You want a big star in a thriller? How about Robert De Niro roughing up a pushy paparazzo outside a Manhattan watering hole and (after the lensman allegedly attempts extortion in return for dropped assault charges) helping in a sting operation that ends with a briefcase full of money changing hands in a limo?
Don’t look for it at your local bijou. This drama was just one of many real-life skirmishes between photographers and stars this year. ”You in the orange shirt. Out!” ordered goodwill ambassador Julia Roberts in Haiti last May when she recognized a particular shutterbug. He was luckier than the fellows who attempted to follow Sinead O’Connor into Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher in June and came away with broken cameras and ripped clothing.
Nothing brought stars to a flash point quicker than aiming at their offspring. Spotting a videographer in a van with tinted glass taping his homecoming with Kim Basinger and their newborn daughter, Ireland Eliesse, Alec Baldwin argued with him and then punched him in the face. Woody Harrelson claims to have gotten physical only after his pleas not to photograph his 2-year-old daughter, Deni, were ignored. And after videographers taped his two daughters, Katie, 8, and Emily Lyn, 2, last August, Tony Danza pursued them in his Cadillac, leaped out, kicked in their car window, and grabbed their camera.
Cameramen moan that celebrities have declared open season on them, thereby threatening their First Amendment rights. ”This isn’t a freedom of the press issue because they’re not out to cover news, they’re out to create it,” counters Stan Rosenfield, publicist for De Niro and George Clooney, whose pet Vietnamese potbellied pig recently routed a cameraman skulking in the bushes outside the actor’s house. Some altercations are being provoked by so-called videorazzi, who stalk celebrities and goad them into a rampage. An exchange of lawsuits is sometimes the aftermath. What’s behind the bait-and-tape tactic? Money, of course. Will Smith getting into his limo is worth about $1,000; Will Smith swinging at a videographer blocking the way to said limo can bring $10,000 from a tabloid show like Hard Copy, which did air this particular incident on March 27. Such is the life of the stars. The camera loves them, even when they hate it back.