SXSW: Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs Publicly Addresses "Shock" of Best Picture Fiasco

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Cheryl Boone Isaacs

The exec said the ending of the show displayed "a respect and graciousness from the 'La La Land' filmmakers and the 'Moonlight' filmmakers in a way that I thought was very special."

The best picture mix-up at the end of the Oscars was a shock for Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, but also showcased the "humanity" of Hollywood, she told audience members at SXSW on Monday. 

At her first public appearance since the Oscar snafu, Boone Isaacs joked about the now infamous photo of her in the audience looking surprised as the final moments of the Oscars unfolded on stage. She called the moment "a beautiful ending," one that showed "a respect and graciousness from the La La Land filmmakers and the Moonlight filmmakers in a way that I thought was very special." 

Boone Isaacs spoke on stage with Hidden Figures writer Allison Schroeder in a conversation that touched on the beginning of their careers, diversity in Hollywood and how they still get giddy around the industry's biggest stars.  

In the wake of the best picture mix-up, Boone Isaacs sent a note to Academy members promising that "changes will be implemented to ensure this never happens again." 

PwC has largely taken the blame for the incident after one of its accountants handed presenter Warren Beatty the wrong envelope. In the days that followed Oscar night, Boone Isaacs said that the two accountants responsible for the mishap will not work the Oscars again.

Speaking broadly about Oscar night, she called it a "brilliant, wonderful show" and praised host Jimmy Kimmel for being "the perfect man for the evening and this interesting collection of films."

Boone Isaacs, who is nearing the end of her fourth and final term as Academy president, has dealt with how to evolve the organization in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. She spoke about the Academy's efforts to bring in new members as well as its A2020 diversity initiative. "As you all know, last year with the Academy has been very interesting, to say the least," she said, adding that "the conversation will continue." 

She called this year's crop of films "beautiful and brilliant."

Schroeder, who previously worked in finance before getting her start in Hollywood as a production assistant for Seth Rogen, spoke about her experience with Hidden Figures, explaining that she related to the story because of her own experiences with discrimination. She recalled the time a classmate assumed she couldn't take a difficult math course because she is a woman. "Writing this film was my love letter to feminism and female friendship," she added. 

Boone Isaacs responded by discussing her experience at Paramount in the 1980s and 1990s when several women were in top positions at the studio. But it didn't last. "I've seen this door open a few times in my career," she said. "We don't want this door to close this time." 

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