Finally, there’s the Princess Di factor. Unlike in Los Angeles, where the paparazzi often pursue their quarry in high-speed car chases and shoot “guerrilla style”—getting right up in celebrities’ faces and blasting them with a flash—Diana’s 1997 death dampened paparazzi culture in Paris. “The paparazzi here discipline themselves,” says Marc Rylewski, a Paris paparazzo who worked in Los Angeles until U.S. immigration authorities threw him out. “They stay ten feet behind, they don’t shoot with flash. No one wants another Princess Di situation.” After Diana, the French also passed stringent anti-paparazzi laws. “If a Paris cop really wanted to press it,” says one paparazzo, “he could arrest us all.”
Why Jolie and Pitt would choose to have their baby in Paris (if that is indeed where they have it) is known only to them. Perhaps it’s because Jolie’s mother is French. Perhaps it’s because they simply like Paris, where the couple—and their two adopted children—has spent much time in recent months. But some wouldn’t put it past Jolie and Pitt to pick Paris simply to make the paparazzi’s lives more difficult. It wouldn’t be out of character. In 2000, when Pitt was marrying Aniston, he had a Los Angeles printer make up invitations with the wrong date and location, knowing someone at the printer would leak the information. Then, in order to thwart the photographers who discovered the wedding’s real location—which was at a friend’s Malibu mansion—and who were tempted to try to shoot the nuptials from helicopters, Pitt supposedly secured a temporary flight restriction over the property, which, as one paparazzo puts it, “is like an act of God . . . That house was like the fucking White House.”
Jolie is usually more accommodating of the shutterbugs, but she too has resorted to extreme measures. Earlier this year, for instance, when she was shooting The Good Shepherd in the Dominican Republic (just before publicly revealing that she was pregnant with Pitt’s child), the film set resembled an armed fortress. “The local security actually had the Dominican military working with them,” says one paparazzo who tried and failed to shoot Jolie (and her by then noticeably growing belly) in Santo Domingo. “If they told you something once and you didn’t do it, you were going to jail.” His local tour guide did, in fact, end up getting arrested.
All of which makes one paparazzo paint a particularly bleak scenario of how the hunt will play out in Paris. As he sees it, he will arrive there a few days before Jolie’s due date and join the stakeout at the couple’s apartment. Then one day he and the rest of the paparazzi pack will follow Jolie and Pitt—who, if habit serves, will travel in an easy-to-spot American-made minivan—to the American Hospital and set up an encampment across the street. “It’s going to be a circus,” the paparazzo predicts. He will do his best to establish his spot, one that gives him a view of as many hospital exits as possible, and then he will wait. While waiting, he may try to make contacts with people inside the hospital and ply them with money to give him even the smallest shards of information—such as which floor Jolie is staying on or which exit the new parents and baby might emerge from when they go home—but he admits the chances of his getting any are slim. “If anyone is going to get inside information,” he complains, “it’ll be the French photographers.”
And then, after a few days, Jolie will leave the hospital with her new baby. Chances are she and Pitt will create a diversion—an empty carriage, a decoy car, something. But even if they don’t, there’s no guarantee a paparazzo will get a good shot of the baby. “It’s going to be very hard, because if you think about it, a newborn is in that ‘carry’ thing, whatever the hell you call it, and you literally need to get up right next to it in order to get a clean shot of the face,” the paparazzo says. When Jolie returns to her apartment, she will be even harder to photograph, since her place is next door to a French-government building, and she typically gets in and out of her car in the government’s secure parking lot. Once Jolie goes inside with her new baby, the photographers will wait again. And wait. And wait some more. Maybe someone will try to bribe a delivery boy for inside information, but there’s no point in trying to bribe the other people who live in Jolie’s building, since, the paparazzo explains, “neighbors won’t give up a neighbor.”
Eventually, this photographer hopes, his fortunes will turn. “The first two weeks after the birth is a zoo,” he says. “But after two weeks, a lot of them start to get fed up—especially if they’re paying serious money for a hotel in Paris. Then there are only five or six guys left. And that’s when you make some money.” Which can be considerable. Although his expenses for the assignment could exceed $10,000 when he factors in flights, hotel, car rental, fuel, parking, meals, international cell-phone calls, and payments for tips, one picture of the Brangelina baby—even if it’s from a distance; even if it’s blurry; even, perhaps, if it’s a nonexclusive—could fetch him $50,000. And, as he calculates it, if he gets a few of those types of pictures each year, along with a steady diet of $1,000 shots, then he’ll make an annual salary in the mid–six figures. "People call you a scumbag pretty much every day,” he concedes, “but it’s nice being able to pay your bills.” And that’s why he plans to go to Paris and stay there for as long as it takes. “You’ve got to outlast the story,” he says. “You’ve just got to spend weeks outside her apartment waiting for her to come out.”