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11 Stunning Photos Of Iconic Stars, And The Stories Behind How They Were Taken

From Marilyn Monroe to Leonardo DiCaprio, Douglas Kirkland has photographed them all!

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Over the course of his six-decade-long career, legendary photographer Douglas Kirkland has taken some of the most recognizable photos of some the most iconic celebrities of all time. Kirkland, who started his career at Look magazine and later worked at the venerable Life, recently compiled some of his best-known photographs for a new retrospective exhibition, Douglas Kirkland: Beyond the Lens (which runs from April 26–May 10 at the Mouche Gallery in Beverly Hills), as well as for a new book, Freeze Frame: Second Cut. Kirkland recently spoke with BuzzFeed and shared his favorite memories behind some of his classic photos.

Marilyn Monroe (1961)

© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.
© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.

"I was a very young photographer at the time when I photographed Marilyn. I met with her and after about a half hour–long conversation she said, 'We need a bed, we need white silk sheets, Frank Sinatra records, and Dom Pérignon champagne. If we have that I know you and I will be able to get a very good picture.' Here I was: a kid from a small town in Canada, having Marilyn Monroe tell him how she was going to create for me an extraordinary picture. Which she indeed did do.

"The interesting thing is that Marilyn wanted to see everything, so she had me put the film in the next morning at the lab so that I could get back that same afternoon. So I took her the film that evening, at about 5 in the afternoon, and when she looked at them the first time quickly, with dark glasses on, she decided that the photos didn’t really work. She then disappeared and came back without the sunglasses on, seemingly much more prepared, and looked at them again in a more caring way. She then started to fall in love with the pictures. She turned to me and said, ‘This is the kind of girl that any man would like to be in that bed with.' And that was ultimately, for her, the success of that shoot."

Elizabeth Taylor (1961)

© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.

"Elizabeth was the one who started my career. At the time she was the biggest movie star in the world, but she had been very ill and had vanished from the public eye for close to a year, and this was the first time people were going to see her — that was if she would allow me to photograph her. [One thing you notice is] her tracheotomy scar; she felt it was her statement and who she was at the time. She wasn’t into hiding it, ‘cause it was something that had saved her life."

Audrey Hepburn (1965)

© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.
© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.

"Audrey was always spectacular and created beautiful photos. She was someone who understood photography extremely well; she lit up the camera and knew how to get the most out of a photo session. She was not a diva in any way; she just wanted to do what was right to get good pictures. We got along very, very well."

Coco Chanel (1962)

© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.

"Mademoiselle Chanel had more or less vanished after the second world war, but she had a resurgence in the early 1960s and her fashions were becoming popular again (thanks to clients like Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwill). She had not been seen much and these photos were a way at bringing her back to the public's attention. I spent close to a month photographing her at her salon in Paris as she prepared for her fashion show — which was very special. Mademoiselle was quite brilliant."

Andy Warhol (1970)

© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.
© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.

"Even though Andy was an artist, I did not find it difficult to shoot him at all. That was the beauty of being with Andy Warhol: He was very polite and agreeable, and he did everything I asked him to. He arrived at the Chateau Marmont (where we did the shoot) on time that morning at 9 a.m., as we had discussed, along with his friends, and I don’t think they had gone to bed that evening before. But they were all very awake, and alive, and ready for my camera!"

Judy Garland (1961)

© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.

"I had traveled with Judy for more than a month, and at the end of that month I was in the studio with her and we got talking about the things that were difficult in her life — something I had observed firsthand. I had my camera there on a tripod and as we got into talking more she started to understand what I had observed and she started crying. Of all the photos I have taken this is one of my favorites, not because she is crying but because there was an honesty about it."

John Lennon (1966)

© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.

"John had taken a break from the Beatles, and he was on his own, 'without his mates around' as he would say, making a movie called How I Won the War in the south of Spain. He was very lovable, he really was. He had no affectations at all — if he was talking to you, he would talk to you like he was talking to one his friends. That was John Lennon. He was one of my favorites, truthfully."

Ann-Margret (1971)

© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.

"Ann-Margaret had her chopper brought out from LA to Las Vegas (where she was getting ready to start a show) and we went out on the highway one early morning. As she drove the bike down the road I took photos from the back of a truck as my wife, Françoise, drove. Finally I said, 'We got it, Ann-Margret!' and she threw out her legs and said 'WEEEE' out of joy that we had gotten the pictures, but instead her reaction became the picture."

Peter O'Toole (1964)

© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.

"We took this picture in his home in London, and it was taken as part of a photo session. I had my Canon camera on tripod — I was just trying to get as lit-up a picture as best I could. And so I just talked with him and he lit up and struck that pose."

Jack Nicholson (1975)

© All Images Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland. All Rights Reserved 2017. For Editorial Usage Only. No Commercial Usage Allowed.

"Believe it or not, that was an early picture for People magazine. I went to Jack’s house early in the morning, as I was supposed to, and he had overslept, so he was very fresh and animated. Frankly, that picture was a result of him saying quickly he wanted have a picture with a spark in it; so he took a match and put it in his mouth, lit it, and said, 'I think I’ll smoke a match.' And that’s how that picture happened."

Titanic (1996)

"I wasn’t really sure that the movie was going to be a phenomenon because there were so many different feelings on set. The studio was feeling that it was getting too expensive and taking too long. But, James [Cameron] had a very strong feeling for it. We could be impatient with other people, but he was patient with me. We got along very well, we understood each other."

Douglas Kirkland: Beyond the Lens runs from April 26–May 10 at the Mouche Gallery in Beverly Hills and his new book, Freeze Frame: Second Cut, is in stores now.

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