Published: March 2013
Despite the jaw-dropping logistics involved in photographing the 19th annual Hollywood Portfolio, Krista Smith reports, Bruce Weber managed to turn an eight-day, star-studded marathon into a party.
Graydon Carter decided to shake things up in a big way this year at Vanity Fair for our 19th annual Hollywood Issue. Photographer Bruce Weber and his team—which included his own film crew—collaborated with the editors to produce “Bruce Weber’s Hollywood,” a very personal, idiosyncratic, 44-page portfolio, and a four-panel cover. The mantra of all involved soon became “It’s Bruce’s world; we just live in it” as we were transported on a joyful, spectacular, addictive ride filled with spontaneous moments that added up to a totally original environment. Just consider what it took, in terms of numbers, to complete the project, which stretched over a period of eight days in nine iconic locations in Los Angeles, including the Beverly Hills Hotel, Musso & Frank Grill, and the Hollywood Center Studios’ back lot. Approximately 125 people were photographed, more than 75 of them actors, plus the world-famous U.S.C. Trojan Marching Band and its Song Girls (read “cheerleaders”). In addition to the truckloads of apparel assembled in Los Angeles, 10,000 articles of clothing were shipped from New York in 95 trunks and 19 crates and arranged on 131 racks, with 500 pairs of shoes, hats from three continents (Australia, Europe, and North America), and swimsuits from three as well (Europe, North America, and South America). Approximately $3 million worth of designer jewelry spanning two centuries was brought in to complement the clothes, and everything, including 200 pairs of sunglasses, was carefully laid out on tables in the 11,000-square-foot hangar at Milk Studios in Hollywood, which became known as home base. V.F. fashion and style director Jessica Diehl and fashion market director Michael Carl oversaw every detail of the expansive wardrobe on all the sets, with the help of seven fashion assistants and four seamstresses. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Hurricane Sandy was turning New York into a state of emergency, so style-department staffers in the Manhattan editorial offices sometimes had to walk 80 blocks to get cell-phone contact with their bosses on the West Coast.
Ben Affleck, Emma Stone, and Bradley Cooper were chosen as our cover subjects, based on their impressive, individual accomplishments over the past year. Affleck had triumphed with Argo, winning an Oscar nomination for best picture. Cooper had definitively established his acting magic in Silver Linings Playbook, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including his own for best actor. And Emma Stone had comfortably sustained her staying power as America’s sweetheart with The Amazing Spider-Man. Weber shot the cover photo at a Beverly Hills mansion steeped in cinematic lore. In The Godfather (1972), if you remember, it is the house where Robert Duvall, the consigliere to the Corleone family, arranges to have the recalcitrant movie producer who lives there wake up with his prize horse’s head in his bed.
Bruce Weber’s vision called for a variety of talent, including such top-ranking stars as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Ewan McGregor, Amy Adams, and Jane Fonda. But perhaps the most fawned-over participant in the whole production was Tai, the beautiful creature featured in Water for Elephants (2011). The most unforgettable incident of the entire shoot was when Tai walked majestically through the soundstage at Hollywood Center Studios—past the wardrobe, the marching band, the extras, the gladiators, the cheerleaders, the hair and makeup stations—and began to perform some of her favorite tricks. She stood on her front feet, then on her back feet, to the shocked delight of her adoring audience. Later that day she even gave a few brave souls, starting with Selena Gomez, a ride on her trunk.
An important element on every Weber set is his thoughtful choice of music. In this case, he shipped selected LPs and a portable record player to provide the right musical accompaniment for his assorted cast of Hollywood characters. When he was staging Quincy Jones and three of his beautiful daughters, Rashida, Kidada, and Kenya, he asked them to come up with a song they all knew so that they could sing it together. Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” from the Thriller album, which Quincy had produced, was their choice.
For the “Pool Party” sequence, Weber chose the Paramour mansion, built in 1923 for the silent-film star Antonio Moreno and his oil-heiress wife, Daisy Canfield (who is rumored to still haunt the place). There, 20 or so of the brightest young stars were arranged to act as if they were at a party, and in fact it turned out that they really were. An array of svelte models, including Victoria’s Secret’s Alessandra Ambrosio, quickly got into the mood, and soon the Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, wearing a delicate fringe couture dress, was carried playfully into the pool as V.F.’s entire fashion team held their collective breath. The band played on, however, and a conga line formed, and Bruce Weber’s conception of the perfect Hollywood party continued as night fell.
© 2013 Vanity Fair | Written by Krista Smith | No copyright infringment intended.