Cover of magazine offends Pitt's vanity

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The Independent Online

Brad Pitt may be Mr Cool in most of his films but in real life he is having a meltdown. More specifically, the 42-year-old Hollywood hunk has got his knickers into a twist about the front cover of December's Vanity Fair. And there is he is, glistening wet and clothed, indeed, in knickers.

The good news is that his choice that day was a capacious pair of boxers - nothing remotely revealing - and his modesty is assisted by the addition of some nice white socks. He can also rest assured that the portrait will give much pleasure to flocks of Vanity Fair readers, both female, and maybe a few males too.

But it is the prospect of the magazine thus profiting from his near-nakedness that is fuelling his anger, and that of his lawyers. According to the Pitt camp he never gave permission for the shot to grace Vanity Fair - or any publication.

So if the picture was purloined, how did it happen? As anyone in Hollywood knows, there is no transaction more carefully controlled by stars and their agents than the scheduling of interviews and portraits in the highly-competitive magazine industry, and especially the placing of front-cover portraits.

It turns out that Pitt, whose latest film, Babel, opened in the United States last weekend, posed for the shots late last year as part of a video project by the artist Robert Wilson. He was one of several high-profile subjects used by Wilson in a series of high-definition still photographs and videos. All the material will be part of a show next year.

In Wilson's studio, the actor was in good company. Others who obliged him included the likes of Isabella Rossellini, Sean Penn, Willem Dafoe and Winona Ryder. Importantly, each signed a waiver allowing Wilson to use any of the images for the purposes of promoting the project.

Quicker than its rivals to spot the opportunity, Vanity Fair decided December's edition would be a special "art issue" featuring Wilson. The artist in turn provided whatever images they desired - including a video of Pitt standing silently in his underwear getting soaked by water. At the end of the clip - now available on Vanity Fair's website - he raises a water pistol and shoots at the camera.

Vanity Fair has highlighted the waiver the actor signed. "Brad Pitt posed for a Robert Wilson video portrait, and in the photo release (signed by Pitt), agreed to allow Wilson to use the portrait or any images from that sitting in connection with any publicity," the magazine said in a statement.

It is also insisting a letter was sent to Pitt giving him fair warning about its cover plans. "In a letter dated Oct. 5, 2006, and sent to Pitt care of Brillstein-Grey, Wilson informed Pitt that a still image from his portrait was going to be featured in the December art issue of Vanity Fair," it said.

But the Pitt camp says the actor never saw the missive. "We are very disappointed that Vanity Fair has chosen to put an unauthorised cover on their magazine. It seriously makes me question their integrity and motives," a spokesman for the actor said.