LOS ANGELES — Before the beautiful ones can take their seats at Staples Center for Thursday's 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, they're going to have to traverse a red carpet that will give them a serious workout.
"The inspiration for the pre-show was a three-story driving range that we saw a picture of from Japan," said David Morong, production designer for the VMAs pre-show. All the action will take place on a three-story red carpet erected between the Nokia Theatre and the site of the big show, Staples Center, that Morong believes is the first-ever multi-level, stacked red carpet arrival set-up. "The idea came that what if rather than driving golf balls out that we actually had talent interviews on these levels looking across to the Staples Center?"
When the stars arrive for the pre-show — which hits the air at 7 p.m. ET/PT following the "Jersey Shore" special "Gym, Tan, Look Back" at 6 p.m. — they will have 300 feet of red carpet to traverse before they can make their way into Staples. "It's a good hike from where they get dropped off," he said.
Construction has been going on for nearly a month, with two cranes employed to lift the top sections into place. With crews still working on last minute details on Tuesday (September 4), Morong assured MTV News that the solid-looking structure will definitely be able to handle the throng of celebrities, reporters and photographers that will descend on it in just two days.
"It's heavy and it's sturdy and it has to hold up a lot of important people," he said, noting that it can support nearly 500 bodies at once if needed.
In addition to three MTV News reporters greeting them on the carpet, the fabulous will also strut by 60 feet of paparazzi and 240 feet of waving microphones and shouting correspondents from dozens of national and international news outlets spread across two floors.
But before they get there, they will start at the limo drop in front, where the night's guests will ascend a rounded staircase to the "wave and smile" platform prior to walking up to a second level to speak to MTV's Sway Calloway. From that point, they'll run the paparazzi gauntlet, climb another set of steps to the second floor of the structure, where they'll go from interviewer to interviewer, go back down to the first level, do it all over again and then walk across the street to Staples.
The most important question, however, is whether the structure was built with an eye toward the safety of the many starlets, singers and presenters who might be hoofing it up and down the steps in towering high heels? "There's a concern added in for that, that there are a number of stairs and we've tired to make them as easy and predictable as possible ... but there's gonna be some climbing up and down stairs," he said.
Morong noted that the design was conceived to maximize open space, which could give fans and attendees as many chances as possible to see their favorite stars. "We intentionally made it as open as we could so hopefully you'll see someone here and someone here and someone else here and it'll be a chance to see people spread out all over the place," he said.
"We can't match the scale of the inside show, but I hope they get the impression that this is a big event," Morong said of what he expects viewers at home to come away with. "We hope that when people drive up they say, 'whoa!'"
The first-ever VMAs at Staples Center will feature previously announced performances from One Direction, Taylor Swift, Pink, Frank Ocean and Green Day, as well as newly announced collabos (http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1693152/2012-vma-performers-lil-wayne-asap-rocky-nicki-minaj-2-chainz.jhtml) featuring Rihanna with A$AP Rocky and another with the night's house DJ, Calvin Harris.
If that's not enough star power for you, Nicki Minaj will also grace the stage with a secret guest and 2 Chainz will make his VMA debut. And, picking up from his massive closing performance at the 2011 Video Music Awards, VMA nominee Lil Wayne will drop by for the proceedings to make the worldwide debut of his new single "No Worries," from his new mixtape, Dedication 4.