Joseph Gordon-Levitt Turns the Lens on Paparazzi Photographers

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt has become one of the hottest stars in Hollywood in recent years, appearing in a number of major blockbuster movies (e.g. Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Lincoln). Back in 2006, as he was still a smaller name in the industry, Gordon-Levitt had a run-in with a couple of paparazzi photographers.

Having a video camera with him, Gordon-Levitt decided to turn the camera lens on the two men to capture a glimpse into the world of celebrity photography. The encounter can be seen in the video above, titled “Pictures of A**holes,” which Gordon-Levitt uploaded to YouTube (Warning: there’s some strong language).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2010

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2010

It may be more than half a decade old, but the video is now making the rounds on the Web again now that Gordon-Levitt is one of the most sought after names in the movie (and paparazzi) industry.

Here’s what Gordon-Levitt writes about the “short film”:

It doesn’t normally happen that paparazzi photographers pay me any attention when I’m not working. In fact, it only ever happened once (thank god) that I can think of. Luckily I had my video camera on me when it did.

A friend and I were just walking down the street in Manhattan when we passed these two photographers who were sitting outside the entrance of some hotel, presumably waiting to photograph somebody who was staying there. I didn’t think much of them until, a block or so later, they came running up and started to take my picture. I tried to be nice and politely ask them not to. They were neither nice nor polite. And that’s when I remembered I had my camera in my bag. So that’s where the movie starts.

The only other thing I’ll say is (and I had trouble deciding whether or not to be so blunt with my opinion, but here goes) I do believe that the myth of “Celebrity” is not just innocently shallow entertainment, but a powerful and fundamental part of a larger movement revolving around greed, apathy and hierarchy that is currently dragging us down, down, down, lower and scarier, and perhaps weaker than we’ve ever, ever been. Smile!

Last month, we shared a video showing how ordinary crowds of people suddenly turn into paparazzi photographers when they find themselves in the presence of the rich and famous.

After sharing that video, we were tipped off to a new film exploring the relationship between celebrity and paparazzi. It’s titled $ellebrity. Here’s the trailer:

Image credit: Joseph Gordon-Levitt by gdcgraphics

  • Samcornwell

    Damnit, yet another reason to love JGL.

  • José Tomás Tocino

    Maybe you have already heard of it, but there’s a documentary called Teenage Papparazzo where the actor Adrian Grenier meets a young boy who works as a Paparazzi and starts to discover how the paparazzis work, how their world is like and so on. It’s pretty interesting, you should check it out.

  • Nat

    I am a photographer and honestly believe that the paparazzi throws a bad light on us! Most arent even professionals! There is a line and they overstep it everytime ! Just cause Celebrities are famous does not mean they don’t deserve privacy. Even their families and private life should be repected. Not every actor acts to be famous or be erased or be in the public eye. It’s a job like every other job. What would a paparazzi person do if a crowd of flashers runs in their home and attacks them?!

  • nikonian

    As a street photographer in Los Angeles the reputation of the paparazzi make what I do really hard…

  • Mead Norton

    Paparazzi are the lowest of the low in terms of photographers. They are just stalkers with cameras and should be wiped out.

  • Renato Murakami

    They are basically payed to be assholes, by a culture that needs them to be assholes, to feed a bunch of highly profitable medias lots of assholes consume. This comment might attract a lot of hatred, but truth is, paparazzis only exists because there are too many people who spends too much time and money caring more about the life of celebrities than the life of family and friends.
    The worst part is that they sell even better when it’s about a scandal or about some hot story so lots of puritanical hypocrates can feel better with themselves when they see models, celebrities or whatever doing drugs, getting dumped, getting arrested, or stuff like that.
    Because there’s nothing like the past time of brainless and spineless people to criticize the action of celebrities and public figures.
    It’s kinda like telemarketers. The reason why some assholes call you all week and even weekends to try to sell you something is exactly because there are lots of people who actually buys it.
    If the Joseph Gordon-Levitt video made you furious, just stop buying celebrity magazines, reading blogs that centers around that stuff, newspapers, watching gossip channels, etc.
    They’ll be out of their jobs, and there will be less shallow attention seeking camwhore celebrities and more great actors and professionals.

  • bob cooley

    Joseph Gordon Levitt, classy all the way.

    I saw JG-L speak at an IBM Conference (social media) conference last week -I don’t agree with all of his views on re-use of work, but he comes at it with honesty and integrity.

    Paparazzi have really given our profession (especially legitimate photojournalists and street photographers) a bad name.

  • Leonardo Abreu

    Joseph WIN

  • AnalogMachine

    PAPARAZZI ARE NOT PHOTOGRAPHERS!!!!! They’re just parasites with cameras!!!

  • bua

    LOL, Joseph congrats for being the better man!

  • turdfergsn


  • 15MinuteNews

    Well done sir, nicely played.

  • Eziz

    They call themselves “journalists”. :D

  • Spongebob Nopants

    Wow, when forced to speak to the source of their living these guys treat him with contempt. Lions show respect and even gratitude to their prey. But hyenas don’t…

  • weaver

    The thing that fascinates me about paparazzi is their cognitive dissonance. You can see they’re embarrassed by what they do for a living – that’s why they all get camera-shy when the tables are turned on them – but they can’t admit it so the defensive, self-delusionary babble starts to stream out of them when challenged. You ever see “Blast ‘Em!”, the 1992 doco on these types? The “protagonist” of that film was an exemplar, possessing a particularly soupy version of that fog of braggadocio, self-pity and self-hatred that they all exude.

  • brob

    ironic they didn’t want the camera on them

  • c

    funny you guys have no idea what you are talking about…paparazzi are a diverse group and a lot of them aren’t assholes. of course many are, but i sense jealousy amongst you that they are able to make a living with their photography and you aren’t. I have no boss, make my own schedule, can do my wildlife photography whenever I feel like it, and make more than my marine science degree could ever earn me, just by taking some photos of some celebrities, most of which are happy to receive the free publicity. paps tend to shoot the people who don’t mind being photographed because it makes for better photos…I guess that’s why joseph gordon levitt will never be an a-lister; because he is an a-hole so no one wants to photograph him.

  • c

    thanks for censoring my dissenting point of view. good luck in your ‘photography’

  • Michael Zhang

    Who censored what?

  • RJ

    It is sad. As easy as it is to condemn paparazzi, there is unfortunately an audience out there that consumes gossip by the mouth full.

  • filosufy

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt…i always agree with u..