would certainly go out of our way to avoid confrontation with this quick-witted Brit. In March 2012, though, a paparazzo was unfortunate enough to get on the wrong side of Brand and things got predictably messy. Brand was arrested after grabbing the iPhone of photographer Timothy Jackson – who was trying to take shots of the English comedian from his car – and throwing it through the window of a nearby law firm, shattering the glass. On another occasion, Brand (understandably) pushed a paparazzo who was attempting to take ‘up-skirt’ photos of his then-fiancé, Katy Perry. He was arrested for battery, but posted $20,000 bail and left prison that same day.
6. Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber has never had a great relationship with the paparazzi. In November 2012, the 20 year-old pop singer stopped traffic for several minutes to shout at photographers who were tailing him. In March of last year, he lashed out at a photographer who insulted him as he was leaving his London hotel, shoving the man and yelling “I’ll f**king beat the f**k out of you!”. Justin had to be restrained by his bodyguard, and later tweeted: “Sometimes when people r [sic] shoving cameras in your face all day and yelling the worst thing possible at u [sic]…well I’m human. ” Then in January, a 29 year-old man was hit by a car and killed while taking snaps of the teen idol’s Ferrari, inciting debate over the dangers paparazzi can bring upon themselves as well as the celebrities they target.
5. Gerard Butler
In October 2008, Scottish actor Gerard Butler was accused of misdemeanour criminal battery after assaulting a paparazzo. The photographer had apparently been following Butler around Los Angeles for hours, hassling him when he got in and out of his limo. When Butler asked the man to stop, he responded with “Hey, that’s my job,” before the star of 300 grabbed his throat and punched him hard in the face. All charges against him were eventually dropped.
4. Britney Spears
2007 was a bad year for Britney, between shaving her head, being caught shoplifting, and checking in and out of rehab several times. The paparazzi, who’d never forego an easy target, swarmed around her like flies, and her face appeared on the cover of every tabloid newspaper. The pressure proved too much for her one afternoon in February, when, after a visit to ex-husband Kevin Federline’s house, she attacked a photographer’s SUV with an umbrella. On a positive note, the incident sparked concern for the singer’s privacy, with many people finally raising questions about the morality of exploiting someone else’s mental illness for entertainment and profit.
3. Kanye West
It’s doubtful that anyone will be surprised to hear of Kanye West in a scrap. The rapper, famed for his obnoxious personality, has been involved in several altercations with the paparazzi over the years. The worst of these happened in 2008, when Kanye and his manager attacked a photographer at Los Angeles International Airport, smashing his camera. Kanye was charged with battery, grand theft and vandalism, and sentenced to 240 hours of community service.
2. Sean Penn
Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn is infamous for his short temper and hatred of paparazzi, whom he once publicly described as “a disease”. In 1987, he went to prison for a month for assaulting a photographer he encountered on the set of his film Colours. Then in 2009, he was charged with battery and vandalism and fined $100 after kicking a paparazzo’s leg and breaking his camera. He was also seen verbally threatening and hitting members of the press who harassed him while he was eating lunch and gathered outside his home. But all this pales in comparison to what happened in 1986, when the Hollywood bad boy discovered a photographer hiding his hotel bedroom and allegedly dangled him from its ninth-storey balcony. Yikes.
Bjork is known for her eccentricity, but nothing could have prepared the world for what happened at Bangkok International Airport in 1996. As the Icelandic singer emerged from her terminal after a long haul flight, reporter Julie Kaufman simple called out “Welcome to Bangkok!”. Seemingly unprovoked, Bjork completely lost it, flying at the woman and knocking her to the ground. The musician later explained her motivation for the attack, claiming that the press had been harassing her young son Sidri, and had followed them around for four days straight. Kaufman was the unfortunate target of the singer’s anger.
The truly shocking attack was caught on camera: