Days after the best picture mix-up at Sunday’s Oscars, producer Michael De Luca is still recovering, taking time to reveal what happened in the aftermath, how he thinks it all should have gone down and which filmmaker called him for a “pep talk” in a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter‘s Kim Masters on KCRW’s The Business radio show, which aired March 2.
Breaking down the Oscars-night flub, when presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced La La Land as the best picture instead of the correct winner, Moonlight, De Luca said he was “heartbroken” over the moment.
“We really had empathy, being producers ourselves,” he said of himself and his co-producer, Jennifer Todd. “Just what that must have felt like for the La La Land team, and then the Moonlight team being robbed of their full moment in the sun, it was heartbreaking.”
“It’s one of those mistakes that everyone says will never happen,” he added. “We didn’t, in our wildest dreams, think we had to have a conversation about what if the worst thing that could ever happen happens. Even when someone brought up, ‘What if this happens?’ Everyone’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it, they have protocols, it’s a foolproof system.’ I think they said the same thing about the Titanic and icebergs. ‘It’s fine, it’s never gonna happen, don’t worry about it.’ “
After the mix-up and amid the chaos, De Luca said the scene backstage “became like a Murder, She Wrote, instantly, of like, ‘How did this happen?’ “
And, speaking about the blame game that began shortly after the onstage mistake, De Luca commended Beatty for how he handled things.
“I actually think Warren Beatty is the unsung hero here, completely heroic,” he said. “I think he was showing [Dunaway] the card, like, ‘Hey, are you seeing what I’m seeing? I think a mistake’s been made here.’ To me, they are heroes and completely in the clear.”
Addressing how he would have handled things if he were in the accountants’ shoes, he said that he learned after the fact that the two accountants in charge of the envelopes also memorize each category’s winner, just in case. “If I was in that job, and I know I’m Monday-morning quarterbacking, which I detest, but I feel like if it’s my one job, if I heard the wrong name, I’d walk directly to Warren Beatty and say, ‘You got the wrong envelope, here’s the right envelope,’ and make a charming moment out of it.”
And the day after the confusion, he said he got plenty of emails congratulating him on a well-run show, but one phone call came immediately. “I did get one instant phone call from Steven Spielberg, who said he watched the show with friends at a screening room and thought it was great, and it was a real pep talk. I love him for it, it was really appreciated.”
Added De Luca, “I would have loved the story to be Moonlight, this little film that has nobody traditional in it but celebrates African-American LGBT culture, won best picture. It’s a tremendous landmark and underdog story, and that should have been the lead story.”