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PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour throws opens the doors to the magazine widely viewed as the American fashion bible in a new documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
"The September Issue" centers on Wintour, whose stern rule over the fashion industry while running the Conde Nast magazine has earned her an icy reputation that is said to have inspired Meryl Streep's role in 2006 film "The Devil Wears Prada."
Structured around Vogue's eight-month preparation for its biggest issue of the year, director R.J. Cutler was given rare access to the Vogue offices on New York's Times Square, tailing Wintour and the magazine's creative director Grace Coddington.
"I was certainly surprised by Anna's prominence in this industry," Cutler, who produced the Oscar-nominated documentary "War Room, told Reuters. "It's true that she is really this singular figure in this enormous global industry."
"You can make a movie without (director) Stephen Spielberg's blessing and you can publish software without (Microsoft founder) Bill Gates' blessing, but you can't get a dress you designed on a rack without Anna Wintour's blessing," he said. "You kind of have to see it to believe it."
With bobbed hair, dark glasses and an austere look, Wintour is a longtime front-row fixture at fashion shows from New York to Paris as head of a publication founded in 1892 that some have called the world's most influential fashion magazine.
"Anna is the boss to end all bosses," Cutler said.
Recent speculation has grown that she could be thinking about retirement or is being considered by President Barack Obama as a possible ambassador to France.
In the film, Wintour talks about her father, Charles, a former editor of London's Evening Standard newspaper, retiring because he was getting angry with his work.
"I think when I find myself getting really, really angry it might be time to stop," said Wintour, 59, without signaling whether that time might be near.
Her colleagues at Vogue describe her as "the pope" of fashion and say she is "not warm and friendly," while Wintour says she believes her siblings are amused by her job and that people who mock fashion do so because they are scared of it.
"This is very much R.J.'s film," Wintour told Women's Wear Daily. "I want to make it very clear that he had complete freedom to put together the movie he wanted and it's not in any way Vogue behind him telling him what he can and cannot do."
Cutler began talking to Wintour about a possible documentary in 2005 and then filmed throughout 2007, saying he was invited to do so "relatively easily."
"For whatever reason she wanted her story to be told," he said of Wintour, who is credited in the film by colleagues for bringing back fur, an issue that has seen her become a target of animal rights activists.
The film is due to be screened this year in the United States on the A&E network, while the international rights have been sold to the Wild Bunch production company.
Cutler said Wintour and former British model Coddington, who have worked together at U.S. Vogue for two decades after both previously working at British Vogue, loved the film -- with a couple of exceptions.
"Anna would have loved to have seen a more Vogue-like version of it where as my interest is in raw reality," said Cutler, who wanted to film Wintour after reading an article about her. "I am interested in what life is like for real."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Todd Eastham