Paul Newman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Caine, Kiera Knightley and Helen Mirren: Dream comes true for Sheringham-born photographer as he prepares to unveil BAFTA exhibtion featuring roll call of Hollywood elite.

Photographer Andy Gotts Photographer Andy Gotts

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
8:04 AM

An upcoming exhibition of celebrity photographer Andy Gotts’ latest work has literally seen his dreams come true after he struck upon the theme for the project in his sleep.

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Andy Gotts Behind the Mask exhibition for BAFTA. Gwyneth Paltrow. Picture: Andy GottsAndy Gotts Behind the Mask exhibition for BAFTA. Gwyneth Paltrow. Picture: Andy Gotts

The Sheringham-born photographer, who has been capturing showbiz icons for 23 years, dreamt he was shooting Kate Winslet for a book of every living Oscar winner.

The next morning he decided it would make an excellent project and set about putting it in motion – but with a patriotic twist.

“I had this dream and thought ‘that’s a good idea’ but how about I do it for Britain and British actors,” he said.

Now, after two years of criss crossing the globe to picture his A-list subjects, he is preparing to unveil Behind The Mask – an exhibition of more than 100 actors and actresses to have won or been nominated for a BAFTA since 1954.

Andy Gotts Behind the Mask exhibition for BAFTA. Paul Newman. Picture: Andy GottsAndy Gotts Behind the Mask exhibition for BAFTA. Paul Newman. Picture: Andy Gotts

Mr Gotts, whose parents live in Sheringham, is renowned for his black and white portraits, which are never touched up or tampered with, and hopes the exhibition will stand as a reference to some of the silver screen’s most famous faces.

He said: “I’m anti the whole re-touching and photo-shopping. The way I see it in 50 years’ time if someone wants to look at my work and see on that day, in that month, of that year what Al Pacino looked like, that’s 100% accurate.

“I wanted it to be a historic 
document of how these people looked on that specific day when I met them.”

As well as receiving critical acclaim, Mr Gotts’ work has also raised millions of pounds for charity and seen him become good friends with many of his subjects – our interview has to be momentarily stopped so he can take a personal call from Robert De Niro.

But the former Sheringham High School pupil – whose career began with a shot of Stephen Fry at college in King’s Lynn – employed some unusual tactics to get the portraits he wanted for Behind the Mask.

When the 42-year-old met with Shakespeare In Love star Gwyneth Paltrow, she had a cold and had been working all day.

Mr Gotts explained: “She was in this one position and I knew after doing 10 shots I couldn’t use any of them. I thought, ‘what can I do to provoke a reaction’, so I literally called her every rude name you can imagine.

“After a barrage of words she started to laugh because I was joking. Her assistant (then) burst into the room and the one particular shot I used was Gwyneth looking over my shoulder at her assistant coming through the door. She’s got a big grin on her face and I love that shot.”

During other shoots he uncovered Hollywood secrets from the stars himself, including a chat with silver screen legend Michael Caine about plans for a sequel to The Italian Job.

Mr Gotts said: “I’m so lucky because the way I work it’s just me. I have no assistants, no entourage, just me and a camera. It’s more intimate if it’s just you and a person; we interact, we chat.

“I treat them as I would treat a best friend. I see it as we’re both there to have fun and get the best out of each other.”

As the awards season gets under way Mr Gotts will be continuing his Behind the Mask quest – to photograph those stars he has not yet captured – and hopes to have compiled all their shots for a book he plans to release at the end of the year.

Behind the Mask is at Somerset House, London from January 20 to February 7. For more, visit www.andygotts.com

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