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MTV Movie Awards: The Stars Know  

The MTV Movie Awards are raunchy and irreverent, and while they have a reputation for being outrageous, they’re also quite canned.

When Tom Cruise’s publicist was spotted nervously pacing outside the Shrine Auditorium, gossip fans knew the 2001 Movie Awards would be rich with fodder. It was more than an hour into the show, and the star still hadn’t appeared.  

When Cruise finally showed up in a chauffeur-driven SUV, he was dateless and slumped in the passenger seat, looking glum and listless. When he got out, his publicist Pat Kingsley gave him a long, affectionate hug. “How are you, buddy?” she asked warmly. He muttered something about this not being the best time of his life.

“Well, you look great,” she said.

There was always some suspicion that most winners know in advance that they were going to take home the bucket of Gilded Popcorn. That suspicion was pretty much confirmed when Jim Carrey – accepting his award for Best Villain – played a taped acceptance speech while mutely pretending to channel the thoughts. (The joke, incidentally, fell flat.)

Cruise’s late arrival clearly indicated that stars not only know if they’ll win – but also when they’ll win. Cruise arrived early enough to receive his award (for Best Male Performance in “Mission: Impossible 2”), but late enough to avoid the presentation by his estranged wife. Nicole Kidman wasn’t at the Shrine Auditorium, but she made an appearance from Australia, where she’s promoting “Moulin Rouge.” Kidman delivered a video message, and the buzz was that Cruise didn’t want to be subjected to the larger-than-life image of a glowingly sultry Kidman as she cooed, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” Or, that he didn’t want the awkwardness of cameras focused on him as he tried to muster a smile.

Instead Cruise gave his own acceptance speech a nice little twist

He used a new, octave-lower voice for his super-short speech.

John Travolta also arrived late, with a massive entourage – but not his wife, Kelly Preston.

Other highlights and low points from the event, the red carpet and backstage:

Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink gave the first live performance of “Lady Marmalade” – the hit from “Moulin Rouge.” (The song is a cover of LaBelle’s remake of the 1974 LaBelle song.)

Mya proved that she’s no lip-syncher by belting out a few bars for a reporter on the red carpet.

Pink declined to do the Can-Can for reasons of modesty. She explained that she wasn’t wearing underwear.

Celebs and rock stars who were blasé about meeting other celebs and rock stars got all giddy and star-struck when beefy self-help wrestler The Rock showed up.

During the show, Kirsten Dunst did a hilarious impersonation of Madonna as a cowgirl in the “Don’t Tell Me” video. And Jimmy Fallon did dead-on impersonations of Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, John Travolta and Adam Sandler.

The event was marred by several technical glitches. After the Dave Mathews Band‘s third attempt to launch into a song was halted, one of the band members burst into obscenities.

Backstage, John Woo revealed that he wants to release a director’s cut of “Face Off” with a different ending.

Tommy Lee and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs acted like new best friends. After the ceremony, they were playing what looked like a game of hide-and-seek, darting in and out of the various press tents.

Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller agreed to come to the press room to pose for photographers but wouldn’t take questions from reporters.

“Entertainment Tonight’s” Julie Moran looked bored and quite annoyed backstage as star after star declined to come back to talk to the restless reporters.

Backstage, Destiny’s Child revealed that Stevie Nicks will appear in their upcoming video, Bootylicious. Nicks met the group on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and hit it off. Destiny’s Child is also hoping to work with another icon from the 1970s, the Bee Gees. Béyonce Knowles revealed that she didn’t get the part she auditioned for in “Men in Black II.” She said she’s looking at other movie scripts, but isn’t doing any of them right now.

(The 2001 MTV Movie Awards will be broadcast Thursday at 9 p.m. You can also log onto www.mtv.com)

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