November 03, 2008 12:00 PM

During four decades of taking pictures on movie sets for magazines and film promotions, photographer Mary Ellen Mark has captured acting greats including Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt at their most unguarded: getting made up, clowning around, taking direction. Now she has gathered together hundreds of these stills—many previously unpublished—in a new book, Seen Behind the Scene. Working on sets, says Mark, requires a great deal of tact: “You have to be respectful because it’s hard to be an actor. It’s like photographing paintings in a museum. Films are so expensive to make, and you don’t want to cause distractions. You have to kind of tiptoe around.” When they’ll let you, that is. In today’s celebrity-oriented culture, “that kind of access is more difficult to get,” Mark says. “The atmosphere around actors has changed.”

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