MTV Movie Awards aims for another pop-culture moment as show turns 25
When the award for best kiss was announced at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, winners Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling prepared to make television magic. Taking to the stage, they bypassed the podium holding the coveted golden popcorn statues and went to opposite ends. Ripping off their blazers, as Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” played in the background, they met each other in the center to re-create their memorable scene for which they won from “The Notebook.”
McAdams lunged into the awaiting arms of her then-real-life and on-screen boyfriend, Gosling, wrapping her legs around his waist. The two kissed, quite passionately, and the crowd erupted.
This kiss became one of the many pop-culture moments for which the MTV Movie Awards is known. Said happenings are often unexpected, but that’s what separates it from any other. And at the core of it all are the fans, an integral part of the show that will be heightened on Sunday as the MTV Movie Awards celebrates its 25th anniversary.
“We represent the real moviegoing fan. That’s our reason to exist,” said Casey Patterson, the show’s executive producer. “We represent the movies people go see en masse, the biggest, most popular movies around the globe, and we celebrate them in a big, loose, fun, raucous way.”
See the Warner Bros. backlot transform as the production team sets up for the 2016 MTV Movie Awards in this time-lapse video from Getty Entertainment.
The first MTV Movie Awards occurred on June 10, 1992. Following a year when films such as “Point Break,” “Terminator 2" and “Boyz n the Hood” debuted, the awards show set out to be a unique space to recognize the best Hollywood had to offer from the fans’ perspective. No critics, academies or unions allowed.
“It always felt like the MTV audience had a unique perspective on film that wasn’t always represented [elsewhere],” said Garrett English, the network’s senior vice president of programming, events and live production. “The Movie Awards from its inception is a celebration of those films our audience cares deeply about, and that’s a wide spectrum.”
With the abandonment of tradition, MTV embraced irreverency as a way to stage and produce awards shows. Additionally, since the network was very much the voice of the young generation and already tapped into celebrity culture, the likes of Chris Rock, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Demi Moore and Mike Myers all showed up to the event’s first year. The awards show would become known for its casualness among all the other, more buttoned-down affairs.
We represent the movies people go see en masse, the biggest, most popular movies around the globe, and we celebrate them in a big, loose, fun, raucous way.
Casey Patterson, executive producer
“The DNA of the show was that it [allowed us to] see celebrities in a way you didn’t normally,” Patterson said. “They were letting their hair down and having a lot more fun… with a really maverick, subversive and funny take on Hollywood, movies and celebrity culture.”
According to Ron Simon, curator for the Paley Center for Media, this approach gave the MTV Movie Awards pop-culture relevancy. Whereas other awards shows were produced to project “the way movies want to be perceived as opposed to the way fans see them,” he said, MTV positioned itself to bend at the whim of moviegoers’ ever-changing sentiments and ensure people were always tuning in.
“This is one of the earliest cable shows to recognize the importance of the fan,” Simon said. “It recognizes the pleasure of just going to the movies and sharing these ‘what was that?’ moments with your friends.”
This year, new categories include nods for documentaries and the best movie based on a true story — think “Straight Outta Compton” and “Joy.”
MTV has further separated its awards show from the mainstream in its timing, happening after the traditional December to March timeframe of the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, said Jason Squire, a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. “It is a really smart scheduling decision to have it after that so that it becomes of its own importance,” he said.
For years, the show’s air date was in June, the traditional start of the summer movie season, a time of year when most of the films typically honored at the MTV Movie Awards — major blockbusters — debut. As such, the show continues to attract major celebrities, many of which plug films premiering in the months to follow. Though this dynamic seemingly appeases fans, undoubtedly it also serves the film studios’ various marketing campaigns. So as the summer movie season began to creep earlier and earlier in the year, so did the MTV Movie Awards, hence the April airdate.
But for the 25th anniversary, Patterson has some changes that further center the importance of the audience over any other motivations.
“Rather than just showing clips, we’ve focused on being highly theatrical,” she said. “We’re loving the theme and trend of live theatricals, so the Movie Awards is the perfect place to celebrate film in that way.”
This year’s event will be taped live outside on the Warner Bros. backlot on Saturday for a Sunday airdate. The goal for the venue move away from the Microsoft Theater (formerly the Nokia Theatre) is to finally have a “physical environment that is a manifestation of a passion” for fandom and the movies fans love, English said.
“This is yet another evolution of what we think an award show should look and feel and sound and taste like,” he continued. “It’s our way of injecting a freshness and intimacy and scale — those things being potentially paradoxical, but we like that — to present the show in a different way.”
The awards will take on a festival-type vibe, no doubt borrowing cues from Fox’s live broadcast of “Grease!,” making unprecedented use of the entire WB backlot. Patterson cited the space as “organic” for the show finally being able to “celebrate movies and fandom where movies are made.”
As such, expect the use of interiors, roof shots, fireworks (and other pyrotechnics) and stunts in the same fashion as the blockbuster films. Additionally, though there will be two stages surrounded by about 1,500 seats, more than 4,000 fans will fill the rest of the lot, sure to be involved in parts of the production.
Wrangling all of the action are Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the first hosting duo since 2003’s Justin Timberlake and Seann William Scott. The pair, who will co-star in “Central Intelligence” in June, are the best fit for the larger-than-life production, Patterson said, because of their box office power and natural propensity to engage their fan bases. Both have taken to the task with fervor, even agreeing to participate in a musical number. Though no specific details about the performance have been released, it is confirmed that Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of Broadway’s breakout rap-opera “Hamilton,” assisted Johnson in some fashion. One can only assume, given Hart’s hip-hop persona Chocolate Droppa from BET’s “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” that the bit won’t be a Celine Dion ballad.
The show will also continue separating itself from the rest by highlighting talent of diverse backgrounds, which, after the #OscarsSoWhite dustup of the last few months, helps illustrate what English says is the necessity of the MTV Movie Awards. “The diversity issue isn’t something we deal with because of where we live and that is a place where the perspective we have [reflects] a natural, inherent diversity,” English said.
And as for the MTV Movie Awards running for another 25 years, the future isn’t certain. But as long as the audience continues to evolve in how they celebrate film, so too will MTV.
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