thriller portrait michael jackson
Dick Zimmerman became world-renowned for introducing a style of celebrity portrait photography that looked like a painting. (You remember all those TV Guide covers from the '70s and '80s, right?) Over the years, he's shot some of the biggest names in Hollywood, ranging from Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman to John Travolta and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Over a 13-year period, Zimmerman also had three sessions with Michael Jackson, the most famous being in 1982, when Zimmerman shot the cover for the record-breaking 'Thriller' album. Zimmerman, who these days offers oil-painting portraits on commission worldwide, tells us about creating that iconic MJ portrait, as well as spending Christmas with Tom Cruise, and living for a week with Salvador Dalí.

Tell me about the day you photographed Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' cover.
On the day of the shoot, he came alone. No entourage. We had two racks of wardrobe, handpicked by one of the best stylists in LA. Michael didn't really care for anything on it. He said, "I'd like to be wearing something like what you have on." I was wearing my white suit that day. I said, "Well, we're about the same height." So Michael is actually wearing my white suit on the cover.