Feature: Top 20 Celebrity Photos of 2018, by Joe Arce of HollywoodChicago.com

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Star10. Megan Mullally (WILL & GRACE) and Nick Offerman (PARKS AND RECREATION)

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Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

It’s been said every pot has a lid – and there is somebody for everyone – but to learn that “Karen Walker” and “Ron Swanson” just may have written “The Greatest Love Story Ever Told” only proves that fact may indeed be stranger than fiction. Love is a many splendored thing and this portrait of the coo-some twosome, just before their sold out Chicago Theater show, had many of their fans agreeing.

LOCATION/DATE: MICHIGAN AVE Magazine Event, Chicago, October of 2018.

Star9. Busy Phillipps of BUSY TONIGHT

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Busy Philipps of ‘Busy Tonight’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

Busy Philipps has been one of my favorite actresses… since her first role as Kim Kelly on my favorite comedic series, “Freaks and Geeks.” As a member of that fictional graduating class of 1981, I found her portrayal both brilliant and dead-on accurate. I knew, because hell, I dated almost exclusively slight variations of that character all through high school. So naturally I’ve been dying to photograph the actress who portrayed so many of those bittersweet familiar memories on television.

Busy certainly lived up to her name in 2018. Famous for roles just as memorable in hit shows (“Dawson’s Creek,” “ER” and “Cougar Town”), she recently became the breakout media star and social influencer on Instagram Stories media platform. It was on that platform – following Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s Supreme Court confirmation testimony in the Senate against Brett Kavanaugh – that Phillips publicly revealed her own rape at age 14 for the first time. In her best selling 2018 memoir “This Will Only Hurt a Little,” she further revealed how she has been physically assaulted on set by fellow “Freaks and Geeks’ cast member James Franco (her love interest on the show). That began yet another online media firestorm ensued.

I finally got Busy in a Green Room shoot… to celebrate both her book and the soon-to-be-launched talk show “Busy Tonight” (produced by Tina Fey), which premiered on October 28th. The golden-haired actress showed up early, warm and definitely camera ready. Within two minutes she had performed her superpower, and I was mesmerized under her spell. Like so many others I was completely convinced that yes, “Kim Kelly was indeed my friend.”

LOCATION/DATE: Anderson’s Bookshop North Central College (Naperville, Illinois) Event, October of 2018.

Star8. Amandla Stenberg of THE HATE U GIVE

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Amandla Stenberg of ‘The Hate U Give’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

At only 20 years of age, Amandla Stenberg is already being called one of the most influential voices of her generation. The actress – whose big break came in playing Rue opposite Jennifer Lawrence in 2012’s “The Hunger Games” – has developed quite a taste for empowering political and social activism. Her 2015 video “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” which was aimed at cultural appropriation, went viral and earned her almost two million followers on Instagram. Her later subjects… embracing intersectional feminism and queer identity… got her named “Feminist of the Year 2015” by the Ms. Foundation. TIME Magazine named her one of the most influential teens in 2015 and 2016, and placed her on its cover in October of 2018.

In addition to acting, Stenberg co-authored the graphic novel series “Niobe: She is Life.” It’s the first comic series to feature a black woman – who is half elf and half human princess – and it’s also illustrated by a black female artist. As the violinist member of the folk rock duo “Honeywater,” she released an EP in 2013 and is currently writing songs for another. In her latest film, “The Hate U Give,” Amandla Stenberg gave an Oscar worthy performance, and many critics have argued her role should be front and center for a nomination. No less than Oprah herself named Stenberg one of her “Visionaries and Future Leaders” of 2018. I photographed this voice of her generation at the Chicago International Film festival premiere where “The Hate U Give” lead star delivered nothing but sweet love to my camera.

LOCATION/DATE: Chicago International Film Festival Red Carpet, October of 2018.

Star7. Bob Odenkirk of BETTER CALL SAUL

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Bob Odenkirk of ‘Better Call Saul’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

In 2014, I named Bob Odenkirk the “one to watch” for 2015. Last year, he again made my “Top 25 Celebrity Portraits” list. For 2018, Naperville’s (Illinois) favorite son returns to this list like a seasoned habitual offender. As “Better Call Saul” completes its fourth critically-acclaimed season, Odenkirk’s star only continues to rise… it honestly couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Fans of the show in 2018 anxiously awaited his character’s metamorphosis from Slippin’ Jimmy McGill to Albuquerque’s morally bankrupt barrister. Yet my encounter with Bob behind the scenes further confirmed – that unlike his character – Odenkirk just might be the most decent, unaffected and down to earth celeb in Hollywood.

He was hosting and moderating a Q&A event with Monty Pythoner Eric Idle at North Central College, and I thought, “I’ll be damned,” because he was pitching in to help book store and venue employees move and set up backstage tables before Idle’s (his idol) arrival. Sure, posing for a selfie or two backstage is one thing, but you just don’t expect the guy sharing scenes with Meryl Streep offering to help volunteers rearrange furniture, but Odenkirk is obviously the guy who can do it all. He is set to appear in the film adaptation of “Little Women” in 2019. Yes, you read that correctly…“Little Women.” I guess as his character recently sang, “The Winner Takes It All” and for Bob Odenkirk “It’s All Good Man!”

LOCATION/DATE: Anderson’s Bookshop North Central College (Naperville, Illinois) Event, October of 2018.

Star6. Eric Idle

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Eric Idle of ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

By seventh grade I no longer gave a rat’s ass about sports stars. My pantheon of heroes consisted primarily of Rock-and-Roll guitar gods and counter-culture jesters like Cheech & Chong. But then came another British Invasion. The year was 1975 and the outlet was Chicago’s Channel 11, the PBS station. Watching ”Monty Python’s Flying Circus” for the first time was akin to hearing Eddie Van Halen just three years later. There was no greater gift for a 12-year-old budding juvenile delinquent. My buddies and I tuned in religiously every Sunday night and then rehashed the skits ad nauseam every chance we got. We bought their comedy albums, went to their film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” at midnight showings, and spent many a wasted afternoon silly walking through busy supermarkets.

John Cleese and Eric Idle were my two favorite Pythoners, especially after watching the latter’s brilliant 1978 Beatles mock-umentary “The Rutles: All You Need is Cash.” I photographed John Cleese in 2014, and he made my top ten celebrity portrait list for that year. In 2018, I got to focus on the far more chipper Eric Idle before his sold out evening of conversation at North Central College. He was celebrating his best selling sorta-biography “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life.” As I raised my lens backstage, he delivered those classic lines. “Oh photographs, he said knowingly, Nudge Nudge, Snap Snap Snap, Grin Grin, Wink Wink, Say No more Squire!” Nope, It doesn’t get any brighter that that!

LOCATION/DATE: Anderson’s Bookshop North Central College (Naperville, Illinois) Event, October of 2018.

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