Friday, December 16, 2011

Britney Spears' 'Criminal': The Story Behind The Video

'Criminal' is facing off against 'Slave 4 U' in the finals of MTV News' Britney Spears tournament — vote now!
By Jocelyn Vena

Jason Trawick and Britney Spears in "Criminal"
Photo: Jive

The competition was stiff in MTV News' "Britney Spears Tournament: 30 Videos for 30 Years," but we're finally at the homestretch.

After narrowing down 30 videos to the final two — Brit's sweaty, old-school clip for "I'm a Slave 4 U" and her newer, equally sexy one for "Criminal" — it's all up to the fans to decide which video will go on to reign supreme on Friday (December 2), the same day the pop star turns 30.

But before you click and cast your vote for which video you think should win the tournament, here's the full, behind-the-scenes backstory on the Chris Marrs Piliero-directed video for "Criminal."

Shot in London in September, the video promptly piqued interest when Spears was snapped on set with her real-life boyfriend, Jason Trawick, who would later go on to play her frequently naked onscreen lover in the video.

The decision to include Trawick was initially surprising to Piliero. "When she first hit me up, she had a basic story in mind, and she actually always originally planned to have Jason, her boyfriend, play the role, and I wasn't super stoked on that idea at first, actually," he told MTV News about the casting decision. He soon changed his mind about Trawick though.

"At the end of the day, Jason killed it. That was one of those things I was really stoked [about], as much as I went into it like, 'Wow, he's not an actor. This is going to be interesting.' But I really do like a challenge, and I really do like the idea that I'm a director and my job is to direct and get the performance," he said. "For me, it was a fun challenge to be like, 'I'm gonna make sure that you are awesome,' and he was."

While Piliero was dealing with getting a great performance out of Trawick, there was some controversy brewing over the use of a gun in the video before it even debuted. Hackney's Member of Parliament, Diane Abbott, criticized the star for using the gun in the video, a criticism Britney later shrugged off and which left Piliero a bit perplexed.

Head over to and vote for your favorite music video in MTV News' Britney Spears Tournament: 30 Videos for 30 Years.

"I don't understand why pop stars are put on such a high pedestal over other celebrities. Why do members of Parliament feel that they need to scrutinize her for having a gun, and 'She's in the public,' and 'She should know better,' and 'She's a role model,' but what about every other celebrity out there? What about every other actor? That's very strange to me. I was really surprised at how much the gun use was scrutinized."

In the end, however, all the gun controversy seemed to get overshadowed by the sexiness of the video, which was released in October. It follows Spears as she's whisked away from her emotionally abusive boyfriend by Trawick's criminal character. The two quickly fall in love — and in bed and in the shower — with one another and go on a crime spree. Too in love to care about the consequences, the pair is eventually found by the cops but manage to escape to the unknown.

So, what did Piliero (who also directed Spears in her "I Wanna Go" video) think of Spears' performance? "Of course, Britney was rad," he said. "She does a good job at nailing and doing the little acting thing. She's cool at it."

Do you think "Slave" or "Criminal" should come out on top? Let us know in the comments!

What's your favorite Britney video? Make sure to vote at or the MTV Newsroom blog, and share your picks in the comments below!

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