July 13, 2008

Brangelina twins are million-dollar babes

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's new twins, a girl and a boy born by Caesarian section on Saturday, are barely a few hours old but already their first photos are worth a fortune.

A million dollars, two, five, 10 even 20 million? Exactly how much the first "official" snaps will be sold for is not clear. But the figures being bandied about make the eyes pop.

Nice Matin, the hometown daily in the Riviera city in the south of France where Jolie gave birth, put the twins' worth at more than $11 million. It first broke news of the birth and reported Sunday that the couple have sold the rights for the first photo of their newly enlarged family to a U.S. publication, which it did not name, and that the proceeds would go to charity.

"I've never known a set of pictures to be worth this amount of money," said Darryn Lyons, owner of Big Pictures, a celebrity photo agency in London. He estimated that the twins' official photos will be worth between $15 million and $20 million.

The only other photos that "would possibly come that close is Britney Spears giving birth to an alien," he said.

Veteran London-based celebrity publicist Max Clifford estimated that the first photos could fetch 10 million pounds — roughly $20 million — "which would make it the biggest baby deal ever."

"These kind of pictures sell lots of magazines," he said. "It's a 10-million-pound gamble as to whether the ends justify the means. But obviously it's a very calculated risk because whoever lands the photos will have a lot of experience with the popularity of mum and dad."

Cue the paparazzi. They've been camped in Nice since shortly after Jolie's admission to the Lenval hospital there at the end of June. For them, the Brangelina twins were the biggest story of the year. It's been a cat-and-mouse game between photographers and the hospital, which says it put up a special material on the windows of the couple's room that prevents telephoto lenses from peering through.

"It's the most glamorous couple in the world. Brad and Angelina are the most beautiful people. They are very popular, that is why we are here," one paparazzo in Nice said. The paparazzo would not be identified by name or agency.

This photographer staked out Brangelina for two months before the birth, going back to the Cannes film festival when the family was staying in the nearby St. Jean Cap Ferrat mansion of Microsoft founder Paul Allen. The photographer acknowledged that paparazzi bother people — but said it was the price of their fame, adding that most of the time Pitt and Jolie seemed to tolerate their presence.

"No anger. Only when they want to be alone they tell us, 'Please leave us alone.' They are very kind. They are nice," the photographer said.

Never mind that Jolie was ensconced on the fifth floor in a section of the maternity ward that has been security-enhanced and that she was staying out of sight behind the mirrored blue windows. Paparazzi still had hopes that they would get a valuable shot of Jolie — either as an expectant or brand-new mother.

Clifford said he didn't think that paparazzi will be able to get any candid shots of the babies and, if they do, he didn't think they will have much impact on the value of the official photos.

"If there are sneak shots, they're not going to be anything like the posed ones," he said. "All it does is whet the appetite of those who want to see real quality pictures."

Lyons of Big Pictures also did not think paparazzi will get candid shots.

"There's always a chance in this business. It's down to who is good at what they do," he said. "If you were to get a paparazzi set of photos you could easily buy a little island to live on for the rest of your life."

"Certainly, the feeding frenzy just goes to show that people talk about the celebrity-obsessed world we live in. If publishers are willing to pay up to 15 million, there are obviously plenty of people wanting to see them."

"In the celebrity world, it seems to be the double second coming," he added.

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