Coming to a screen near you: the celebrity documentary

The success of 'The September Issue' has launched a new trend for the famous

As one of the most powerful women in fashion, Anna Wintour lives to launch new trends. But not even the US Vogue editor-in-chief could have predicted the runaway success of the latest craze she has inspired: big-screen documentaries about even bigger personalities.

Hot on the heels of the box-office hit The September Issue, a fly-on-the-wall film that lifted the lid on Wintour's office antics, comes a clutch of "ego trip" films about celebrities, slated for cinemas rather than burial on late-night cable channels.

Around a dozen documentaries about the famous, from the Rolling Stones to Hugh Hefner, have been made in recent months in what film critics have criticised as a further escalation of the cult of celebrity. Some are vanity projects, such as Billy Joel's Last Play at Shea, which cost the musician $4m (£2.7m) to have made, while others, such as Alex Gibney's as yet untitled film about the disgraced former New York governor, Eliot Spitzer, are more critical. Other celebrities to feature in films include the US comedian Joan Rivers; the Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner; and the fashion designer Halston.

Several of the new biopics premiered at the recent Tribeca Film Festival in New York; others are still awaiting release dates. All will hope they can replicate the success of The September Issue, which took more than $6m in global sales.

The film world is divided about the merits of such ventures, however. Jane Rosenthal, one of the Tribeca festival founders, said that A Piece of Work, which followed Joan Rivers as she turned 75, had helped to relaunch the comic's career. But Barry Norman, the film critic, said: "I don't see the point in watching a film about a stand-up comedian. These things belong on television not in the cinema. They're just an ego trip [for the protagonist]."

Sandra Hebron, the artistic director of the BFI London Film Festival, said she understood the fascination because documentary-makers are always on the hunt for interesting subjects. "Celebrities can be a bit of a gift because often they are not only talented individuals but also have interesting life stories. The September Issue was absolutely fascinating." She added that the rise in the number of films about famous people was "absolutely on trend with our cultural fascination with celebrities".

Not all of the big names featured jumped at the chance to participate. Gibney, who directed the Academy Award-nominated film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, had to make several attempts to persuade Eliot Spitzer to get involved. The ex-New York governor eventually agreed in the hope it might help to rehabilitate his flagging career. Not so Ashley Dupre, the call girl he was caught with, who declined to take part because she was worried that what she said might get twisted.

Ms Hebron, who is still sorting through entries for this year's festival, added that filmgoers should be wary about what they might be getting if they turned up to watch a big-screen biopic. "The audience should know that it might be watching a piece of promotional material rather than something more objective," she said.

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes