The paparazzi can be both a blessing and a curse for celebrities. When they want to be noticed, to have their picture taken looking great or promoting an upcoming release, they can use the publicity. There are reports, for example, of celebrities deliberately seeking out paparazzi to show how healthy, happy, and hot they look after a high-profile break-up.
But when the celebrities aren’t looking too great, are having a bad day, or are doing something that they shouldn’t, the paparazzi are also there. Some of them stick to a code of honour and will try not to take photographs, or sell them, when their favourite celebrities are looking rough. Others, however, are out for blood, looking for the biggest paycheck no matter who it affects.
It’s easy to sympathize with the famous people caught in questionable shots, especially when you remember that they are just human, like the rest of us. At times, the frustration that they feel with the paparazzi can come to a boiling point. That’s when things start to go a bit wrong. Fists can fly, and there’s nothing that makes headlines more than a violent celeb – and those headlines can continue for months if the paparazzo decides to sue.
On these 15 occasions, the photographs that were taken did more than just annoy the celebrity in question. They had far-reaching consequences, which wrecked their careers and left their reputations in tatters. Our advice to anyone out there just hitting the big time? Don’t let yourself get caught like this…
15 Kate Moss' Dark Days
Kate Moss got herself into serious trouble in 2005 when the Daily Mirror ran a series of photographs of the then-31-year-old supermodel doing cocaine in West London. The images were undeniable proof of what she had been up to, and there was no way for her to escape the consequences. She had denied ever using the drug before but was obviously an old pro – the images showed her doing five lines of coke in 40 minutes, with a further 15 lines set up for later. She immediately began to lose modelling contracts, being fired by Chanel, Burberry, H&M, and others. She issued a public apology but it wasn’t enough. She managed to bounce back after a while, but it certainly had a huge and immediate impact at that moment, and she was no longer as high-profile in advertising campaigns as she had once been. The only saving grace was that she was not charged by the police, as photographs are not enough evidence for the court.
14 Michael Jackson Dangles His Baby
Michael Jackson was no stranger to odd behaviour in the final years of his life, but one of the lowest points came when he dangled his baby son over a balcony with a blanket over his head. The unfortunate child, who is still known as Blanket to this day, was never seen in public without some covering over his face, but Jackson decided to show him to the press anyway. He held him over five floors of open space, leading to many questioning whether he was fit to be a parent. He later said, “I got caught up in the excitement of the moment. I would never intentionally endanger the lives of my children.” It was just one of many controversial moments that hit his popularity. Sadly, Jackson’s career was only just getting back on track with the promise of a sell-out series of performances when he lost his life after taking a cocktail of prescription drugs.
13 Amanda Bynes Leaves Court
Amanda Bynes made headlines with her own very public breakdown, which took place over a series of months as she spiralled right down to rock bottom. She was charged in two separate hit and run incidents, got arrested for possession of marijuana, reckless endangerment, and tampering with evidence, and then lit a fire in someone’s driveway. She was hospitalized, more than once, and as time went on it became clear that she wasn’t getting better. The infamous photographs of her awful blonde wig outside court became symbolic of her fall from grace. The star who once had her own television show has since struggled to get roles, a far cry from the promising young actress she once was. She claimed that her strange behaviour was down to a microchip in her brain, which was also the reason why she falsely accused her father of abusing her as a child.
12 Britney Brandishes An Umbrella
This was one of the most iconic moments of Britney Spears’ breakdown. With a freshly shaved scalp, she was hot property for paparazzi who wanted to capture images of the star as she spiralled downwards. If they wanted a spiral, she gave them one. She went crazy after being followed by photographers, and used an umbrella to smash in the windows of paparazzo Daniel Ramos’ car. She then jumped into her own car and fled the scene. It was to be symbolic of her year, as she saw not only her career going down the drain but also her family. Her children were taken away from her and she was forced to get help for her problems. It was a moment that all but destroyed her, leaving her to try to scramble back to fame later after recovering. These days she may be doing well again, but a residency in Vegas seems to be all that she can manage.
11 Chris Brown Beats Up Rihanna
Chris Brown almost lost his career when images of then-girlfriend Rihanna were leaked by the press. The shocking photograph showed the singer bruised and bloodied, with swollen lips, contusions and cuts to her forehead and cheeks, and dark eyes. They were the handiwork of Brown, who had lost his temper in a car and gone to town on her face. He was arrested for assault and making criminal threats, and the backlash was immediate. His commercial ads were suspended, radio stations banned his music, and he had to cancel his appearance at the 2009 Grammy Awards. He pled guilty and got off with probation. In the classic showbiz goldfish style, many people seem to have forgotten about this incident and Brown is now back making music again. He was apparently even forgiven by Rihanna, who ended up getting back into a relationship with him when his probation was over.
10 Jessica Simpson Ruins Her Marriage
Jessica Simpson has been proven time and again not to be the smartest cookie in the jar. Maybe that’s why she thought she could get away with a high-profile affair and not get caught. She was seen going into the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles, and the same day, so was Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. No big deal – celebrities stay there all the time. What was a big deal, however, was when she was caught leaving the hotel wearing the shirt he had worn on the way in. Their antics brought Simpson’s marriage to Nick Lachey to an understandable end. Unfortunately, that also meant that their reality TV show, Newlyweds, didn’t have a future. Since that was the only kind of work Simpson was getting at the time, it brought her career to a screeching halt and left her with an image of ridicule and stupidity rather than the more wholesome one she had been trying to cultivate.
9 Amy Winehouse Showcases Injuries
The tragic story of Amy Winehouse started when she made a career out of refusing to get treatment for her drug and alcohol abuse. In retrospect, it’s easy to see how she spiralled out of control after receiving that level of positive reinforcement. Her relationship with her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, was a large part of her troubled life, and they were photographed at 3am looking bloodied and battered after getting into a physical fight together. He had scratches all over his face and neck; she had smeared makeup, bloodied knees and shoes, and blood over the sides of her face. It was emblematic of her struggle, and after the photos went public, things only went downhill. Despite getting out of the relationship, Amy never recovered. She ended up dying of an overdose, and though her career to that point had been blossom, it was brought to an abrupt end as the cycle of drug abuse and violence crashed to a stop.
8 Ashton Kutcher Gets Caught Cheating
Ashton Kutcher was doing pretty well in 2011. He was married to Demi Moore, and despite their large age gap, they had been making it work for six years. He had been working consistently, releasing a few projects every year. Then things started to go bad when he was photographed leaving a hotel room with a nobody, Sara Leal. His marriage was abruptly over, with indisputable proof of his cheating laid out for everyone to see. He didn’t get back into movies until 2013, though he had thankfully at that point already been offered a lead role in Two and a Half Men to replace troubled Charlie Sheen. Most of his work since 2011 has flopped, with his most recent project being a Netflix Original TV series – which has been consistently slated. Though his personal life may be back on track with a marriage to long-term sweetheart Mila Kunis, his career is by no means heating back up.
7 Nigella Lawson is Abused
When photographs surfaced of Charles Saatchi abusing his wife, Nigella Lawson, you might have expected it to have an adverse effect on his career. He was seen grabbing her throat four times while they sat at a restaurant table together, then left her to burst into tears. She was seen as a martyr, a victim of domestic abuse who rightfully started divorce proceedings. That is, until things got nasty in court. Saatchi claimed that she was a cocaine addict and had been taking drugs daily for the last four years, going to extreme measures to cover up her addiction and hide it from him. The news shattered Nigella’s wholesome public image, and resulted in a loss of TV shows as well as a total disgrace in the public eye. It’s a shame that all this started from domestic abuse, and yet she ended up being the one who lost out the most.
6 Britney Nearly Drops Her Baby
Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse for Britney, after a divorce from husband Kevin Federline and a career collapse, they did. She was photographed driving with baby Sean Preston on her lap, but barely managed to get away with it after the scandal rocked the press. Then she walked out of the Ritz-Carlton hotel with Sean in one hand and a glass in the other. She stumbled on the sidewalk in front of all of the cameras, nearly dropping her baby – but never spilling a drop of her drink. It was only the quick actions of a bodyguard which stopped Sean from falling to the floor and cracking his head open. Shortly afterwards, Britney lost custody of her two children and faced her biggest career slump of all time. During this period, she couldn’t catch a break, with shot after shot making her look worse and worse.
5 Lindsay Lohan Crashes Her Car
Lindsay was already in a downward spiral when she was followed by a pack of allegedly aggressive photographers in 2005. They were later referred to as “stalkerazzi”, vicious and merciless reporters who followed the most vulnerable stars to catch images of their breakdown in real time. Lindsay ended up crashing her car as they followed her, leaving her feeling shaken up and getting another set of dubious images into the papers. She was also in trouble for driving under the influence, and has been in trouble with the law many times since then. Her career has not bounced back, despite many desperate attempts to take any role she can get. It seems that once you go too far off the deep end, there isn’t much chance of getting back, and certainly not in one piece. The string of paparazzi encounters have left her reputation in so many tatters that there’s no hope of the public forgetting.
4 Alec Baldwin Gets Violent
Alec Baldwin actually has a history of getting violent with paparazzi. The fact that they still pursue him maybe has something to do with the fact that a first-hand story and a court case are probably worth a lot more than a broken bone or lens. In 2013, he got violent again, pinning a photographer against the hood of his car. The outburst was a huge mistake given that Baldwin was already in the spotlight for alleged abuse and anger management issues concerning his family. He was forced to keep a relatively low profile for a couple of years, and though he is now back to larger roles, these continued outbursts have certainly done nothing to help his career. If he doesn’t get his rage in check, we can expect to see many more examples of this behaviour as time goes on – he clearly hasn’t begun to mellow out with age.
3 Kristen Stewart Cheats in Public
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson created a media circus when they ended up getting together in real life after starring as romantic leads in the Twilight series. It was a perfect case of life imitating art, and they seemed to be everyone’s favourite couple. Then Stewart started working on a new film with director Rupert Sanders, and everything just blew apart. A photographer captured images of the two of them cozying up together outside of the film set. Since Stewart was supposed to be deeply in love with Pattinson, and Sanders was married, it was a huge scandal. Both relationships ended, and Stewart also suffered. The studio decided that having both Stewart and Sanders back to work on the second instalment of the series would be a mistake, and opted to keep the director and lose the actress. Since then, she hasn’t managed to take on any high-profile roles.
2 Sean Penn Gets Mad
Sean Penn was once thought of as your average Hollywood actor, with no stains on his reputation. That was short-lived. In 1985, he was engaged to Madonna, who has since claimed that he was violent towards her during their relationship. It’s easy to believe. The couple was out for a morning jog together when two British journalists tried to take pictures of them. Penn got mad, seeing it as his duty to protect her. "He went for us like a madman," reporter Ian Markham-Smith said. "He went berserk, like a whirlwind." Penn told the pair he would hit them with a rock if they took pictures, and then proceeded to do so. He got away with a $100 fine and has continued to work in Hollywood, but it besmirched his reputation forever and many refuse to work with him. Who knows how big of an A-lister he could have been if he kept his violent temper in check.
1 Ryan Phillippe Sneaks Around
So many celebrities have been caught cheating by paparazzi – you would think by now that they know to never be seen in public with their new flame. Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon were Hollywood’s golden couple: young, beautiful, in love, and starting a young family. Sadly, Phillippe chose to throw it all away when he slept with Abbie Cornish. The hot blonde had a romantic meal with him which was covered by photographers, and they were then seen leaving his apartment together. If you’re going to sneak around, you have to remember that even when your wife isn’t watching, the cameras of the world are. Witherspoon’s career has powered onwards, while Phillippe has been largely forgotten since. Every time we see his name on a cast list, we have to express some surprise that he’s still around, as he’s dropped right out of the A-list and now mostly works on TV. It’s a sad fall from grace which proves that Hollywood doesn’t always forgive.