Like pretty much everything they do, [artist id="1231235"]30 Seconds To Mars'[/artist] "Kings and Queens" video was very much a labor of love — and absolute, over-the-top insanity.
Filmed over the course of several (very long) [article id="1623727"]nights in greater Los Angeles[/article], in locations that ran the gamut from Jared Leto's house to the iconic Santa Monica Pier, it features an army of bike-riding extras, a fire-breathing clown, a galloping stallion, a screaming eagle and enough magic-hour footage to give Roger Deakins pause (look it up).
Oh, and of course, Leto directed it all, and he and his 30STM-mates do all of their own stunts.
Quite simply, it's the kind of big, ballsy rock video that (sadly) doesn't get made all that often these days. And, perhaps in recognition of that — and everything that went into its creation — "Kings and Queens" has been nominated for four awards at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Rock Video and the night's biggest prize: Video of the Year.
Leto was also nominated for Best Direction, and "Kings" picked up a nod for Best Art Direction. It's an impressive haul — almost more than any artist not named [article id="1644956"]Lady Gaga or Eminem[/article] — but Leto and company aren't letting it go to their heads.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
"I was completely blown away. It was so unexpected that my first reaction was, 'Holy f---ing sh--!' " [article id="1645028"]Leto told MTV News last month[/article], after learning of 30STM's nominations.
"We had no idea this was the way these things worked. It was the furthest thing from our minds. And then someone sent me the list of artists we're nominated with, and we couldn't believe that either. It really is exciting."
In other words, 30 Seconds To Mars still consider themselves to be VMA underdogs — even with their legion of loyal fans (the Echelon) voting early and often to put them over the top. And that scruffy spirit is part of what makes "Kings and Queens" so memorable. It is most definitely a massive thing, but it's a spiritual endeavor, too: a celebration of a band, their fans and an unyielding sense of purpose.
"There's a sense of community in the song, there's a feeling of atmosphere and a bit of a dream, as well ... there's something about the song and the intent that matches the visuals as well," Leto said of the video. "It was exciting to have ownership of these public spaces, to reclaim ownership, and to ride down both sides of the street."
And that sense of self-empowerment is evident in several scenes: the silhouetted image of cyclists climbing a hill unencumbered, the epic "Circle of Death" bike stunt filmed at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, the blink-and-you-miss-it shot of a man, face covered, tossing a bouquet of flowers (an homage to street artist Banksy). The message, it seems, is clear: There is might in masses, a freedom in unity and strength in conviction. And all it takes to harness any of it is will.
So though they may consider themselves the underdogs, there's a very real possibility that, come Sunday, 30 Seconds to Mars may shock the world and knock off heavyweights like Gaga and Em for Video of the Year. If there is a movement under way, "Kings And Queens" may very well be the visual representation of it.
Even if the band does go home empty-handed, Leto probably won't be all that upset. After all, just getting "Kings and Queens" made was an effort of Herculean proportions.
But thanks to all his effort, he now has a lifetime of memories, which is sort of the point of 30 Seconds to Mars' grand ambitions in the first place.
"From the beginning, this was an adventure, because when you hop on a bicycle and ride through the city streets at night, you revert to this nostalgic state," he said. "You're flooded with youth and ambition.
"So we were really happy to have done this, and to have shared that spirit with everyone who took part," he continued. "And just the other day, I was driving by Hollywood and Highland, and I had this flashback to when we shut it down and rode down it with a gang of hundreds of people. I'll never drive down it again without remembering that."
The 27th annual MTV Video Music Awards will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday. The party starts with MTV News' VMA Pre-Show at 8 p.m., followed by the main event at 9 p.m. ET/PT.