Jennifer Lawrence Before She Was Famous and 15 More Never-Told Stories Behind THR's Most Memorable Covers

9:30 AM 11/18/2015

by THR staff

When Lorne Michaels refused to pick favorites to pose with him for the magazine's 'Saturday Night Live' issue, which celebrated the show's 40th anniversary, choosing castmembers for the cover shoot turned into a "political minefield."

Covers Comp - H 2015

Covers Comp - H 2015

  1. 1

    First Cover

    THR's very first cover was a leap of faith. "No one knew what The Hollywood Reporter was going to be," recalls president/chief creative officer Janice Min of the magazine's relaunch. THR was aiming for glossy in a world where trade publications are, traditionally (let's face it), ugly. So for Amy Adams, Nicole Kidman, Hilary Swank, Natalie Portman, Helena Bonham Carter and Annette Bening to show up at all — for a conversation conducted by longtime editor Stephen Galloway — was something of a miracle. Bit of trivia: Portman was pregnant during the shoot but hadn't announced it yet.

  2. 2

    Jennifer Lawrence

    Executive editor Matthew Belloni recalls that this issue was a wake-up call: "I realized, 'Oh my God, we have to put out one of these every week.' " This was our 10th cover, and it still was weeks before the Academy would nominate Lawrence for Winter's Bone. Min bet that the young actress was going to break out and asked the staff to approach her team. At the time, Lawrence was a nobody, starring in an indie that grossed $6 million. "She made herself totally available," says photo and video director Jennifer Laski. "We shot her for hours."

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    David Fincher

    "Fincher tried to art-direct his own shoot," says Laski of the session that took place on a rainy Sunday in Hollywood on the Paramount lot, where he was filming The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. "He wanted Frank Ockenfels 3 to shoot it. So it was me, him, Frank … a very intimate crew. He did bring a sweater as his outfit change. He was controlling, trying to light our set like a movie, then it ended up being pitch black. He wanted it darker and darker and darker. This was the first of many directors we’d end up shooting and, it turns out, he was the most hands-on of them all."

  4. 4

    Melissa McCarthy

    McCarthy had just won an Emmy for her role on Mike & Molly — beating Laura Linney, Edie Falco and Amy Poehler — and the day after the awards show, Min asked new writer Lacey Rose, fresh from Forbes, to make the ask for a cover. "Melissa loved that shoot so much," recalls Laski. "Her team told me that every shoot she went to there were the same 10 items. But when she got to our shoot, there were all of these clothes and she was so happy. People always wanted to make her look funny. But we went glam. It was one of her favorite shoots - and ours."

  5. 5

    'The Dark Knight Rises' Tragedy

    Movie theaters should be safe places for people to commune in the dark and be entertained by light flickering on a cave wall. When the sanctity of a theater in Aurora, Colo., was shattered by a gunman who murdered 12 people, it sent shock waves through Hollywood and prompted THR to bump a Steve Carell cover one week forward and "crash" a package that examined the event and the relationship between violence and entertainment from every angle (writers included Kurt Sutter and Peter Bogdanovich). Creating an image to represent both the magnitude of the tragedy and pop culture's role was tricky — and the THR design team led by design director Peter B. Cury went through several variations before settling on this.

  6. 6

    Snoop Dogg

    This in-depth look at the hip-hop mogul and marijuana evangelist at 40, as he transitioned briefly from Snoop Dogg to Snoop Lion, was the first and last time THR has ever let anyone smoke on the cover. The decision was long and arduous, fraught with quandaries both moral and metaphysical. As Laski remembers it, "I asked Janice, 'Do you want him smoking on the cover?' And she said, 'I don't want him not smoking on the cover.' " 

  7. 7

    How Hollywood Helped Hitler

    For this exclusive book excerpt — which detailed the ways that the studios, to protect their German business interests, allowed the Nazis to censor scripts and cancel movies entirely — choosing the image was particularly tricky. "We were trying to figure out how to do Hitler on a cover without it being in bad taste," says creative director Shanti Marlar. Adds Min: "While also trying not to make it identifiable to any one studio, I remember asking Matt, 'How many studios have water towers?' " The solution? Show a swastika, but discreetly. 

  8. 8

    Oprah Winfrey

    For Winfrey's first time on a THR cover (for the 2012 Rule Breakers Issue), she was shot in her home in Montecito, Calif. This time, she was photographed on the same day for two purposes: once, as one of six stars for the Actress Roundtable cover (for her role in Lee Daniels' The Butler), and, separately, for her Women in Entertainment cover. "This image was Oprah's Twitter icon for years," says Marlar. Winfrey was so taken with the shoot and the story that on the day of the issue, after accepting the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at THR's annual WIE breakfast, she paid a surprise visit to the magazine's offices to say hello to the staff, bring cupcakes and champagne and thank those responsible (and hug Katherine Bryja, the art director who designed the story).

  9. 9

    Anne Sweeney

    "On a Saturday, I got call from [Disney corporate PR exec] Kevin Brockman," says Min. "He said, 'When do you need to decide on your cover? Are you free tomorrow?' " The news that Sweeney, the co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group, was stepping down was a secret, and she had chosen THR to break the bombshell via an interview with Min at Brockman's Hancock Park home. On the way home, Min was told Sweeney's boss, Robert Iger, would be calling in "40 minutes." With no baby-sitter, Min put her 23-month-old on an iPad to watch Elmo for the first time and took the call. The story — kept from the majority of the staff — was kept under wraps until publication. "We were able to have a legitimate breaking story in print," says Min, "which people think is impossible to do in the digital age." 

  10. 10

    Robin Williams

    THR's annual Philanthropy package was supposed to be the cover — with Edward Norton and Judd Apatow, among others — but breaking news will always throw pre-existing plans into question. And when a figure as beloved and respected as Williams dies, a new cover story became imperative. It was a Monday, and Belloni had spotted the news of his death on a local San Francisco website. "Janice was emailing from her flight to New York: 'We have to change the cover,' " recalls Laski. We had less than 24 hours to do it. Photographer Austin Hargrave had spent time with Williams at the TCA Press Tour for his series The Crazy Ones and had photos that had never been seen (and proved more fitting than the vintage shots we had been toying with). "The image conveyed an emotional depth you didn't often see from him," says Marlar. "You got to see the real him." It was our first lines-free cover.

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    Whenever possible, we want to be out front — the journalists who spot a story on the horizon before anyone else. Which is exactly what happened with our cover on Fox's runaway hit Empire. "We were on this first," says Rose of the cover, which featured Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard and Fox network chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden in their first in-depth interview as broadcast chiefs. "We booked the cover months in advance," Rose says. "The show debuted the night our cover went on sale and was massive. But there was lots of conversation in the room: 'Are we sure about this?' "

  12. 12

    Lorne Michaels/'SNL' 40th Anniversary

    "What started as trying to put together a wide group of Saturday Night Live people turned into this SNL political minefield," says Belloni of THR's Michaels cover, celebrating the show's 40th anniversary. "Lorne refuses to pick favorites, so he refused to select people to be on the cover with him. Our solution was to pick the members of the show's five-time hosts club. The cover became such a talk among the Michaels circuit that we were getting calls asking for people — sometimes from the stars themselves — to be included. We ended up with so many people that we had to do a New York shoot and an L.A. shoot. And Lorne ended up being the Waldo in between. It's a testament to how powerful Lorne is that people were moving schedules to be in it."

  13. 13

    Lady Gaga, By Karl Lagerfeld, and 25 Most Powerful Stylists

    Style editor Carol McColgin, who produced and edited the package, got word that Gaga had agreed to be photographed with her stylist, Brandon Maxwell. By Karl Lagerfeld. In Paris during Fashion Week. McColgin hopped a flight the next day, with her husband doubling as her assistant: "All I knew was that Gaga and Lagerfeld were a go, but we didn't know where or when. I was so jet-lagged that I wore trainers to the shoot, which turned out to be at Coco Chanel's apartment."

  14. 14

    Agency Wars

    When UTA stole 12 agents from rival agency CAA along with their clients (including Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis), it was the type of Hollywood story that's both daunting and irresistible. "We didn't have a cover for that week, and I was in Cannes with Matt, and I said, 'You know what I want?' I want to read about the agencies,' " says Min. "I sent the nightmare note from Cannes to the staff. This kind of story is like setting off a nuke in town. We were thinking that we'd get no participation from anyone, and we ended up getting participation from everyone. It was heavily, exhaustively reported. Everyone's bloodlust was satisfied, but no one thought it was unfair. The only people who were upset were the people not included."

  15. 15

    Donald Trump

    Trump's surge to the head of the Republican candidate pack in the run for the presidency was all anyone could talk about in the waning days of the summer. And the billionaire's rise happened to coincide with a bit of a dry spell for THR, at least as far as cover subjects went. "We had no covers for a three-week period in August," recalls Min. "We'd booked Trump for a cover in September, to follow the second debate at the Ronald Reagan Library. But after the incredible ratings of the first debate on Aug. 6, I reached out to Trump's camp on a Tuesday to see if he could be interviewed Friday for our next cover. We tried to get a notable personality to interview him — Jimmy Fallon was one of the names — but it didn't pan out. I was going to be in New York on my way to Martha's Vineyard on vacation, so I did the interview myself. Most fun, crazy few hours I'd had in a long time. And we could lay claim to having his first major magazine cover — with many, many more from others that followed."

  16. 16

    The New Murdochs

    "The Murdochs were in demand after their father elevated them to run the family empire," recalls Belloni, who negotiated and conducted the first interview with James and Lachlan Murdoch in the wake of Rupert Murdoch's decision to give the brothers the keys to the 21st Century Fox realm. "When they agreed to be interviewed together, I expected them to try to set rules and boundaries about what we could and couldn't ask. But they were the opposite: 'Ask whatever you'd like,' James said."