The Sky-High Cost of Keeping Stars Safe
Celebrities pay six to seven figures to keep paparazzi, overzealous fans and the occasional stalker at bay.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
"I've had clients spend a hundred grand to secure a house," says Summit Business Management's Scott Feinstein. "They get stalkers showing up, dropping off animals at your porch like it's a gift to you, climbing into the trees to take pictures." From elaborate home-security systems to 24-hour security details to bulletproof luxury cars, minor celebrities increasingly feel compelled to pay to have what's left of their privacy secured in a world in which their addresses and every movement are open to 24/7 scrutiny on the Web.
Twilight stars beefing up security because of fans who conflate the actors with their roles are the latest casualties in a war that veteran celebrities have waged for years. "We have full-time security all the time," says Fred Nigro, David Letterman's business manager. "We have it for the show, and we have it for everything else. First he had a stalker, then he had a kidnapping attempt, then extortion. In 30 years, he's gone through it all."
The cost is between $500 and $1,000 an officer a day for a coordinated team of bodyguards (or "executive protection," in current parlance) to steer a star from house to set to dinner, says Anthony Davis, founder of AD Entertainment Services, which has provided security for the Osbournes, Barbra Streisand, Stevie Wonder and Steven Tyler.
Although not his clients, Davis cites David and Victoria Beckham, a high-visibility couple who has cut a broad swath through the tabloids, as a hypothetical case study. For the Beckhams, Davis would deploy a team of three officers -- "one for the Mr., one for the Mrs. and an advance person" -- at a cost of $2,500 to $5,000 an officer weekly to run interference at restaurants, shoots or a night at the Hollywood Bowl. A three-day trip to New York with a team of four officers would cost $9,000 before factoring in travel expenses, per diems and other incidentals, says Davis. He adds: If flying commercial, the officers travel first class or business to keep in proximity to the celebrity and stay in the same hotel, usually in an adjacent suite.
On the extreme end of the scale, the annual cost to protect a celebrity family like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's could approach $2 million, according to Aaron Cohen, director of IMS Security in Hollywood, whose clients have included Kate Moss, Katy Perry and Charlie Sheen. Securing the family's home runs $500,000 and includes shifts of security guards installed in a command center -- often the garage -- who watch high-definition video from cameras throughout the premises.
When the family leaves the house, each adult is assigned a "close security" agent -- the children would share one -- at a cost of $500,000 annually, per agent. (Halle Berry spearheaded California's tough anti-paparazzi statute, provoked by photographers shooting her daughter, Nahla; a close security agent could have kept offending photogs at bay.) A stalker adds a $20,000 fee for surveillance to build evidence so that a restraining order or arrest can be made. In the meantime, says Cohen, "I'd keep him as far away as possible."