UNIVERSAL CITY, California — There are moments when the backstage area is the most amazing place on earth. This is one of those moments.
Imagine the Pussycat Dolls limbering up deep within the maze of corridors underneath the Gibson Amphitheatre, packed tight into spandex-and-leather getups, preparing to take the stage at the MTV Movie Awards to perform their new single, “When I Grow Up.” As they make their way through hallways, turning left, then right, then left again, they are joined by the Jabbawockeez, the winners of “America’s Best Dance Crew” and PCD’s onstage compadres for the performance. The Jabbas are decked out in matching red T-shirts, with stark-white masks covering their faces and baseball caps perched at 45-degree angles atop their heads, and they form a perfect line behind the Dolls as they emerge into the backstage area.
They draw more than their fair share of confused looks as they cross the area and climb a set of stairs leading to the Gibson stage. Just then, they run smack into Tom Cruise, who proceeds to shake every single person’s hand, telling both the Dolls and the dance crew to “go get it.”
Cruise then descends the staircase and walks directly into the embrace of his wife, Katie Holmes, who is talking to Sarah Jessica Parker about (you guessed it) “Sex and the City,” saying she hasn’t seen the movie yet. “I want to have all my friends over,” she says. “We’re gonna dress up and do it right.”
The trio continue the conversation while roughly 10,000 photographers descend upon them, firing off countless flashbulbs. Then Tom and Katie’s publicist intervenes and whisks them away. Just like that, the moment is over, gone into the air from whence it came. Oh yeah, Ben Stiller was just sort of standing there too.
That was just one of about 100 once-in-a-lifetime moments that took place backstage at the Movie Awards, as performers, presenters and partygoers mingled with reckless abandon while the big show was happening just a few feet away. It was the kind of place where the super-famous could let their guard down and just have fun, which meant that the seemingly improbable happened with startling regularity, from totally random conversations to completely unexpected behavior, with a whole lot of Robert Downey Jr. thrown in for good measure.
Because truth be told, RDJ was the coolest guy backstage, whether he was holding court in a corner, shaking hands with the Rock or drawing stares and whispered “oh my Gods” from the likes of “High School Musical” co-stars (and significant others) Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens and “Superbad” co-star Emma Stone, who was staring so intently she nearly tripped over her publicist.
Efron also went gaga over Seth Rogen, telling him that his smoky intro on the telecast was “awesome” before returning to his conversation about “High School Musical 3” with Stiller.
And speaking of Rogen, he did his best “Spinal Tap” impression (or maybe his worst PCD impression) when he got lost backstage. Trying to make his way to a dressing room, he and his people took a random left, which led them directly into a long hallway full of dancers stretching out for their performance. Rogen weaved among them, laughing loudly and telling them, “As you were, ladies. Stretch everything out good!”
While Rogen was causing a hullabaloo in the hallways, other stars were doing their thing backstage. Will Smith followed his son Jaden around with the bemused look of a proud pop. Liv Tyler whispered to her assistant that she needed to hit the ladies’ room, and a wild-eyed Jack Black asked rather confused partygoers if the backstage monitor was TiVo-equipped.
“I want to watch Coldplay,” he said to no one in particular.
Later in the night, Paris Hilton and boyfriend Benji Madden watched PCD on a backstage TV, while “Speed Racer” star Emile Hirsch poured himself a Fanta at the bar. After the Dolls wrapped, he worked himself into an ongoing conversation with James Franco and Ellen Page, while another trio of actors — Anna Faris, Anne Hathaway and Rumer Willis — chatted about the various cities they’re currently shooting films in and their shared infatuation with HBO’s “The Wire.”
Minutes after the show wrapped, the backstage area became celebrity gridlock. Director Michael Bay and actress Megan Fox — fresh off a “Transformers” win for Movie of the Year — laughed and chatted up “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau. Chris Brown gave props to members of the Jabbawockeez. Hilton and Madden strolled hand-in-hand toward their waiting limousine as the backstage area began to slowly empty out.
But it was somewhat fitting that one of the last stars to leave was none other than Downey, who exited with a huge pair of sunglasses over his eyes and a smirk on his face.
It was almost as if he were reluctant to leave. After all, he had to know he was the king of the night. But then again, he was also a king getting ready to hit up the afterparty circuit. It’s good to be king.
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!