Acclaimed documentarian Leon Gast (the Oscar®-winning 'When We Were Kings') turns the camera on self-described paparazzo superstar Ron Galella to reveal a man as fascinating as any of his famous subjects. Taking its name from an order Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis issued to her security team, 'Smash His Camera' chronicles Galella's meteoric career as a notorious guerilla photographer and offers a thoughtful examination of the nature of fame, the relationship between celebrities and their chroniclers, and the delicate balance between privacy and freedom of the press over the past 30 years.
Galella revisits old haunts and shares war stories about Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Robert Redford and other superstars who tried and failed to escape his lens. He proudly recalls the night Marlon Brando broke his jaw with one punch, knocking out five teeth in the process. Unafraid of the limelight himself, Galella donned a football helmet for his next encounter with the actor, and invited a photographer friend to document the outcome.
But no other subject caught his imagination (or the public's) like former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. From 1967 until 1982, Galella pursued her with a determination bordering on obsession. When his attention grew overwhelming, she instructed her Secret Service detail to prevent him from photographing her and her children.
In 1973, Galella filed a harassment suit against Onassis, alleging she was preventing him from doing his job. Onassis filed a countersuit and the epic legal battle that followed inspired an ongoing debate over the privacy of public figures. Ironically, his photographs became iconic images of Mrs. Onassis, some of them depicting "Jackie at her most fetching," as gossip doyenne Liz Smith says in the film.
In addition to Liz Smith, 'Smash His Camera' features interviews with photojournalist Harry Benson, visual artist Chuck Close, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, Thomas Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and attorneys on both sides of the historic legal battle, among others.
Named after movie idol Ronald Colman, Ron Galella began his career as a U.S. Air Force photographer before his increasingly creative methods of cornering the famous and infamous made him a household name. In the film, he happily shares the secrets of his success, such as hiding in bushes, high-speed car chases, outlandish disguises and strategic bribes. Among his unorthodox words of advice for aspiring paparazzi: "sneak in" to high-profile events, "dress right" for the occasion, "forge credentials" and the most effective technique in his playbook - surprise the subject and capture the real emotion of the moment.
'Smash His Camera' is a portrait of an endlessly contradictory American original who still jumps barriers to get that exclusive photo at age 77. Galella's archive contains approximately three million images, while his pictures are shown in New York galleries,
housed in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and collected in coffee-table books, as well as being sought-after by collectors. Whether he is simply "the price tag of the First Amendment" or a serious photojournalist, Ron Galella is a larger-than-life figure.
In conjunction with the debut of 'Smash His Camera', New York's Clic Gallery will present a retrospective of Galella's most legendary photographs, entitled "Smash His Camera: The Notorious Photographs of Ron Galella," from June 1-30.
HBO Documentary Films presents a Got The Shot Production film; executive producers, Jeffrey Tarrant, William Ackman, Daniel Stern; produced by Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger; directed by Leon Gast; original music by Craig Hazen and David Wolfert; director of photography, Don Lenzer; creative consultant, Roger Rosenblatt; edited by Doug Abel, A.C.E.