Behind The Lens Of Hollywood’s Greatest Stars

"We really had more time with movie stars back then, which made such a difference.”
Marilyn Monroe 1961Douglas Kirkland

The extraordinary stories of the late Hollywood photographer Douglas Kirkland, as told by his wife and the love of his life, Françoise Kirkland.


“This photograph was taken in Las Vegas, where Ann-Margret was filming a television series. In those days, a photographer would spend two or three weeks with the subject and capture them in one place and then somewhere else. Over the course of these few weeks, she mentioned she had this bike and Douglas said he would love to shoot her riding it, so she had a truck bring it to Vegas from Los Angeles. I was driving the convertible while Douglas lay across the back to get the shot. I knew I’d have my head chopped off if I didn’t drive properly! When Douglas called out to Ann-Margret and said, “We’ve got the shot,” she went, “Weeeee” and kicked her legs out. That ended up being ‘the shot’.”

Ann Margret 1971
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)


“The wonderful story behind this photograph of Audrey is that it’s how I met Douglas. Audrey was working on a film called How to Steal a Million with Peter O’Toole in Paris. My mother was the publicist on that film, and Douglas was commissioned for the special shoot. He came into my mother’s office when I was visiting and was so jetlagged he fell asleep. As I watched him sleep, I thought, ‘He’s drop dead gorgeous’. When he woke up, he stretched, rubbed his eyes and then said, ‘Would you like to go out to dinner?’ I went and I fell madly in love with him. This beautiful portrait of Audrey will always remind me of that moment. And Audrey was always one of Douglas’ favourites to shoot. She was so unaffected by fame and always so gracious and elegant.”

Audrey Hepburn 1965
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)

Carrie Fisher, 1980

“The funny thing about this image was that Douglas and Carrie had been shooting all day in the studio and then while she was waiting for a cab she was jumping around and dangling off the street lamp. Then she threw herself in the trash can and Douglas captured it. Because it was New York, the people walking past didn’t even look up. I suppose if they’d noticed it was Princess Leia they might have!”

Carrie Fisher 1980
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)

Marilyn Monroe, 1961

“Contrary to what everyone believes, the Marilyn series was not an important story. Douglas was commissioned to get one image [of her] to make up a portfolio for Look magazine’s 25th anniversary, including Shirley MacLaine and Judy Garland. The question that was asked was, ‘How do you see yourself in 25 years?’ Douglas went to see Marilyn at her private apartment, as she was sort of in seclusion at that time. They talked for a while and then all of a sudden she said, ‘We need Frank Sinatra records, Dom Pérignon champagne, a bed, some silk sheets, and I’ll wear nothing, just the silk sheet.’

So Douglas went and got everything and then the shoot took place at a small studio in Santa Monica. Marilyn arrived three hours late. Her publicity had told Douglas, ‘She’s always late, but she always shows up.’ Douglas recalled that she almost glided in, like an apparition. He said the Marilyn he had met at her apartment was ‘the girl next door’, but the Marilyn who arrived at the shoot was the movie star. As he shot her, the session started to get very, very heated, and she was teasing him and telling him to come down and get in the bed with her. He pretended not to hear because he wanted to get the shot. He had the unique claim of being able to say that he turned down Marilyn Monroe. When he showed her the shots, she destroyed the ones she did not like, but when she looked at her favourite images she said, ‘This is the kind of girl that any man would want to go to bed with.’ They left each other on great terms and she wanted him to photograph her again, but sadly she passed away [in 1962] before that could happen.”

Marilyn Monroe 1961
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)


“Douglas photographed Grace several times throughout her career, and this particular photograph was for a movie she was working on called Vamp. Keith was hired to do the painting on her body, and Grace loved the designs so much that she incorporated them into her shows throughout her career. Grace became a very close friend of Douglas and mine. We used to party
and go out on the town with her. She is an absolute superstar. If you make an appointment with her to take pictures at 10 in the morning, she might show up at 10 at night. But she shows up. I went to her concert in late September 2022, in Los Angeles. I went backstage and she said to me, ‘Where is Doug?’, and I said, ‘He’s not doing very well, Grace. He’s very ill.’ There were 1000 people in her room and she said, ‘I need a few minutes to myself everybody.’ After they left the room, she grabbed me and said, ‘I want to come and see him.’ That Wednesday she showed up with a rose and wine. She gave Douglas the rose, we had a wine together and then she laid down next to him and talked and sang him songs. He listened and he knew it was her. He was holding her hand. I’ll never forget that. He died a week later, on October 2.”

Keith Haring & Grace Jones 1986
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)

Sigourney Weaver, 1978

“Los Angeles is such young city, so instead of bronze statues of historical figures, you get landmarks like Tail o’ the Pup. It closed for a while and then reappeared in Santa Monica, but when we took this picture of Sigourney it was still in its original location on La Cienega Boulevard. You can see the street sign over her shoulder.”

Sigourney Weaver 1979
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)


“This image of Meryl and Robert was taken on the set of Out of Africa. Douglas actually spent 45 days on location during the filming of the movie. He was commissioned by Universal Studios to do what they called ‘special photography’. When the cinematographer looked at some of his images, he got inspired by the warm filter Douglas used.”

Robert Redford & Meryl Streep 1985 Out of Africa
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)


“When Douglas met Elizabeth Taylor, she was being interviewed and had said she didn’t want to do any pictures. It was after her tracheotomy, and she hadn’t been photographed for about eight months or so. He sat very quietly during the interview and then when it was over, he held her hand and said to Elizabeth, “I’m new with this [Look] magazine, and if you gave me the opportunity to photograph you, it would mean a lot to my career.” She thought about it for a while and then she said, “OK, come back tomorrow at 7.30 at night.” These images were what really started his career. Not only were they on the cover of Look magazine, which had a circulation of 7.5 million at the time in the US, they were syndicated all over the world.”

Elizabeth Taylor 1961
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)

Baz Luhrmann And Catherine Martin, 1992

“We became close with Baz and Catherine while Douglas was on the set of [their 1992 film] Strictly Ballroom. After that we started working with them on everything, including Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby. When they came to town in 2001 we photographed Catherine, and that portrait of her is hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. When they were working on [the opera] La Bohème in 2007, we went to see them in Sydney. We had dinner and Baz started telling us about the next film he was planning to do. He told Douglas that this was going to be his Out of Africa, a homage to his country. Douglas told Baz that he worked on Out of Africa and said that when he got home, he’d send Baz a bunch of prints and images from the film. Both Catherine and Baz have since said that these images inspired their 2008 film Australia.”

Baz Luhrmann adn Catherine Martin 2000)
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)

Nicole Kidman, 2001

“The first time Douglas met Nicole, he came back and told me that she is so incredibly professional and that when she got off the stage she would cook spaghetti for everybody. She was the same when we were in Australia. She was with her husband Keith and she told me, ‘We have done really well, we have found some good guys.’ She’s Australian, so she’s a lot more down to earth than most movie stars.”

Nicole Kidman 2000 Moulin Rouge
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)

Raquel Welch, 1969

“This image was shot for Look magazine, and it was very experimental at the time. Everyone thinks it’s photoshopped, but that didn’t exist back then. It was photographed with infrared film.”

Raquel Welch 1969
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)

CHER, 1974

“We photographed Cher for People magazine, which was a good [publication] at the time. Cher was dating David Geffen and she was so wonderful and easy going, none of that ‘superstar’ attitude. She let Douglas do whatever he wanted. We really had more time with movie stars back then, which made such a difference.”

Cher 1975
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)


“This photograph is one of my favourites of Douglas and me, because it completely captures our relationship … me looking at him with complete adoration. It was taken by the most wonderful Australian photographer, Julie Adams, who Douglas and I met at the start of her career. She just had the most vivacious energy. Douglas adored her instantly and he sort of took her under his wing. She took this picture in Los Angeles. We could hear her coming around the corner because she was laughing – she has the most delicious laugh. She asked if she could take our picture, but as she said it, she was already shooting us and that is how she captured such a candid moment that perfectly tells the story of our love. After Douglas passed away, I didn’t do a funeral or a memorial or any of that crap, instead I had a full-on party. Julie flew over from Australia and stayed with me. It meant so much to me and she has since come back with her husband and her two delicious daughters. Douglas and I always felt that life is about human connections, and Julie really is like a daughter to me.”

Douglas & Francoise
(Credit: Julie Adams)


“I had an idea of photographing Elle with flowers and greenery because there’s something magical about her. We dressed our house in flowers and turned our jacuzzi into a grotto, using dry ice to create the smoke. Elle wore a Moschino dress, which the stylist was very worried about because it was a couture dress and it got wet, but we managed to save it. From the time he saw Elle’s first movie, Douglas always felt that she has the most star quality of any modern actress. She’s also the nicest person in the world and has that vulnerability and directness, and she’s not fake.”

Elle Fanning 2018
(Credit: Douglas Kirkland)

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