Vanity Fair's "Epic Takedown" of Gwyneth Paltrow Is Really Just a "Hate/Love-Fest" Essay

Vanessa Grigoriadis was asked to write about the actress' polarizing personality

By Zach Johnson Feb 04, 2014 4:29 PMTags
Gwyneth PaltrowMichael Buckner/Getty Images

The rumors are true...sort of.

Graydon Carter dismisses the idea that Vanity Fair had been working on an "epic takedown" of Gwyneth Paltrow in his Editor's Letter from the March 2014 Hollywood Issue. Instead, he writes, contributing editor Vanessa Grigoriadis was commissioned to explore the actress' polarizing persona.

"Vanessa turned in her story at the end of the summer. And it was just what had been assigned—a reasoned, reported essay on the hate/love-fest that encircles Gwyneth Paltrow. I thought it perfectly explained the whole phenomenon. But it was such a far cry from the almost mythical story that people were by now expecting—the 'epic takedown,' filled with 'bombshell' revelations—that it was bound to be a disappointment," Carter recalls. "What to do? I decided to sit on it for a time."

"In October, Gwyneth called me," he continues. "We talked for about 20 minutes about the story and her reaction, or over-reaction, to it. At one point, she asked my advice as to what to do to get the 'haters' on her side. I suggested putting on 15 pounds. I joked that it works for me. She replied I had put on much more than that. Which I thought was fair and funny. Two months after the phone call, Web sites lit up with news of a truce. We received more mail, much of it now criticizing us for caving."

The same month Paltrow phoned Carter, the editor confirmed that the piece would indeed be running.

"There had also been conflicting reports that Gwyneth had coerced George Clooney into not being on our cover—clearly not true," he says, noting that the actor appears on the Hollywood Issue with Julia Roberts and others. "There were reports that she was trying to scuttle our annual Oscar party, that she was going to organize a competing dinner. The Paltrow camp subsequently denied both claims."

When news of the story leaked, Carter said Paltrow had "sort of forced my hand."

"We were in uncharted waters. At Vanity Fair, we tend to keep stories we are working on under our hats. It's not easy being a monthly magazine in an internet age, and since most of the publications we compete with are weeklies or dailies, when it comes to the stories still in train, a certain amount of institutional secrecy is required. The Gwyneth Paltrow saga had clearly just gotten away from us. My instinct was to continue to let it sit until people had forgotten about it, or at least until expectations had diminished. The fact is the Gwyneth Paltrow story, the one we ordered up, as delightfully written as it was, is not the one the anti-Gwynethites expect. That it has generated more mail and attention than many of the biggest stories we've ever published only makes the situation more complicated."

The New York Times first reported that Paltrow had emailed her friends asking them to ignore Vanity Fair's requests for interviews about her and recommended that they "never do this magazine again."

It was later reported by The New York Post's Page Six that Vanity Fair was actually working on an exposé that addressed alleged infidelity on Paltrow's part in 2008 involving real estate mogul Jeffrey Soffer, who has since married Elle Macpherson. Paltrow's rep subsequently told E! News, "Jeff is a longtime friend of Gwyneth's and there was never a romantic relationship between them."

No word yet on what Paltrow thinks of the published Vanity Fair piece.