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Here’s a play-by-play of how the epic TV moment went down.
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, stars of 1967’s classic Bonnie and Clyde, introduced the best picture nominees. After opening the envelope Beatty paused, seeming to realize that something was amiss before handing the envelope card to Dunaway, who then announced La La Land as the winner.
The cast and crew of La La Land, including best director winner Damien Chazelle and best actress winner Emma Stone, took the stage and began to give their acceptance speeches. After several producers had already given their thank-yous — producer Fred Berger interrupted the joyful moment to say, “We lost by the way, you know.”
After a moment of bewilderment and confusion, La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz announced, “There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture.”
As emotions both on- and offstage continued to swirl, producer Marc Platt leaned into the microphone to announce that Beatty and Dunaway had read the wrong name.
“This is not a joke. Moonlight has won best picture,” reiterated Horowitz.
He then held up the envelope to show the audience and those watching at home that the card clearly read Moonlight.
The audience erupted in cheers upon seeing the envelope.
Host Jimmy Kimmel jumped in to say, “This is very unfortunate what happened. Personally, I blame Steve Harvey for this.” Harvey had famously flubbed the Miss Universe pageant winner in 2015.
“I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight,” said Horowitz as the cast and crew of Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age drama made their way to the stage.
“That’s very nice of you,” Kimmel said to Horowitz as the distraught La La Land team moved over to give Moonlight its moment.
Stone, who had her hand over her mouth, then began clapping.
Dunaway left the stage, but Beatty stepped in to offer an explanation as to what happened.
“Warren, what did you do?!” yelled Kimmel, who was this close to wrapping a highly entertaining and smooth telecast.
“I opened the envelope and it said ‘Emma Stone, La La Land,'” he told the audience. “That’s why I took such a long pause and looked at Faye, and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
When Jenkins stepped up to the mic, he said, “Even in my dreams this could not be true. But to hell with dreams! I’m done with it because this is true, oh my goodness.”
He added, “And it is true, it’s not fake. We have been on the road with these guys for so long, and that was so gracious, so generous of them. My love to La La Land. My love to everybody. Man.”
He then credited everyone who joined him onstage for bringing the film to fruition.
When speaking to press backstage, Stone said, “Of course it was an amazing thing to hear La La Land — I think we all would have loved to win best picture, but we are so excited for Moonlight.”
She added, “I think it’s one of the best films of all time.”
She then confirmed she had her best actress card in her hand during the time of the reveal.
“I also was holding my best actress in a leading role card that entire time,” she said.
Moonlight‘s best supporting actor winner Mahershala Ali said he wasn’t surprised when La La Land‘s name was called at first.
“When I did see security or people coming onstage and their moment was being disrupted in some way I got really worried,” he said backstage. “And then when they said ‘Moonlight, you guys have won.’ It just threw me, more than a bit. I didn’t want to go up there and take anything from somebody. It’s very hard to feel joy in a moment like that, … but I feel very fortunate for all of us to have walked away with the best picture award. It’s pretty remarkable.”
When first reached by The Hollywood Reporter, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm who has handled the Oscar envelopes for the past 83 years, said they were working on a comment.
Later in the night, they released the following statement: “We sincerely apologize to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”
When approached by THR at the annual Governors Ball afterparty, Dunaway refused to comment.
When speaking backstage after the on-air moment, Jenkins said he hadn’t received an explanation from the Academy about what happened. The Academy later shared PricewaterhouseCoopers’s statement on the matter.
An eyewitness backstage told THR that after Dunaway announced La La Land, a stage manager was heard saying, “That’s the wrong envelope. It’s Moonlight.”
Traditionally there are two sets of winners’ envelopes printed and stuffed into two briefcases, with two PwC accountants standing on opposite ends of the stage ready to hand the envelopes to the presenters.
Horowitz later said one of the stagehands approached him onstage and discovered they had handed Beatty the wrong envelope. Despite the confusion, Horowitz said it was an “honor” to welcome Moonlight onto the stage.
Jenkins went into further detail when speaking to THR later in the night.
“I could see Jordan’s face, and that’s when I realized something was happening,” he said. “I felt a million different things, but I did realize that whatever he was going to say was going to be the truth because he looked over and I just wanted to hug him.”
He added, “I could see in his face that it wasn’t a joke. It’s never malicious; things just happen.”
When speaking about the moment on ABC’s aftershow, Kimmel said the envelope Beatty was handed said best actress on it.
“He was confused because the card — which he showed to me, by the way — said ‘Emma Stone, La La Land‘ on it,” said Kimmel. “This was confusing, obviously. We thought he was being coy and cute and milking it to make everybody suffer, but in reality he was perplexed by why her name was on it.”
When asked by Anthony Anderson why Beatty wouldn’t just ask for help, Kimmel added, “Warren Beatty has had so much sex, he can’t think about things like that anymore.”
Another time the wrong winner was announced at the Oscars was back in 1964, when presenter Sammy Davis Jr. was handed the wrong envelope and announced that the award for music (scoring of music — adaptation or treatment) was won by John Addison for Tom Jones, who was not among the nominees. The winner was actually Andre Previn for Irma La Douce, and the mistake was immediately corrected.
In 1932, the wrong Frank was also announced onstage as the best director winner. Frank Capra (Lady for a Day) was announced when, in fact, Frank Lloyd won for Cavalcade.
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