A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Lady Gaga's five-minute short film for her black-liquid fragrance Fame, which she'll debut Sept. 13 during a masquerade ball at New York's Guggenheim Museum, has the pedigree of a Hollywood movie: Ridley Scott producing, David Fincher's regular DP Jeff Cronenweth on camera, effects by Digital Domain, and, according to a source, a seven-figure-plus budget.
Talking exclusively with The Hollywood Reporter, the film's director, acclaimed photographer Steven Klein (who shot Gaga's "Alejandro" video), says the arresting image of a giant Gaga being scaled, Lilliputian-style, by a pack of muscled men required the construction of a 300-foot-long, nearly 50-foot-tall sculpture of the singer's body on a Paramount soundstage. "In one of our meetings, Gaga said, 'Wouldn't it be amazing if we had like 50 Steven Klein models crawling all over me.' It was like the idea of everybody wanting a piece of you. That's how that became a reality," says Klein, adding that the shoot turned out to be quite complicated. "It was one of the biggest crane shots the crew had ever done, and we did a motion-control track of her body that was filmed simultaneously."
But one thing didn't make it into what Klein calls the "safe version" of the film, which is awash in black latex and surrealistic imagery. In a more violent director's cut (there are no clear plans on when it will be released), "She actually kills all the boys, like a massacre," says the photographer. The overall theme, he says, is about "the subject of fame, the dark and light side of it, the pleasures and the pains of fame. Fame can hold you as a prisoner in certain ways."
Klein -- who just signed with Ridley Scott's RSA Films (which is managed by producer Jules Daly) as a commercials director and is looking to direct his first feature film -- says the goal was not to make a typical fragrance ad: "She said to me, 'I want to put a hypodermic needle in the fragrance business and blow it up.' " The Coty fragrance sells for between $42 to $79.
The photographer is also known for his video collaborations with Madonna, for a 2005 W magazine photo shoot of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie which portrayed them as a happily married 1960s-era suburban couple (which appeared before they publicily acknowledged their relationship), has shots scores of magazine covers (Vogue, Interview, Italian Vogue and more) and has exhibited his works as the National Portrait Gallery in London and at New York's Armory Show.
While Klein wouldn't comment on the budget of the film, he said: "You know, the film was expensive, but I guess the film has a price, fame has a price, the fragrance has a price. Everything has a price."
As for the party where the film will debut, it's been reported that Lady Gaga will perform at the masquerade party, where women are expected to come wearing masks and men are strongly suggested to follow suit.