Celebrities and the paparazzi have a delicate relationship. While being hounded by photographers tends to take its toll on the personal lives of stars, media coverage also contributes to keeping their talent in the national spotlight. Of course, this shaky truce often finds itself crumbling thanks to aggressive paparazzi tactics leading stars to strike back. Here are 15 noteworthy examples of paparazzi paybacks perpetrated by our favorite celebrities.
In 2006, Looper star Joseph Gordon-Levitt found himself being stalked down the street by a pair of New York paparazzi. Levitt, who outside of acting also makes his own films, promptly turned his camera onto the photographers when they refused to stop hounding him. A short film resulted called “Pictures of A—holes” that has since become a minor YouTube sensation.
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Pop star Justin Bieber found himself embroiled in a brawl with photographer Jose Sarros last year. Sarros reportedly got a little too close to Bieber and then-girlfriend Selena Gomez, prompting Bieb to assault the paparazzo. Sarros attempted to bring Bieber up on charges, but prosecutors found no evidence suggesting the need for trial.
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In 2006 Avril Lavigne became famous for greeting her paparazzi in the most punk-rock way possible. The Canadian rocker unleashed a torrent of obscenities and spit on a crowd of photographers while out on her 22nd birthday, an act her then-husband Deryck Whibley joined in on.
During an Australian trip in 2003, notoriously mellow Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin exacted payback on a photographer that was following him. When the paparazzo went to take a break from his pursuit, Martin took his aggression out on the photographer’s car. The singer smashed the paparazzo's tires and broke his windshield. Martin was later arrested and charged with willful destruction of property, but charges were later dropped.
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In 1997, actor Vinnie Jones was renown as a particularly violent English football player. Following a game between England and Ireland that was called off, the actor stormed into a Dublin hotel to take his aggression toward the media out in the most literal way possible. Without being provoked, Jones assaulted Mirror reporter Ted Oliver, biting the reporter’s nose.
In 1996, Icelandic popstar Bjork found herself being welcomed to Bangkok’s International Airport by reporter Julie Kaufman. Bjork responded by assaulting Kaufman in an seemingly unprovoked attack. The singer’s record company would later reveal Kaufman had been hounding Bjork for several days leading up to the encounter. In 2008 a similar event would occur, with Bjork attacking and tearing the shirt of a photographer at New Zealand’s Auckland International Airport.
Actor Sean Penn has never backed down from brawls with paparazzi, dating back to his courtship of pop star Madonna in the 1980s. In 2009 this resulted in an assault on TMZ paparazzo Jordan Dawes. Penn apparently followed the photographer across the street, knocked a camera out of his hand and kicked him. The incident would result in an out-of-court settlement.
In 2007, Britney Spears was bald headed and going in and out of rehab. Spears' breakdowns were being heavily documented by paparazzi captivated by the pop star’s eccentric behavior. During one of many photographic stalkings, Spears request to be left alone went unabated. As such, Spears took an umbrella and attacked a photographer’s car with it.
Rapper Kanye West also has a reputation for being short with paparazzi. Last October, West had an altercation with female videographer Logan Fazio, who was chiding Kanye and fiancée Kim Kardashian while dining at the Prime Hotel in Miami. Fazio informed them that Kardashian's ex, Reggie Bush, was dining there and asked if Kim wanted to “congratulate him on his pregnancy.” This slight prompted West to rush the photographer and grab for her camera. Later on that month, West made up with Fazio publicly and apologized for his outburst.
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50 Cent leaves it to his entourage to take care of his paparazzi issues. In 2010 the rapper’s bodyguard was arrested in Denmark for attacking a group of photographer’s outside of a hotel, strangling three of them and taking cameras. Though the bodyguard clearly went overboard, his actions are proof that the rapper does not mess around when it comes to dealing with unwanted press.
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Who could expect that an altercation between former-boxer Mike Tyson and a paparazzo would get physical? Tyson was arrested in 2009 following the alleged battery of photographer at Los Angeles International Airport. Tyson’s spokeswoman countered by saying the former pugilist was merely protecting his wife and child from the intrusive photographer. L.A. prosecutors later dropped the charges.
While vacationing in Croatia, rapper/entrepreneur Jay-Z and wife Beyonce Knowles were confronted by a flock of paparazzi. Despite the protest of the couple, the photographers continued to corner them while they attempted to depart a restaurant. In a 50 Cent-like move, Hove's bodyguards stepped in and allegedly assaulted the photographers, some claim with their own tripod. The bodyguard was later charged with nothing more than the destruction of personal property.
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During her divorce hearing last year, actress Halle Berry pushed to have her daughter uprooted to France based on the country’s strict paparazzi laws. The move was shot down and two months later the actress was caught raging at photographers outside her daughter’s school. After the event was caught on tape, Berry announced she would be contacting President Barack Obama about tightening paparazzi laws, particularly in regards to school proximity.
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In 2004, pop star Justin Timberlake was with actress Cameron Diaz when the duo got into scuffle with a pair of paparazzi who ambushed them. Rather than resorting to violence, the pair instead opted to abscond with one of the photographer’s camera instead and sped off into the night. Diaz later turned the camera over to LAPD as a means of identifying their harassers.
George Clooney has been raging against paparazzi since 2007, crediting them publicly for causing the tragic death of Princess Diana. He's boycotted several media outlets as a byproduct. In 2009 he sued two Italian magazines and a photographer that allegedly scaled the wall of his estate and took snapshots of a 13-year-old girl changing. Despite these justified instances of aggression against paparazzi, Clooney has expressed his wish to keep paparazzi flaws flexible, as not to restrict freedom of speech.