UNIVERSAL CITY, California — You've got to envy the Nick Nolte placard. Not only does it have one of the best seats in the house — right next to Heidi Montag, directly in front of the Pussycat Dolls — but on Saturday (May 31), that simple piece of poster board also got an up-close-and-personal view of performances by both PCD and Coldplay, as the acts rehearsed (and rehearsed ... and rehearsed) their sets for Sunday night's MTV Movie Awards.
On Saturday, the Gibson Amphitheatre was a constant whir of stagehands, producers, Steadicam operators, talent wranglers, construction workers, seat fillers and just about anyone you could imagine that would have anything to do with the pulling off of a live awards show. Plus, there was a pair of acts that, combined, have sold more than 13 million copies of their most recent albums. And then there's the canned chaos that is the production truck, a mobile TV studio with monitors from wall-to-wall, directors and producers squeezed in, gazing above it all. Everyone's working out the kinks, ironing out the last-minute details, doing things over and over until they're right, all trying to get everything perfect for the big show.
Rehearsal day is remarkable not just for the sheer amount of stuff happening all around you, but also because it's the rare time when some of the biggest acts in the world perform to an audience that either isn't listening (the crew, which is usually checking levels, moving lights or talking on headsets) or isn't real at all (the majority of seats inside the Gibson are taken up by placards — like Mr. Nolte's — which mark where each celeb will be seated during the show). And as such, you get a rather intimate, not to mention fascinating, look at the inner-workings of those acts.
In the case of the Dolls, it's really amazing to watch them work, because of the complexity of their choreography, the synchronicity, the sheer amount of movement they manage in 5-inch heels. And while we can't give too much away, we can safely say that Sunday's performance (of "When I Grow Up," the first single from their upcoming album) is gonna be a doozy, and if rehearsals were any indication, they better be getting hazard pay.
Under the watchful gaze of PCD mastermind Robin Antin and her army of choreographers (not to mention a giant tub of Golden Popcorn located at stage right), the Dolls ascended platforms, descended stairs and ducked walls of flame, all while a massive screen behind them popped with images of flashbulbs, tabloid headlines and diamonds. This went on for nearly two hours, and it didn't always go smoothly. Doll Jessica Sutta (she's the brunette one) was battling a series of blisters so severe that she limped offstage and had a series of padding added to the inside of her heels. Ever the trooper, she managed to gut it out, and by the end of their rehearsals, PCD — plus a group of special guests who we're not allowed to mention just yet — had a fierce and fiery performance locked down.
Meanwhile, the evening's other act, Coldplay, entered the Gibson (cutting quite the unassuming figure for a band that has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, we might add) and caught the last few minutes of the Dolls' rehearsal. Amazed — and half-joking, we assume — frontman Chris Martin turned to a sea of producers and laughed, "Now I see: You booked us for eye candy."
Fast-forward roughly an hour (rehearsals go very slowly), and Coldplay are standing in the middle of the Gibson stage, a constant wash of stagehands flowing around them, moving amps, setting lights and testing a massive video screen. Perhaps a bit bored (or maybe because he was so impressed by what he saw earlier), Martin wandered over to a keyboard and began plinking out the opening notes to PCD's hit "Don't Cha," then proceeded to warble out the song's hook — "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me" — to the amazement of pretty much everyone.
A bit later (again, things move slowly), everything was set, and Coldplay launched into "Viva la Vida" — the title track from their new album, which hits stores June 17. Above a massive din of strings, bells and timpani drums, Martin sang about dead kings and failed dreams, skipping about while a Steadicam spun around him. The sheer size of the tune — it's joyously massive, really — was only amplified by the near-empty amphitheater, and as the final notes bounced around the seats and up into the rafters, Martin and the rest of his band stood once again in the middle of the stage, looking a bit shocked. Sunday's show will be the first time they'll play "Viva" live, and you get the feeling that even they were amazed by just how big it sounded.
But then, just as soon as the moment was over, the stage was filled once again with producers and lighting techs, and the whole circus started up again. Sure, that was great, but let's do it again. And again. After all, it's gotta be perfect.
It's a wrap! Now that you've watched the MTV Movie Awards, find winners, red-carpet photos, videos, movie exclusives and much more at MovieAwards.MTV.com. And check out Movies.MTV.com for the latest movie news, trailers, photos and more!