Following the publication of what was , by all accounts, a disastrous but also hilarious interview with Rhys Ifans in the Times recently (I haven't read it myself because it's behind a Rupert Murdoch paywall), there has been much discussion recently in the press and on blogs about the validity of the modern celebrity interview - especially with actors who have films to promote.
And of course, the celebrity interview will usually also be accompanied by the celebrity photo session. These days that will be even more tightly controlled than the celebrity interview, if that's even possible, and one is likely to get a lot less than 15 minutes.
It wasn't always that way.
When I photographed Catherine Zeta-Jones for Loaded, in the Halcyon Hotel in Holland Park in 1996, she turned up cheerfully early and with an entourage of precisely no one.
Of course, in those days, she was not yet the Oscar winning, CBE awarded, fully paid up Hollywood royalty that she is now. In 1996 Catherine Zeta-Jones had had one UK TV hit with 'The Darling Buds of May' but that had ended in 1993. Since when she hadn't appeared to have done much. Her star may even have seemed to be on the wane. One reason perhaps, why she agreed to do Loaded?
Having said that, in 1996 Loaded magazine was still at the height of its powers. It was the magazine that had revolutionized the British publishing industry when it arrived in 1994. By 1996, pretty much everyone, Oscar winners or not, wanted to appear between its covers, if not usually on the cover.
In that year, Loaded featured a plethora of interviews with Oscar and Emmy winners and World Champions including Robert De Niro, Peter O'Toole, Michael Jordan, Carl Fogarty, Naseem Hamed and Matt Groening. And at a time when Friends was just about the biggest TV show on the planet, Loaded managed to get Courtney Cox out of her clothes and spilling all the beans.
Back then of course, Loaded was not quite the vacuous tit and bum fest it has since become. And the stars were literally queueing up.
On the day that I shot Catherine Zeta-Jones, I had to shoot Martine McCutcheon in the morning, also for Loaded. So for everyone’s convenience (but mainly ours), we shot both stars in the same hotel and in the same suite. Catherine turned up whilst I was still shooting Martine. A faux pas like that would certainly never be allowed to happen these days.
In order to pass the time whilst I finished shooting Martine (whose star was then certainly in the ascendant), a bottle of vintage champagne was ordered on room service. Catherine Zeta-Jones is famously litigious, so I can't say for definite whether or not she had much more than a small glass but by the time I started shooting her she certainly seemed relaxed and happy.
Actually, to be honest, she was extremely friendly and utterly charming, whatever the reason. I've seldom had to shoot an actress who was less trouble.
In order to shoot some bathroom shots of Martine McCutcheon in her underwear, I'd squeezed myself, my tripod and a lighting stand into the bath and shot her from there, perched on a low, internal space between the bath and the wc.
When Martine left and in order to save time, this was the exact same place I started to shoot Catherine. Although I was shooting her for a couple of hours, those first shots were by far the best. In some of the latter shots, one can see a couple of ice buckets with upturned champagne bottles in them and Catherine is appearing to drink from a third bottle. By the end, there were several more empty bottles in various places around the suite. Neither me or my assistant would drink whilst we were shooting and most of the time there were only two Loaded staffers and a make up artist there.
In some of the last frames, Catherine certainly appears to be a little smashed though, of course, she may have been acting. Only I and the lab ever saw those. If I'd handed them over to Loaded, the editorial staff were very mischievous and they'd certainly have used them. Consequently none of us would have looked good. I decided to hang onto them. Even if I'd have disliked her or she’d been horrible, I would never have done that to her.
I suppose, looking back, it was pretty unprofessional of Loaded to order so much alcohol and the fact that this sort of thing could really never happen now is probably a good thing. Besides anything else, nowadays not many print magazines can afford so much vintage Moet & Chandon at five star hotel prices.
You really had to have been there at the time. Loaded was a magazine that was so successful so quickly that many of us thought we could do what we liked and there would be no come back. And it was almost true for a while.
I heard the Catherine loved the photos but, as her star rose and Loaded kept republishing them in the following years, I eventually heard, via my agent, that she didn't like them any more.
I like them. Certainly the very early ones taken in the bathroom. It's a great memory of a time when the stars were less anodyne than they necessarily have to be today.