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Conan O’Brien‘s gigantic opening at Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards was one for the record books, with the host landing cameos from 50 stars, from Russell Crowe and Demi Moore to Anthony Hopkins and Martin Scorsese.
Incredibly, it all came together during the past three weeks, when O’Brien first approached MTV with the idea. For getting footage of the busy stars, speed was the name of the game, says Troy Miller, who directed and produced the segment via his Dakota Pictures.
“We had this lean, mean SEAL Team Six machine. We’d come in, get it from six different angles and people would be out in six minutes,” Miller tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The cast of Noah, we did just one take.”
The enormous task of booking all the stars generated thousands of emails between the MTV team and talent reps, with the effort spearheaded by MTV’s Wendy Plaut, co-executive producer of the show. And reaching the magic number — 50 — came down to the wire, with Lupita Nyong’o signing on Saturday as the final piece of the puzzle.
“I think it speaks to how much the community loves Conan. To book 50 cameos in three weeks is kind of an epic challenge,” MTV president Stephen Friedman says.
O’Brien worked hard, coming in early mornings before going to work on TBS’ Conan. He also traveled the country to get the cameos. He and Miller’s team at Dakota Pictures nabbed Adam Sandler in Dallas and Martin Scorsese in New York.
The opening begins with O’Brien pitching his idea to a group of crusty MTV execs who don’t believe he can get 50 stars to sign up. Cue Andy Samberg — the first cameo — showing up for no reason. But Miller says he and O’Brien didn’t want the segment to be just about the cameos.
“It’s just like jazz. It’s these alternative jokes where you don’t know where it’s going to go,” says Miller.
Miller, who has established a reputation for being a trailblazer in the awards-show opening-sequence business, previously directed the openings to multiple MTV Movie Awards, Emmys and Academy Awards broadcasts. He also co-directed the most recent season of Arrested Development along with creator Mitchell Hurwitz. His new Hulu series Deadbeat debuted April 9.
In case you didn’t catch them all, here’s the full list of the opening’s stars.
FAUX JACK NICHOLSON
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Producers Guild of America