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Sunday, May 31, 2009

East Sider keeps MTV film awards show fresh & funky

By Mark Ellwood

What viewers won't see is the born-and-bred New Yorker behind the extravaganza - MTV executive producer Lee Rolontz, helming the show for the second year. 

She executes fateful decisions such as when "The Hills" finale will air (before the awards) and how the red-carpet arrivals will be shown (interspersed with commercials). 

This year's show, airing at 9 p.m., is set to be a blockbuster. Online balloting hit 3 million a week before the event - six times last year's awards. 

Rolontz credits a smackdown between the two frontrunners. 

"It's the 'Twilight'-'Slumdog' slug-it-out year," she explains. 

While "Slumdog Millionaire" dominated the Oscars and has seven MTV nominations, Rolontz is excited about the focus on "Twilight," the vampire love story with six shots at the MTV statuette known as Popcorn Man. 

"It's courageous of MTV," she says. "'Twilight' is not an Oscar movie. It's a movie that audiences can rally around that hasn't been anywhere else." 

Winners in 11 categories - from Best Movie and Best Comedic Performance to Best Kiss and Best Villain - will be announced live. There are two new categories: Best Song from a Movie and Best WTF Moment. 

"On the production side, we said, 'OMG, there were all these crazy moments,'" Rolontz says. "So we looked at the movies of the year and sifted through for more examples." 

WTF nominees include a naked Jason Segel in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," one of the "Slumdog" kids jumping in an outhouse, Amy Poehler using the sink as a toilet in "Baby Mama," and Ben Stiller licking a decapitated head in "Tropic Thunder." 

Speaking of Stiller, the former host will be a recipient this time around. The 43-year-old comedic actor is taking home the MTV Generation Award. 

The host this year is "Saturday Night Live" fave Andy Samberg. "His ease at creating short-form films was a real plus," Rolontz says, noting that Samberg has already churned out a dozen short-film promos. "It's a lot more fun with him." 

Soft-spoken and genial, Rolontz quarterbacks every aspect of the mega-production. 

At a staff meeting 11 days before the big night, she discussed whether stars would bring reality-show crews on the red carpet and if there was room for MTV staffers at scaled-back post-show parties. 

Unlike the Oscars, the MTV show is more than a celebration of the past - it has a forward-looking component, too. 

A resurgent Eminem and rockers Kings of Leon will perform their new songs. There will be previews of new "Transformers" and "Harry Potter" movies. 

Straddling the two mediums isn't hard for Rolontz, who has roots in the music and film business. 

She grew up on the upper East Side, the daughter of an Atlantic Records executive. She got her big break following Wham! to China for a rockumentary. 

"All George Michael worried about was how to get his hairdryer working, the director broke his leg and the trumpeter in the band had a breakdown," she recalls. 

She spent 15 years producing music videos for the likes of Mariah Carey, then segued into longer form TV events like "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." 

In the days before the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, Rolontz was spending most of her time in L.A., where the show is held - mingling with presenters like Sandra Bullock, Cameron Diaz and Shia LaBeouf. 

Make no mistake: she's a hardened Manhattanite who will come home to the upper West Side when all the Popcorn Men have been handed out. 

"I've been to Studio 54 when I was 15. I remember the East Village when it was full of smashed-out cars," she says. "I'm a real New Yorker - even if I can drive."

Source: NY Daily News.

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