Being a major celebrity often comes with some pretty considerable perks. Think adoring fans, massive paycheques, and a seemingly never-ending life of luxury without a care in the world.
However, there can be significant downsides. Some might be just a bit irritating, like having the paparazzi capture each and every mistake, or social media users giving constant opinions. But life can take a far darker turn if fame earns them the attention of a determined stalker, who will stop at nothing to get close to their favourite stars.
As one of the biggest popstars and sex symbols of the 1980s, Madonna was presumably used to dealing with the uglier aspects of fame. Despite this, no-one would've blamed her for being terrified after becoming the main target of a stalker named Robert Dewey Hoskins.
Hoskins’ fixation developed in the mid-90s when he became convinced that the iconic singer was “supposed to be his wife”. As Madonna herself later recounted, he said: “if he couldn’t have me, he was going to slice my throat from ear to ear”.
Things came to a head in 1996, when Hoskins scaled the wall of Madonna’s residence in the Hollywood Hills. During the attempted home invasion, Hoskins was shot by a security guard and arrested.
The stalker was handed a 10-year jail term, after which he was sent to a psychiatric hospital. Hoskins got into trouble with the law again in 2011, this time for vandalism, and briefly made headlines when he escaped from another hospital the following year. The man who police described as “highly psychotic” was recaptured soon after.
“I was completely freaked out. It was like a nightmare. It was scary.” These were the words of Hollywood star Uma Thurman, testifying at the 2008 trial of Jack Jordan, who was facing charges of stalking and harassment. The Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill star's ordeal began in 2005 when Jordan’s frenzied attention began to surface.
Evidence presented during the trial included a card Jordan had sent to one of her film sets, reading: “My hands should be on your body at all times.” There was also a cartoon he’d posted to Thurman, depicting a razor blade and a decapitated bride.
As well as turning up at a trailer on set, and loitering outside her New York home, Jordan had phoned Thurman’s parents, saying that he and their daughter “had a predestination to be together”. Most worryingly, he also informed them that Thurman’s children didn’t actually exist.
“I don't think any mother or parent would want any stranger to fixate on their children and to fixate on them not existing,” Thurman said during the trial. “That was terrifying for me.”
Jordan’s defence team suggested he was misguided and thought he was being romantic. Jordan himself claimed he was “very respectfully trying to make my existence known to her.” He was sentenced to three years of probation but was re-arrested in 2010 for trying to contact Thurman again.
One of the most recent and egregious examples of stalker behaviour involved British singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor. The details came to light in 2021, when a former tax consultant named Nishil Patel wound up in court for his deeply disturbing actions towards the star.
They’d met in passing the previous year, after which he sent her hundreds of Instagram messages that were described in court as “upsetting” and “concerning”. He also sent dozens of gifts for Ellis-Bextor to her neighbour’s house in London. These included a wallet which, according to a message Patel included, was “blue, not black like [her] soul”.
As his fixation intensified, Patel grew more hostile, calling Ellis-Bextor a “f****** privileged b****” and a “fat c***”. He also directly contacted her husband and one of her children. In light of this increasingly unhinged behaviour, it was no surprise that Patel was handed a stalking protection order, meaning he’ll face criminal prosecution if he communicates with her in the next five years.
Stalker cases can sometimes be bizarre to the point of becoming unfathomable, and this is true in the story of Mark Revill. Dubbing himself the “public executioner”, he developed an obsession with Hollywood star Keira Knightley. He terrified her with repeated visits to her London home, even making meowing noises through her letterbox. Cats were, in fact, a prominent theme – Revill repeatedly sent cat postcards and hand-delivered a USB containing cat-themed music.
Things got so bad that he had to be chased away from the house by Knightley’s husband. Speaking in court in 2016, Knightley delivered a statement saying they had considered moving because of Revill’s incessant behaviour. “I am scared every time I go outside,” her statement read. “When I return home I have to look behind me concerned, I don't know who might be in the shadows.”
Despite being handed an indefinite restraining order forbidding him from contacting the star and her family, Revill soon resumed messaging Knightley on social media, declaring “my campaign of disobedience continues”. He also vowed that she and her husband would “not get much help from the police”, and – most shockingly – sent her indecent images of a young child. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Revill was sectioned indefinitely in 2017.