Brad Pitt Red-Carpet Prank Puts Studios on High Alert for Future Events
A version of this story first appeared in the June 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Ukrainian prankster Vitalii Sediuk's now-infamous red-carpet attack on Brad Pitt at the Maleficent premiere has caught the attention of both studios and Hollywood security companies, who both want to ensure a similar breach doesn't happen again.
"There is that sense of trust on red carpets because the fans are really there to support the talent," says one studio insider. "[Sediuk's] actions put a wrinkle in that trust."
A source at a security company tells THR that they have received calls from some of their clients seeking assurance that that sort of incident could not occur at their events.
"My personal opinion with the setup is that I don't know who those people were in that pit," says the expert, who does not work for the company that handled the Maleficent premiere. (Sources say the event was staffed by Information Protection Services Inc., which declined to comment for this story.) "You had everybody and their brother in there. They weren't vetted."
Chad Hudson, the founder of Chad Hudson Events, says that protocol for all the premieres he plans (which have included the recent Divergent premiere and the Twilight premieres) is for security to screen every person before he or she enters the fan pits, keeping an eye out for suspicious or out-of-place-looking characters. Backpacks or large bags are often not allowed, and purses are searched. The security company that Hudson works with keeps photos of certain people (including Sediuk and some of the more "aggressive autograph hounds") on file in order to prevent them from gaining entry to any fan holding area. For some premieres, the people in the pits are actually cast ahead of time, like extras for a film.
When it comes to the pit that Sediuk sprung out of, experts say there may have been too many people in such a small space. "I probably wouldn't have loaded it with that many people," says one security vet. "It's triple-tiered. I wouldn't have stuffed it just to make it look good."
For companies hired to handle security at premieres, the greatest challenges can come from the studios themselves. The marketing and publicity teams' ambitions to create a spectacle for press coverage is in direct conflict with security's goal of keeping the talent and premiere-goers safe. Marketing wants a pit packed with fans showing their enthusiasm for the film, but security needs to take a safety-first approach. And of course, the security team needs a big enough budget to hire all the personnel required to fully cover an event.
While most security companies refuse to divulge their strategies for covering such events, usually 40-45 security personnel will be enlisted for an average-sized movie premiere. Each of the most popular venues -- including Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre, The Arclight Hollywood, Westwood's Village Theatre and L.A. Live downtown -- presents its own set of unique challenges, but the key is always "the perimeter."
Certain decisions are made based on how high-profile the event is, or how big the crowd may be. For example, security can decide to allow for only one entrance and one exit, rather than letting attendees enter and exit from multiple points. Security teams, and sometimes an actor's personal security, will do a walkthrough the day of a premiere to go over the flow, and find out where locations like the restrooms and the celebrity's seat will be.
Hudson says that for premieres of the magnitude of Twilight, which involve fans camping out for several days, security will hand out wristbands for screened fans: "If it's a big premiere like that, where we know fans are going to camp out for three or four days, we want to protect them as much as our guests."
The biggest challenge, says Hudson, can be when an actor decides to cross the street to greet fans that may not have been screened at a venue like Hollywood & Highland.
"If we haven't prescreened that crowd in that area, that's where you have to do it on the fly, where security will go in front of the talent, walking down the line," he says. "That's a little scarier because it's not as controlled, and it makes us a little nervous."
Security experts say that this latest stunt by Sediuk, 25, was dealt with quickly and professionally after he jumped the fence, and that swift action should deter others from trying to do anything in the future.
"There's a lot of security -- it's just you don't see it," says a studio insider.