Robert DeNiro: CJC/Mission Pictures/ImageDirect
August 20, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Wherever Robert De Niro celebrated his birthday on Saturday, it was probably indoors. Last year, he and Sean Penn (both born on Aug. 17) had a joint birthday party on the roof of De Niro’s New York City apartment building. Now, De Niro is suing photo agency Celebrity Vibe, alleging that one of the agency’s paparazzi snuck into the fete and snapped an unauthorized photo, which Celebrity Vibe then sold to at least one newspaper and one national magazine, according to published reports. In the suit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday, De Niro is seeking $1 million in damages.

”Our contention, as we hope to prove in the lawsuit, is that someone snuck into a private residence and took unauthorized pictures for profit,” De Niro’s lawyer, Tom Harvey, told the Associated Press. But Jeffrey Boyard, an owner of the agency and a photographer himself, told AP, ”Our photographer was invited.” He told the New York Post, ”The photographer went in with Robert De Niro. They got into the elevator together, and she walked in to the party with him. He saw her taking pictures.”

Penn, who was celebrating his 41st birthday at the event while his ”We’re No Angels” costar was celebrating his 58th, used to have a more direct way of dealing with paparazzi. At least De Niro didn’t slug the photographer, though maybe he should just strap her to a polygraph, à la ”Meet the Parents.”

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