Picture it: you, [artist id="501686"]Britney Spears[/artist], a sweaty sauna, and nothing else between you. Like the body-hugging sparkly catsuit in "Toxic" that got tongues wagging, veteran video director Joseph Kahn knew the sight of Britney lounging in a sauna in the "Womanizer" clip would set off a buzz bomb.
Mission accomplished. Like his work on Eminem's "We Made You," which is also nominated for Video of the Year at Sunday's 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, "Womanizer" was the first clip from a crucial comeback album for Britney and Kahn was behind the camera to make sure it went smoothly.
As Kahn has said, he approached "Womanizer" not so much as a sequel to "Toxic," but as an answer to that clip. "I had no idea what the song was going to be, so I had no ideas when I met her about what we would do," said Kahn. "She had a basis of an idea to make a 'Toxic 2.' There are things she's really good at, like having a really natural knack for knowing what girls want."
While his previous collaborations with Spears on "Toxic" had a revenge-on-a-boy scenario, and "Stronger" bore an empowerment message, in "Womanizer" Britney was interested in exploring what her man was doing when he was cheating on her by showing up in different tempting outfits. "It's just a great girl fantasy," Kahn said of the concept for the video, in which Spears portrays a handful of forceful, hyperstylized characters. "The problem was we only had two days to shoot it and it involved multiple costume changes, multiple locations and Britney could only work 12 hours a day."
That meant Kahn had to hustle even more than usual, so he said he was, literally, running around the Los Angeles sets like a maniac, plotting out every second of the shoot like an Army lieutenant.
Although the hectic schedule was a white-knuckle grind, Kahn admitted that one aspect of the shoot was no hassle at all. "That was definitely an interesting thing to bring up," he said of his suggestion to Spears that they film a scenario in which she (barely) covers her naked, sweaty body with just her hands while lounging in a sauna. "I knew that the whole world would be watching, so I wanted something in there that stated, 'This is Britney, this is why you should respect her.' "
Despite the idea of seeking respect through nudity seeming counterintuitive, Kahn explained that he was so angry about how Spears had been attacked over the previous years for her yo-yo-ing weight that he wanted to quash all that talk by ... well, in his own words, "If she was a car with a paint job, I was going to show off the paint job. It was a way for her to gain back her body and smash all those shallow jokes."
As with "Toxic," Kahn had to clear everyone off the set when the time came to shoot the scene, leaving just him and Britney alone for two hours. "We worked together on each costume in the video and we went into a costuming session where she played dress-up for a while," he said, explaining the different sexy looks Britney shows off in the video. "She walks out in different outfits and I'm like, 'Let's try the striped shirt.' I'm sitting there thinking, 'I can't believe they pay me for this. I probably have the best job in the world!' Even Obama would want my job."
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Watch the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards Preshow this Sunday, September 13, at 8 p.m. ET, followed by the big event, live at 9 p.m. Check out our interactive map of New York to see how the city is celebrating the VMAs all week long, and stay tuned for party coverage, concert reports, behind-the-scenes updates and more.