Fan-fuelled red carpets present security challenge
A fan is escorted in handcuffs after allegedly attacking Brad Pitt at the world premiere of 'Maleficent' at the El Capitan Theatre on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Sandy Cohen, The Associated Press
Published Friday, May 30, 2014 6:56AM EDT
LOS ANGELES -- Movie premieres are just like they look on TV: Throngs of fans competing with photographers and reporters for stars' attention. Cameras flash as beefy bodyguards escort couture-clad celebrities into the maelstrom.
Police officers and security personnel manage to keep the clamour under control. It's a heady scene -- an exciting, usually safe event heralding the latest Hollywood film.
Until something goes wrong, as it did at the "Maleficent" premiere this week in Los Angeles: a man leaped over a barricade and accosted Brad Pitt on the red carpet.
Could it have been prevented? Disney officials are keeping mum, saying only that the incident was "unfortunate and inappropriate." But security experts say it's difficult to prevent such antics at public events where fan energy is part of the atmosphere.
"At a ball game or a hockey game, they search you up and down. Here, there's no search," said Paul Scauzillo, a retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department who now works in private security for entertainment events. "Fans line up along a rope and there's no search at all."
Recently fired Ukrainian journalist Vitalii Sediuk was arrested after jumping a fan barricade at the El Capitan Theatre while Pitt was signing autographs, apparently knocking the star off his feet. Sediuk remained in jail Thursday in lieu of $20,000 bond as police investigated. His attorney, Anthony Willoughby, said the incident could lead to a probation violation for Sediuk, who was arrested after crashing the 2013 Grammy Awards.
Like the multifaceted studio contracts that require stars to attend premieres in the first place, there are equally complicated security plans to protect those stars at Hollywood events, said Jim Mulvihill, vice-president of Security Industry Specialists, an international event protection firm. Uniformed and plain-clothes police officers, contracted security personnel and stars' own bodyguards are typically in the mix. Pitt had personal security with him when he was accosted Wednesday night.
But where awards-show red carpets are locked down, with guests passing through metal detectors and security badges held by all press and fans present, movie premieres are more fluid. The "Maleficent" premiere was held on Hollywood Boulevard, where fans gathered behind a barricade to see the stars as they arrived.
The venue hosting the premiere generally contracts private security to supplement police presence, but there are no metal detectors or security badges. Any interested fan -- or potential detractor -- can join the throng.
Onsite security personnel at a movie premiere are there to assure compliance with city permits and keep the general population at bay, Mulvihill said: "They're not there or skilled or trained to do anything other than that."
Even though Los Angeles Police officers knew of Sediuk's history of celebrity antics, they couldn't stop him until he broke the law and trespassed onto the carpet. Messages left for the Los Angeles Police Department requesting comment for this story were not returned.
"There is no tool for private security or law enforcement to really do anything unless they find themselves in imminent danger," Mulvihill said.
Sediuk has gotten more aggressive with his stunts over the years, attempting to crawl under actress America Ferrera's dress at a Cannes Film Festival premiere a few weeks ago.
"He's one of these people that falls into the delusional area that needs some psychiatric care," said Mulvihill, who has prevented Sediuk's entrance at other high-profile events. "It's tied into the same thing with all the firearms stuff we have going on."
The proliferation of mass shootings in this country hasn't led to more security at Hollywood events, said Mulvihill, a former military and law-enforcement officer. Most fans who attend movie premieres do so because they love the celebrities involved: "99.99 per cent of them aren't there to harm anyone."
But the attention Sediuk has gotten could inspire copycats, he said.
"We're going to see more of this, because people feel empowered by it," he said. "They watch it, they see it and they're so delusional, they want to feel that rush they think the other people are having."