Inside the MTV Movie Awards: Stars battle mother nature, Jared Leto directs
For its 25th birthday, the MTV Movie Awards was finally able to rent a car — and it chose a war machine from George Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road," piloted by a half-naked Dwayne Johnson and adorned with a Kevin Hart hood ornament.
As imagined by Casey Patterson, a longtime producer of live events for Viacom brands like Spike and Comedy Central, Sunday's show drove its war machine right through awards-show conventions.
"We're not not about academies or critics, we're about fans," Patterson told TheWrap of her vision for the pre-taped show that aired on Sunday. "There are an awful lot of award shows and the truth is, we don't need another one."
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So she took the production out of a closed theater and splashed it across the entire Burbank backlot of Warner Bros. Studios, did away with a traditional writers room (barely any copy was pre-written for presenters), killed the sillier categories the show had been using for the last few years ("Biggest WTF Moment," etc.) and hired two superstars in Johnson and Hart to host.
"She raised the bar, not only with scale... but also injected a certain quality of cinematic elegance to the entire show," Johnson told TheWrap after the broadcast. "I'll bet on her any day of the week."
"We wanted to do something big and brave and bold, celebrating movies where they're made," Patterson said.
What she didn't count on was Mother Nature.
The week leading up to Sunday's telecast was a rare one in Los Angeles — consecutive days of rain with a lightning-filled downpour projected for Saturday's taping. ("Lightning, by law, means you cancel your pyrotechnics," Patterson said).
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Considering the schedules of recruited stars from "Suicide Squad," "Captain America: Civil War," "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "The Huntsman: Winter's War" and solo winner Melissa McCarthy — the show did not have a rain date.
"The weather was terrible all week, and I was terrified no one was going to come rehearse. But somehow the rain galvanized everyone. Eddie Redmayne came and got soaked learning a magic trick to introduce 'Fantastic Beasts.' Halsey was performing with this snow effect which was useless because it was drizzling all over her," she said.
"Melissa McCarthy prepped a Gorton's fisherman costume if she had to accept her comedic genius award in the downpour," she added. "We wound up needing none of it, but we had a straight version of the show planned, and a rain version."
While McCarthy didn't need added protection, it was a priority for producers to have her back as the first ever female recipient of the Comedic Genius award.
"It's a really important moment, and we had no idea what she was going to come up with. She wound up crowd-surfing, and earlier on she wanted to try it face-down," Patterson laughed. "I don't think that's ever been done. One of her earlier jokes to someone in the crowd was, 'Sir, what you just did was a felony.'"
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Another moment of female empowerment was the show's opener — the aforementioned montage to "Mad Max" followed by Charlize Theron's win for Best Female Performance.
"The whole opening was a love letter to Charlize and what that performance meant this year, how incredible it was," Patterson said of Theron's leading role in the Oscar-winning film, a portrayal largely overlooked by critics circles and nominating bodies during the awards race.
Patterson also let the show breathe by giving talent the space to connect with the audiences.
"Jared Leto came for this elaborate 'Suicide Squad' centerpiece and wound up re-directing the sequence, which was a street confrontation with Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne. Jared himself is a director and needed to envision the entire thing in the context of the characters, and we were happy to let him do it," Patterson said.
Patterson is teaming up with Johnson and his Seven Bucks production company to produce Spike's "Rock The Troops," a variety benefit concert to air on November 11, Veteran's Day. J
Johnson said that minutes before he opened the event, he told Patterson, "'If we can move the needle tonight just a little bit, then it sets the table for anything we partner up for in the future.' Judging by fans' reactions, it seems like we moved the needle more than a little and now I selfishly reap the benefits."
Patterson will also return to helm the Spike TV "Guy's Choice Awards" on June 4, and launch another season of "Lip Sync Battle" in the coming weeks.
She's especially proud of her work on the Movie Awards, particularly the moment when Queen Latifah and Halle Berry's handed Will Smith the Generation Award. "It made me really emotional," she said. "Not just the stars, but everyone on that lot was so present for that moment. When Will is in the room, everyone stands up a bit straighter."
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