MTV Movie Awards impervious to studio fire

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Maybe someone at MTV had a psychic moment: “Movie Awards Weekend Heats Up” was the headline on the channel’s website right around the time of the early morning blaze Sunday that turned a portion of Universal Studios into something resembling a 1970s disaster film.

Despite the fire, the 2008 MTV Movie Awards and its national broadcast from Universal’s Gibson Amphitheatre went ahead as planned. And there was virtually no evidence of the real world amid the Hollywood fantasy.

Top stars such as Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Will Ferrell and Robert Downey Jr. attended. Other than comic actor Rainn Wilson’s mock threat about winners being set on fire if their speeches ran long and some stage pyrotechnics, there was no sign of the earlier ash or alarm.

The crowd cheered as Smith won best male performer for “I Am Legend” and Ellen Page from “Juno” won the counterpart trophy for actresses.

Depp took home two trophies and Adam Sandler won a career achievement award. “Transformers” won for best picture.

This was the 17th year of the awards show, and after the cruel humor of host Sarah Silverman last year, the sunnier Mike Myers took the job this year and staged a reunion with Dana Carvey for their loopy “Wayne’s World” roles, which they haven’t done since the mid-1990s.

The true winners of the night were the marketing departments at Hollywood studios. As Ferrell bellowed, “Free advertising!” after plugging his upcoming movie, “The Step Brothers,” Myers managed to promote his upcoming “The Love Guru” twice in the first minutes.

There were two musical performances: Coldplay, one of the most respected bands in rock, performed new music from its (of course) upcoming album for the first time live anywhere, and the slinky pop-music collective called the Pussycat Dolls performed their hit “When I Grow Up.”

The Coldplay performance was punctuated by intense jets of confetti shaped like butterflies, and, in an unintended bit of symbolism, the Pussycat Dolls’ set climaxed with a powerful pyro display that left celebs in the first few rows feeling a bit roasted. That was as close as the outside world’s sense of the day came to the event’s cool sense of industry focus.